Reid wins Costa Book of the Year


Irish author, Colm Tóibín, who had been the strong favourite to win tonight’s prestigious Costa Book award, has once again been pipped at the post, following the judges’ decision to award the £30,000 prize to poet, Christopher Reid for his ‘achingly beautiful’ collection, The Scattering about his wife’s early death from cancer.

The much-anticipated announcement about the literary award was made in London shortly before 9pm tonight, with the chair of the judging panel, Josephine Hart saying that ‘a substantial majority’ of the judges had opted for Mr Reid’s work – though ‘all of the judges said that they would be happy for it to win’.

The verdict is a blow to Mr Tóibín, who won the novel category in the awards for his book, Brooklyn when they were announced before Christmas, though the publicity afforded by this success has led to 30,000 sales for the hardback edition of the book, which traces the life of a woman who leaves 1950s Ireland for life in New York.

Speaking later, Ms Hart said the judges’ verdict against Mr Tóibín should not be seen as a reflection on the Wexford-born author, describing him as ‘an extraordinary’ novelist: “He is a master craftsman who writes with both delicacy and power, and who has written one of the best books of the year.”

The Costa decision is a major boost for bookmarkers, who had taken a succession of bets on Mr Tóibín ‘almost to the exclusion of the field’, according to Ladbrokes’ Mr Nick Weinberg. Ladbrokes had cut Mr Tóibín’s odds to evens, while William Hill had shortened its prices on his chances to 6/4 in recent days.

Mr Reid is the first poet to win the overall Costa prize since Irish poet, Seamus Heaney won in 1999 for Beowulf. Last year, Irish author, Sebastian Barry took the top prize in the highly-regarded competition with The Secret Scripture, which has since gone on to sell 300,000 copies.

His collections of poems, written after the death of his actress wife, Lucinda Gane should be ‘read by everyone’, Ms Hart told journalists tonight, who ‘has taken a personal tragedy and made it universal.

It is bizarrely life-enhancing and speaks of the triumph of love before and after death’.

The other contestants were Patrick Ness for his children’s book The Ask and the Answer, ‘which has a natural velocity and asks what is the price of courage in terrible circumstances, and which is beautifully written’, while Graham Farmelo’s account of the life of quantum physicist Paul Dirac, The Strangest Man should be read by everyone, she said: “Don’t be turned off by quantum mechanics.”

Debut novelist Raphael Selbourne’s Beauty, the story of a Bangladeshi woman on the run from her family which took the Costa first novel prize last year, had been the second favourite behind Mr Tóibín to win the prize.

So far, Mr Reid’s collections of poems has sold less than 1,000 copies – though the numbers are expected to rise quickly now, while Mr Ness has sold 11,000 volumes; Mr Farmelo 9,000 and Mr Selbourne 1,500.

Chaired by Ms Hart, the other judges in the competition were writer and model Marie Helvin, actress Caroline Quentin, musician, actor and writer Gary Kemp, actress Dervla Kirwan, ITV’s Political Editor Tom Bradby; and five members representing the five category judging panels – Neil Pearson (Novel), William Nicholson (Children’s Book Award), Tom Fleming (Poetry), Robert Lacey (Biography) and Sandra Howard (First Novel).