Raynor Winn, Pat Barker, J.O. Morgan, Bart Van Es, Anne Youngson, Donal Ryan

Last night (22 November), the shortlists for this year's Costa Book Awards were announced, with six nods for Penguin Random House books over four categories.

The awards, which honour some of the most outstanding books of the year written by authors based in the UK and Ireland, are split into five categories - First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book - with one of the five winners chosen as Book of the Year, announced at an awards ceremony in London every January.

Amongst those up for the First Novel prize is Anne Youngson, a former executive in the motor industry, who started to take writing more seriously after taking early retirement. After completing an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University, she wrote Meet Me at the Museum, which was published by Transworld this year. A deep and luminous story focusing on an unexpected friendship, the judges celebrated the book, calling it ‘A warm and well-observed story of love in later life, unexpected friendship and the ties that bind.’ 

Upon hearing she'd made the shortlist, Anne talked about how she wants to inspire others like her to explore the world of writing, commenting: 'I find writing so therapeutic, a way to make sense of life, that I want other people to take up writing. And hopefully it can push more people towards publication.'

  • Meet Me at the Museum


    ‘A moving tribute to friendship and love, to the courage of the ordinary, and to starting again’ RACHEL JOYCE

    Sometimes it takes a stranger to really know who you are

    When Tina Hopgood writes a letter of regret to a man she has never met, she doesn’t expect a reply.

    When Anders Larsen, a lonely museum curator, answers it, nor does he.

    They’re both searching for something, they just don’t know it yet.

    Anders has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. Tina is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t remember choosing.

    Slowly their correspondence blossoms as they bare their souls to each other with stories of joy, anguish and discovery. But then Tina’s letters suddenly cease, and Anders is thrown into despair.

    Can their unexpected friendship survive?

    A deep and luminous story of late love and second chances - an enduring novel of ideas about life, love and the surprises it throws at us.



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The Biography category sees Raynor Winn, another debut author, make the shortlist for The Salt Path - her account of her and her husband Moth's journey walking the South West Coast Path, a 630-mile sea-swept trail from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall, as they faced homelessness and a terminal illness diagnosis.

Upon the news of The Salt Path making the shortlist, Raynor was delighted, saying ‘I couldn't believe it when Penguin called to say I was on the shortlist. I'm just so thrilled and really grateful to the judges at Costa.'

Editor Fenella Bates of Michael Joseph added 'Raynor Winn is a gifted storyteller and The Salt Path is a truly extraordinary memoir – one that lingers and stays with you a long time after you turn the final page. Raynor is over the moon to be shortlisted for the Costa Biography of the Year and honestly, this recognition could not have happened to a lovelier author.  The entire team at Michael Joseph have fallen in love with Raynor, she is a delight to work with and it has been amazing to watch her go from initially being quite nervous about events and talking about her book to holding entire roomfuls of people spellbound, hanging on her every word as she describes the journey she and her husband Moth went on. Raynor originally wrote the book as a valentine gift for Moth and The Salt Path has gone on to capture the hearts of everyone who has read it.’

  • The Salt Path

  • _________

    The uplifting true story of the couple who lost everything and embarked on a journey of salvation across the windswept South West coastline.


    'A beautiful, thoughtful, lyrical story of homelessness, human strength and endurance' Guardian

    Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

    Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

    The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

    'Mesmerising. It is one of the most uplifting, inspiring books that I've ever read' i

    'A thoughtful, lyrical story of homelessness, strength and endurance' The Week

    'The most inspirational book of this year' The Times

    'An astonishing narrative of two people dragging themselves from the depths of despair along some of the most dramatic landscapes in the country, looking for a solution to their problems and ultimately finding themselves' Independent

    'The landscape is magical: shape-shifting seas and smugglers' coves; myriads of sea birds and mauve skies. Raynor writes exquisitely . . . It's a tale of triumph: of hope over despair; of love over everything . . .' The Sunday Times

    'The Salt Path is a life-affirming tale of enduring love that smells of the sea and tastes of a rich life. With beautiful, immersive writing, it is a story heart-achingly and beautifully told.' Jackie Morris

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Shortlisted in the same category is Dutch author and Oxford University professor Bart Van Es' The Cut Out Girl, published by Fig Tree

The book centers on the story of Lien - a girl taken to a foster family (Bart's own grandparents) to be hidden away from the Nazis. In the book, Bart explores her side of the story, asking what really happened her to her during the war and after. Celebrating the book, the judges called it 'a moving, compelling story of survival. Revealing both the horrors and humanity of history, this is beautifully written, urgent and relevant.’ 

  • The Cut Out Girl


    'Luminous, elegant, haunting - I read it straight through' Philippe Sands, author of East West Street

    'Superb. This is a necessary book - painful, harrowing, tragic, but also uplifting' The Times Book of the Week

    The last time Lien saw her parents was in the Hague when she was collected at the door by a stranger and taken to a city far away to be hidden from the Nazis. She was raised by her foster family as one of their own, but a falling out well after the war meant they were no longer in touch. What was her side of the story, Bart van Es - a grandson of the couple who looked after Lien - wondered? What really happened during the war, and after?

