Saturday 24 March 2018

Colm Toibin pipped at the post for prestigious book award

Colm Toibin: was hot favourite. Photo: Reuters
Colm Toibin: was hot favourite. Photo: Reuters

John Spain Books Editor

Colm Toibin's bestselling book 'Brooklyn' last night was pipped at the post for the Costa Book of the Year Award, one of the most prestigious annual literary prizes in Britain.

For Toibin it was a disappointment, because confirmation of the excellence of his work is long overdue in the UK. He has twice been shortlisted for the Booker, but so far has not won a major prize in Britain.

Toibin has won the IMPAC in Ireland, the world's most valuable literary award, and was the 6-4 hot favourite to take the Costa this year. But it was not to be.

The Costa Book of the Year prize went instead to Christopher Reid for his poetry book 'A Scattering', a tribute to his wife, who died in 2005.

The book consists of four poetic sequences, the first written during her final illness, and the other three at intervals after her death.


Reid is a prize-winning British poet who has twice been nominated for this award in the past and who edited the much praised 'Letters of Ted Hughes' in 2007.

The Costa Awards, which began in 1985, were formerly the Whitbreads and were taken over by the Costa coffee chain in 2006.

The aim of the awards is to "recognise some of the most outstanding and enjoyable books" each year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.

Winners are chosen each year in five categories, Poetry, Biography, Children's, First Novel and Novel of the Year. Toibin won the Novel of the Year category a few weeks ago, beating the 2009 Man Booker winning novel 'Wolf Hall' by Hilary Mantel in the process. The winner in each category is then eligible for the Book of the Year prize, which was awarded last night.

This year there were 592 entries from publishers in Britain and Ireland, but Toibin's 'Brooklyn' was the hot favourite from the beginning. 'Brooklyn' is one of those rare literary books which achieve huge popular success, becoming a runaway bestseller not only here but in Britain and the US. Set in the 1950s, Toibin's novel tells of a young Wexford woman who goes to America to find work, settling in Brooklyn.

Young, homesick and alone, she gradually buries the pain of parting beneath the rhythms of a new life -- days working in a department store, night classes in Brooklyn College and Friday evenings on the dance floor of the parish hall -- until she realises that she has found a sort of happiness. But then tragic news summons her back to Ireland and she has to decide where her future will be.

Last year's Costa Book of the Year was 'The Secret Scripture' by Sebastian Barry'.

Buy 'Brooklyn' from Eason

Irish Independent

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