The 20 books shortlisted for this year’s awards have just been announced. The awards welcome a wide range of books to be considered in five categories; First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. From the winners in each of these five categories, one is selected as overall Costa Book of the Year. The category winners will be announced on the 4th January, with the overall prize revealed on the 26th January.
Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen
Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn’t like gossip and she isn’t interested in knowing her neighbours’ business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers. Since her dad disappeared during the Troubles, she has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sundays off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.
The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain (available on eBook)
Amjad never imagined he’d be a single father. But, when tragedy strikes, he must step up for his two children – while his world falls apart. Saahil dreams of providing for his dad and little sister. But his life is about to take an unexpected turn. The baby of the family, Zahra, is shielded from the worst the world has to offer. But, as she grows up, she wonders if she can rely on anyone but herself. There’s no such thing as an easy journey. But when life sends the family in different directions, will they take their own paths – or find their way back to each other?
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (available on eBook)
Meet the Ramdin-Chetan family: forged through loneliness, broken by secrets, saved by love. Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household, happy in their differences. Happy, that is, until the night when a glass of rum, a heart-to-heart and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart. Brave and brilliant, steeped in affection, ‘Love After Love’ asks us to consider what happens at the very brink of human forgiveness, and offers hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back.
All the Water in the World by Karen Raney
Maddy is sixteen. Deeply curious, wry and vivacious, she’s poised at the outset of adulthood. She has loyal friends, a mother with whom she’s unusually close, a father she’s never met, devoted grandparents, and a crush on a boy named Jack. Maddy also has cancer. Hungry for experience despite living in the shadow of illness, Maddy seeks out her first romantic relationship, ponders philosophical questions, finds solace in music and art, and tracks down her father, Antonio. She continually tests the depths and limits of her closeness with her mother, while Eve has to come to terms with the daughter she loves and only partly knows, in a world she can’t control.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food and waterlilies to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone. Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims? Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.
Peace Talks by Tim Finch
Edvard Behrens is a senior diplomat of some repute, highly regarded for his work on international peace negotiations. Under his arbitration, unimaginable atrocities are coolly dissected; invisible and ancient lines, grown taut and frayed with conflict, redrawn. In his latest post, Edvard has been sent a nondescript resort hotel in the Tyrol. High up on this mountain, the air is bright and clear. When he isn’t working, Edvard reads, walks, listens to music. He confides in no one – no one but his wife Anna. Anna, who he loves with all his heart; Anna, always present and yet forever absent. Honest, honourable, tragic, witty, wise, an unforgettable novel of love, loss and the human longing for peace, ‘Peace Talks’ maps the darkest and most tender territories of the human heart.
The Less Dead by Denise Mina (available on eBook)
When Margot goes in search of her birth mother for the first time, she meets her aunt, Nikki, instead. Margot learns that her mother, Susan, was a sex worker murdered soon after Margot’s adoption. To this day, Susan’s killer has never been found. Nikki asks Margot for help. She has received threatening and haunting letters from the murderer, for decades. She is determined to find him, but she can’t do it alone.
The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story by Monique Roffey
March 1976: St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch. A fisherman sings to himself, waiting for a catch – but attracts a sea-dweller he doesn’t expect. A beautiful young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid has been swimming the Caribbean Sea for centuries. And she is entranced by the fisherman and and his song. But her fascination is her undoing. She hears his boat’s engine again, follows it, and finds herself at the mercy of American tourists. After a fearsome battle, she is pulled out of the sea and strung up on the dock as a trophy. The fisherman rescues her, and gently wins her trust – as she starts to transform into a woman. The novel’s characters are an unlikely mix: a mermaid, a fisherman, a deaf boy, a Caribbean artist and sweetman and a benevolent white landowner.
The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes (available on audio)
In the summer of 1885, three Frenchmen arrived in London for a few days’ shopping. One was a Prince, one was a Count, and the third was a commoner with an Italian name, who four years earlier had been the subject of one of John Singer Sargent’s greatest portraits. The three men’s lives play out against the backdrop of the Belle Epoque in Paris. The beautiful age of glamour and pleasure more often showed its ugly side: hysterical, narcissistic, decadent and violent, a time of rampant prejudice and blood-and-soil nativism, with more parallels to our own age than we might imagine. Our guide through this world is Samuel Pozzi, society doctor, pioneer gynaecologist, and free-thinker, a rational and scientific man with a famously complicated private life. ‘The Man in the Red Coat’ is at once a fresh and original portrait of the French Belle Epoque and a life of a man ahead of his time.
Dear Life by Rachel Clarke
As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable. Rachel’s training was put to the test in 2017 when her GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing – even the best palliative care – can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love. And yet, she argues, in a hospice there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more kindness, more joy, more tenderness, more grace, more compassion – than you could ever imagine. For if there is a difference between people who know they are dying and the rest of us, it is simply this: that the terminally ill know their time is running out, while we live as though we have all the time in the world.
