Costa book awards: Joseph O’Connor shortlisted for Shadowplay

Author last week won Irish Novel Award for his biographical fiction about Bram Stoker

Joseph O’Connor has been shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award for Shadowplay, a week after winning the Irish Novel of the Year award for his biographical fiction based on the life of Dracula creator Bram Stoker.

O’Connor, whose 2003 novel Star of the Sea has sold more than a million copies, received the 2012 Irish PEN Award for outstanding achievement in literature and in 2014 was appointed Frank McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. The judges said of Shadowplay, which explores Stoker’s relationships with actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry: “An atmospheric novel, offering a thrilling insight into the creative minds of writers and actors.”

His rivals for the £5,000 prize, whose winner will be announced on January 6th, are Middle England by Jonathan Coe; Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach; and Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.

On Chapel Sands, a memoir by art critic Laura Cumming uncovering the mystery of her mother’s disappearance as a child, features in the biography award category alongside books by multi-award-winning writer Adam Nicolson; former war reporter Jack Fairweather; and international editor Lindsey Hilsum for her biography of Marie Colvin, one of the most daring war reporters of her generation.


The first novel award category includes books by Brian Bilston, Twitter’s unofficial poet laureate; Joanna Glen; Sara Collins; and Sunday Times bestselling debut author, Candice Carty-Williams.

The poetry award shortlist features two debut collections by Mary Jean Chan and film programmer and archivist Jay Bernard, both recently selected by Jackie Kay as two of the ten best BAME writers in Britain; Paul Farley, a former winner of the award; and John McCullough.

The children’s book award shortlist includes stand-up comic and musician Nicholas Bowling, former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman OBE, debut author Jasbinder Bilan and actor-turned-bestselling-novelist Jenny Downham.

The Costa awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and also, uniquely, books published across five categories: first novel; novel; biography; poetry and children’s book.

This year’s judges include novelist John Boyne author Clare Mackintosh and writers Kate Clanchy, Bali Rai and Mahsuda Snaith; historian, author and broadcaster, Prof Suzannah Lipscomb; and poet, critic and songwriter Jade Cuttle.

The overall winner of the 2019 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and be selected and announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London on Tuesday 28th January 2020. The 2018 Costa Book of the Year was The Cut Out Girl, a story of war and family, lost and found by Oxford Professor Bart van Es.

To be eligible for the 2019 Costa Book Awards, books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between November 1st, 2018 and October 31, 2019 and their authors resident there for the previous three years.


2019 Costa First Novel Award shortlist
Diary of a Somebody by Brian Bilston (Picador)
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (Trapeze)
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Viking)
The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen (The Borough Press)

2019 Costa Novel Award shortlist
Middle England by Jonathan Coe (Viking)
Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach (Head of Zeus)
Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Sceptre)
Shadowplay by Joseph O'Connor (Harvill Secker)

2019 Costa Biography Award shortlist
On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons by Laura Cumming (Chatto & Windus)
The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather (WH Allen)
In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum (Chatto & Windus)
The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels by Adam Nicolson (William Collins)

2019 Costa Poetry Award shortlist
Surge by Jay Bernard (Chatto & Windus)
Flèche by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)
The Mizzy by Paul Farley (Picador)
Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough (Penned in the Margins)

2019 Costa Children's Award shortlist
Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan (Chicken House)
Crossfire by Malorie Blackman (Penguin Books)
In the Shadow of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling (Chicken House)
Furious Thing by Jenny Downham (David Fickling Books)