Sally Rooney wins Costa Novel Award for ‘Normal People’

Irish novelist is one of five category winners and goes on to compete for Costa Book of the Year on January 29th

Novelist Sally Rooney has won the Costa Novel Award for her second novel, Normal People, becoming the youngest recipient of the award, the most prestigious award for a novel open only to British and Irish authors.

The Costa Book Awards recognises books in five categories – first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children’s book – published in the last year. One of this year’s five winning books will be named 2018 Costa Book of the Year in London on January 29th.

The four other category winners, announced on Monday are: Stuart Turton takes the First Novel Award for his debut, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, a high-concept crime caper; Oxford Professor Bart van Es wins the Biography Award for his memoir The Cut Out Girl, a moving story of war, families, loss, survival and friendship; Scottish poet J.O. Morgan wins the Poetry Award for Assurances, a book-length war-poem in part inspired by his father who was a former RAF officer involved in maintaining Britain's Airborne Nuclear Deterrent; and the Children's Book Award goes to Hilary McKay for The Skylark's War, an evocative novel of family and friendship in wartime.

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin. She is the youngest winner of the Sunday Times PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. Her first novel, Conversations with Friends, was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize and in 2017 she was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. She is the editor of The Stinging Fly.


Rooney's Normal People and From A Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan were both shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. Rooney and Ryan were also longlisted for 2018's Man Booker Prize, which was won by Belfast author Anna Burns for Milkman.

Rooney won Novel of the Year award for Normal People in the at the An Post Irish Book Awards in November 2018, and was also named International Author of the Year at Britain's Specsavers National Book Awards.

In a review for the The Irish Times, Booker-winning author Anne Enright described it as "superb". "The truth is that this novel is about human connection and I found it difficult to disconnect. It is a long time since I cared so much about two characters on a page," she wrote.

The Costa category winners – selected from 641 entries – will each receive £5,000, and are now eligible for the top prize, the 2018 Costa Book of the Year, which has a £30,000 prize. The winner will be selected by judges chaired by BBC presenter and journalist Sophie Raworth, with category judges Rachel Joyce, Sathnam Sanghera, Mimi Khalvati, Anita Sethi and (RTÉ broadcaster) Rick O'Shea. They are joined by actor Simon Williams, writer and broadcaster Kate Humble and cook, novelist, entrepreneur and TV personality Prue Leith.

This is the 47th year of the Costa Book Awards. Originally established in 1971 by Whitbread Plc, Costa took over sponsorship of the prestigious book prize in 2006.

Since the Book of the Year was first awarded in 1985, it has been won 12 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, six times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children's book. The 2017 Costa Book of the Year was Inside the Wave, the final collection of poetry by Helen Dunmore, published shortly before her death.

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award is voted for by the general public and will also be announced on January 29th. Voting is open until January 11th, and the identity of the three shortlisted authors remains anonymous until then.

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times