Sebastian Barry wins Costa book award


SEBASTIAN BARRY won the Costa Book of the Year Award last night for his novel The Secret Scripture,despite judges being unhappy with the ending.

Chairman of the judges Matthew Parris revealed the decision was close run with Adam Foulds for The Broken Word, with judges split five to four at one point.

Barry’s triumph comes after he missed out on the Man Booker Prize for Fiction last October.

The Secret Scripturecentres on Rosanne McNulty, perhaps nearing her 100th birthday, who faces an uncertain future as the hospital where she has spent the best part of her adult life prepares for closure.

Over the weeks leading up to the upheaval, she often talks to her psychiatrist Dr Grene.

Parris described it as an “extraordinarily close finish” among the judges.

The Broken Wordjolly nearly pipped The Secret Scriptureto the post, but not quite.”

He said there was a huge amount of support for both books among the panel. “The feeling of many of the judges with The Secret Scripturewas that there was a lot wrong with it and it was flawed in many ways.

“Almost nobody liked the ending for some that was fatal to their support for the book.”

Judges deliberated for an hour and a quarter and Parris said it was “very convivial” although some judges simply could not understand the decision to which others had come.

The final judging panel included comedian Alexander Armstrong, journalist Michael Buerk and actresses Rosamund Pike and Pauline McLynn.

Parris said the decision was “absolutely not” a compromise.

The winner was announced at a ceremony in London.

The Costa Book of the Year, which has a £25,000 (€27,000) prize, recognises the most enjoyable books of the past year by writers in the UK and Ireland. – (PA)