    So began an investigation that would consume and transform both Bart van Es's life and Lien's. Lien was now in her 80s and living in Amsterdam. Reluctantly, she agreed to meet him, and eventually they struck up a remarkable friendship. The Cut Out Girl braids together a powerful recreation of Lien's intensely harrowing childhood story with the present-day account of Bart's efforts to piece that story together. And it embraces the wider picture, too, for Holland was more cooperative in rounding up its Jews for the Nazis than any other Western European country; that is part of Lien's story too.

    This is an astonishing, moving reckoning with a young girl's struggle for survival during war. It is a story about the powerful love and challenges of foster families, and about the ways our most painful experiences - so crucial in defining us - can also be redefined.

    'Deeply moving. Van Es writes with an almost Sebaldian simplicity and understatement' Guardian

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In the Fiction category, much-loved Hamish Hamilton author Pat Barker makes the shortlist with new book The Silence of the Girls - a retelling of the classic Greek myth of Achilles retold by Briseis, a queen until her city was destroyed, now enslaved by Achilles, the man who butchered her husband and brothers.

An important historical novel retold by the witness that time forgot, judges called the book 'Blistering, important, topical – an addictive read.'

  • The Silence of the Girls

  • Shorlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and the Costa Novel Award

    Booker-winning novelist Pat Barker imagines the untold story of the women at the heart of history's greatest epic

    'Magnificent... You are in the hands of a writer at the height of her powers' Evening Standard

    'Chilling, powerful, audacious... A searing twist on The Iliad. Amid the recent slew of rewritings of the great Greek myths and classics, Barker's stands out for its forcefulness of purpose and earthy compassion' The Times

    'A stunning return to form' Observer

    There was a woman at the heart of the Trojan war whose voice has been silent - till now...

    Briseis was a queen until her city was destroyed. Now she is slave to Achilles, the man who butchered her husband and brothers. Trapped in a world defined by men, can she survive to become the author of her own story?

    Discover the greatest Greek myth of all - retold by the witness history forgot.

    'Make[s] you reflect on the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, the women throughout history who have been told by men to forget their trauma... You are in the hands of a writer at the height of her powers' Evening Standard

    Praise for Pat Barker:

    'Barker delves unflinchingly into the enduring mysteries of human motivation' Sunday Telegraph

    'She is not only a fine chronicler of war but of human nature' Independent

    'Barker is a writer of crispness and clarity and an unflinching seeker of the germ of what it means to be human' Herald

    'You go to her for plain truths, a driving storyline and a clear eye, steadily facing the history of our world' Guardian

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Also shortlisted in the same category is Donal Ryan for From a Low and Quiet Sea, which was longlisted earlier in the year for the Man Booker Prize. Published by Transworld Ireland, it tells the stories of three men from war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, all scarred by what they have loved and lost, and all searching for some version of home. 

The book is former civil servant Donal Ryan's fourth novel, and has been called ‘Compassionate, profound and masterfully written’ by this year's judges. On being shortlisted, he commented 'I'm thrilled and honoured to be on this shortlist alongside Pat, Sally and Thomas. It's far beyond my expectations to be recognised in this way and I'm very grateful for the massive boost.' 

  • From a Low and Quiet Sea



    'Beautiful and affecting' David Nicholls

    'An engrossing, unpredictable, beautifully crafted novel' RODDY DOYLE

    Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war.

    Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe.

    John’s past torments him as he nears his end.

    The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.

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Last but not least, acclaimed poet J.O. Morgan makes the shortlist for his collection Assurances, published by Jonathan Cape. A war-poem both historic and frighteningly topical, Assurances begins in the 1950s during a period of vigilance and dread in the middle of the Cold War: the long stand-off between nuclear powers, where the only defence was the threat of mutually assured destruction.

Marking J.O's inclusion on the shortlist, editor and fellow author Robin Robertson commented: 'J.O. Morgan only writes book-length poems, and his latest, the beautiful and terrifying Assurances, is about the threat of nuclear annihilation – but is set in the middle of the Cold War, in 1950s Britain, when the stand-offs were measured, polite and moderate. Based on his father’s experiences, these were the days of The World Service, codes and ciphers, radio receivers and tele-printers, of Vulcan bombers in a state of permanent readiness. Morgan captures the interminable waiting, the ever-present anxiety – and also the vivid awareness of exactly what will be lost when that waiting is brought to an end.'

  • Assurances


    A war-poem both historic and frighteningly topical, Assurances begins in the 1950s during a period of vigilance and dread in the middle of the Cold War: the long stand-off between nuclear powers, where the only defence was the threat of mutually assured destruction.

    Using a mix of versed and unversed passages, Morgan places moments of calm reflection alongside the tensions inherent in guarding against such a permanent threat. A work of variations and possibilities, we hear the thoughts of those involved who are trying to understand and justify their roles. We examine the lives of civilians who are not aware of the impending danger, as well as those who are. We listen to the whirring minds of machines; to the voice of the bomb itself. We spy on enemy agents: always there, always somewhere close at hand.

    Assurances is an intimate, dramatic work for many voices: lyrical, anxious, fragmentary and terrifying; a poem about the nuclear stalemate, the deterrent that is still in place today: how it works and how it might fail, and what will vanish if it does.

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