Costa Book Awards: Sebastian Barry wins novel prize for second time

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Irish writer Sebastian Barry has won the Costa novel prize for a second time with Days Without End, a historical novel set in 1850s America.

Barry, who won the prize in 2008 with The Secret Scripture, said he was “quite overwhelmed” to get it again.

The 61-year-old is one of five category winners whose works will now compete for the Costa Book of the Year award.

If Barry wins on 31 January, he will become the first novelist to receive the prestigious accolade twice.

The author, who is also a playwright, went on to win book of the year with The Secret Scripture nine years ago.

‘Outrageously kind’

“As a writer, it’s one of the definitions of lovely news,” the Dublin-born writer told the BBC News website on Tuesday.

“A bunch of people alive in your time have got together and decided they want to do something outrageously kind, which is to give you a prize.”

The author went on to equate the award with “running away with the circus” or taking part in a horse race with his fellow category winners.

“I don’t know if we’re horses or jockeys; maybe we’re a combination,” he said from his home in County Wicklow.

“I think we’ll feel a very comradely sense of running, at least briefly, in the same race.”

Other winners announced on Tuesday included Brian Conaghan, who received the children’s book award for The Bombs that Brought Us Together.

The Scottish author, who originally received 217 rejections before finding a publisher and an agent, said his win was “lovely news to start 2017”.

“To have won the Costa Children’s Book Award is completely unexpected and to say I’m staggered and excited would be an understatement,” he continued.

His winning novel – his third book – tells of two friends trying to survive in a war zone.

Keggie Carew receives the Costa biography award for Dadland, an exploration of her late father’s past.

The Salisbury-based author said it was “wonderful to know” that people were responding to her work “in the way I had hoped”.

“2017 could not have started with better news,” she said in a statement. “Dad would have been amazed.”

Francis Spufford receives the first novel award for Golden Hill, an historical novel set in 18th Century New York.

The English author, who previously specialised in non-fiction, said he was “incredibly flattered” to be recognised by a prize “so focused on what readers enjoy”.

Alice Oswald, a two-time winner of the Forward Poetry Prize, wins the poetry award for her collection Falling Awake.

Each of the five category winners will receive £5,000.

Open to UK and Irish authors, the Costa Awards were known as the Whitbread Awards before 2006.

Last year a children’s novel, Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, was named book of the year for only the second time in the prize’s history.

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