The Costa Novel Award 2013 Shortlist

Costa Novel Award

Yesterday The Costa Book Awards announced their nominees for: Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry, and Children’s.  In two separate posts we’ll take a closer look at the shortlists for the first two categories.  First up is Novel.  Click here to jump to First Novel.

The prize is described as follows on the official website:

The Costa Book Awards is one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular literary prizes and recognizes some of the most enjoyable books of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.

The Winner in each category receives £5,000 and then one of the five winning books is selected as the overall Costa Book of the Year, receiving a further £30,000, and making a total prize fund of £55,000.

Below you’ll find a brief description of each of the nominees in the Novel category. The the winner will be announced on January 28th, 2014.


Life_After_LifeLife After Life
By Kate Atkinson

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can — will she?

Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best. (From the hardcover edition)


Unexpected_Lessons_In_LoveUnexpected Lessons in Love
By Bernardine Bishop

With the wit of Marina Lewycka, the piercing observation of Jane Gardam, and the bittersweet charm of Mary Wesley, this will appeal to all who loved Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Cecilia Banks has a great deal on her plate. But when her son Ian turns up on her doostep with the unexpected consequence of a brief fling, she feels she has no choice but to take the baby into her life. Cephas’s arrival is the latest of many challenges Cecilia has to face. There is the matter of her cancer, for a start, an illness shared with her novelist friend Helen. Then there is Helen herself, whose observations of Cecilia’s family life reveal a somewhat ambivalent attitude to motherhood. Meanwhile Tim, Cecilia’s husband, is taking self-effacement to extremes, and Ian, unless he gets on with it, will throw away his best chance at happiness. Cecilia, however, does not have to manage alone. In a convent in Hastings sits Sister Diana Clegg who holds the ties that bind everyone not only to each other, but to strangers as yet unmet.

As events unfold, and as the truth about Cephas is revealed, we are invited to look closely at madness, guilt, mortal dread and the gift of resilience. No one will remain unchanged. (from the hardcover edition)


Instructions_For_A_HeatwaveInstructions for a Heatwave
By Maggie O’Farrell

The stunning new novel from Costa-Novel-Award-winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell: a portrait of an Irish family in crisis in the legendary heatwave of 1976.

It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each wih different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.

Maggie O’Farrell’s sixth book is the work of an outstanding novelist at the height of her powers. (from the hardcover edition)


All_The_Birds_SingingAll the Birds, Singing
By Evie Wyld

Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.

It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.

All the Birds, Singing tells the life of an outsider. With extreme artistry and empathy, it reveals an existence of diurnal beauty, incremental horrors, stubborn hope and tentative redemption. The result is a novel of indelible emotional force. (from the hardcover edition)


Have you read any of the books on Costa Novel Award 2013 shortlist? Which was your favorite? Comment below and let us know which titles to read, and which to avoid.

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.