Mary Costello’s ‘Academy Street’ named Eason Novel of the Year

Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award winners include Brian O’Driscoll and Cecelia Ahern

Mary Costello with her award: earlier she said she was thrilled to get such attention for her novel. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Mary Costello with her award: earlier she said she was thrilled to get such attention for her novel. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

 

Mary Costello received the Eason Novel of the Year honour at the ninth annual Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards last night for her debut work Academy Street. Before the ceremony, attended by a host of stellar names in literature, she said she was simply delighted to be nominated.

“I feel very lucky to be among my five co-nominees,” she said. “It’s always nice to get this attention, especially for a first book, so I’m thrilled.”

Academy Street follows the experiences of Tess, growing up in the west of 1940s Ireland, and her later life in Manhattan.

An emerging writer, Costello is confident in what lies ahead for Irish literature. “This year I have probably read more Irish novels than I have other years and I have read a few newer writers at the moment as well so it’s very vibrant.”

Perhaps the highest profile writer at last night’s ceremony was Jeffrey Archer, the 74-year-old writer who has penned 30 novels, including 24 number one best-sellers. He received the inaugural International Recognition Award for his contributions to the industry, having sold over 270 million books.

“Everybody in the world knows the Irish are slightly mad when it comes to books,” he said at the black-tie reception. “They are the greatest literary nation at one level and they are the greatest readers of books per capita so you know when the Irish give you an award, it’s taken very seriously indeed.”

Given his rich legacy, Archer’s views on the future, particularly with regard to the digitisation of books, are somewhat sceptical. “It is a massive problem,” he said, revealing that 55 per cent of his work was now consumed digitally.

“It is killing bookshops and to have and to hold a book is such a pleasure, such a wonderful thing to do.

“We live in a new world and if you are going to get your books over to this new world, you have got to understand what the young are doing and what the new rules are.”

Elsewhere, John Boyne won the Writing.ie Short Story of the Year award for Rest Day, which was published last December in The Irish Times.

Majella O’Donnell won the John Murray Show’s Listeners’ Choice Award for It’s all in the Head, Liz Nugent received the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year for Unravelling Oliver and Cecelia Ahern took the Books Are My Bag Popular Fiction Book of the Year for her novel The Year I Met You.

Brian O’Driscoll won the Bord Gáis Energy Sports Book of the Year for The Test.

l Irish author Colin Barrett has won the 2014 Guardian first book award with his short story collection, Young Skins. This crowns a remarkable year in which he has already won the 2014 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, becoming only the second Irish writer to do so after Edna O’Brien.

Barrett, who was born in 1982 and grew up in Co Mayo, was championed by Declan Meade, editor of the Stinging Fly magazine, which first published him in 2009. In September 2013, within weeks of another of his writers, Kevin Barry, winning the International Impac Dublin Literary Award, Meade was alerting reviewers to an “original voice” about whose forthcoming collection he was very excited.