23 November 2018
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.'

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.’

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.’ 

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.'

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.' 

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.'

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