The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence
The Louder I Will Sing’ is a powerful, compelling and uplifting memoir about growing up in modern Britain as a young black man. It’s a story both of people and politics, of the underlying racism beneath many of our most important institutions, but also the positive power that hope, faith and love can bring in response.
Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadow Play by Jeff Young
Liverpool is a city of ghosts. Through the centuries, millions have lived here or come to find a new life, and found safe harbour. More than any other city in Britain its history resonates in the buildings, landscapes and stories that have seeped into the lives of its inhabitants. Jeff Young takes us on a journey through the Liverpool of his childhood – down back alleys and through arcades, into vanished tenements and oyster bars, strip tease pubs and theatres. We watch as he turns from schoolboy truant into an artist obsessed with Kafka, Terence Davies and The Fall. Along the way he conjures ghosts and puts hexes on the developers who’ve ruined the city of his dreams. Layering memoir, history, photography and more this is a highly original approach to this great city.
The Air Year by Caroline Bird (available on eBook)
The Air Year’ is a time of flight, transition and suspension: the shrill air as you fall through love, before crash, comedown – commitment. The poet crosses challenging threshholds, fear of commitment, of motherhood, shame and panic. ‘I am proficient at beginnings’, Caroline Bird says. This book goes further and (with her characteristic energy and exuberance) risks the next level. People run on treadmills facing blue walls, burn talismans in their gardens, mime marriage with invisible wedding rings. Pilots bung bullet-holes with chewing gum. We cling on, to rickety rope-bridges, to something in the air, to one another. Bird’s speakers exist in a state of suspension, trapped in liminal space between take-off and landing, a time of pure transition. Love is uncontrollable, joy comes and goes at hurricane speed. They walk to the cliff-edge, close their eyes and step out into the air.
The Historians by Eavan Boland (available on eBook)
A collection from Eavan Boland, a pioneering figure in Irish poetry who has been credited with inspiring a generation. This is her final collection, following her passing in April 2020.
My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long
Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, Rachel Long’s much-anticipated debut collection of poems, ‘My Darling from the Lions’, announces the arrival of a thrilling new presence in poetry. Each poem has a vivid story to tell – of family quirks, the perils of dating, the grip of religion or sexual awakening – stories that are, by turn, emotionally insightful, politically conscious, wise, funny, and outrageous.
Citadel by Martha Sprackland
Shortlisted for Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2020 Poetry Book of the Month – The Telegraph May 2020 Juana of Castile (commonly referred to as Juana la Loca – Joanna the Mad) was a sixteenth-century Queen of Spain, daughter of the instigators of the Inquisition.
Wranglestone by Darren Charlton (available on eBook)
When Peter puts the lake-bound sanctuary of Wranglestone in danger by allowing a stranger to come ashore, he’s forced to leave and help rancher Cooper herd the dead from their shores. But as love blossoms between the pair, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary’s secret past.
Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant (available on eBook)
In the aftermath of World War One, everyone is trying to rebuild their lives. If Ben is to avoid being sent back to the orphanage, he needs to find his brother Sam, wounded in action and is now missing. Lotti’s horrible aunt and uncle want to send her away to boarding-school (when she has just so successfully managed to get expelled from her last one!) And Clara, their young teacher, is waiting for news of her missing fiance.Just as they think they’ve found their feet in the new order, disaster strikes, and Lotti and Ben must get away. And so they hatch a plan – to cross the Channel on Ben’s narrowboat and find Sam. And there’s something in France that Lotti is looking for, too. Buffeted by storms, chased by the police, Lotti, Ben, Clara and a growing number of dogs set out on an epic journey, on the search for lost loved ones and a place to call home.
The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson (available on eBook)
Freddie Yates loves facts. A fact can’t leave you and no one can take it away. But when he learns the surprising fact that his biological dad might be living in Wales, Freddy and his best friends sneak off to find him, unwittingly causing a chain of ‘miraculous’ events involving an onion-eating contest, superhero scarecrows and life-saving sheep.
The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff
Everyone talks about falling in love like it’s the most miraculous, life-changing thing in the world. Something happens, they say, and you know . That’s what happened when I met Kit Godden. I looked into his eyes and I knew. Only everyone else knew too. Everyone else felt exactly the same way. This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer – the summer when everything changes. In a holiday house by the sea, our watchful narrator sees everything, including many things they shouldn’t, as their brother and sisters, parents and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter two brothers – irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise – and the consequences will be devastating.
For information on how to access eBooks and eAudio please visit the Wokingham Libraries website https://www.wokingham.gov.uk/libraries/library-services/e-books/