Annal: 1999 Whitbread Book Award for Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 1999.

Book:Music & Silence

Music & Silence

Rose Tremain

In the year 1629, a young English lutenist named Peter Claire arrives at the Danish court to join King Christian IV’s royal orchestra. From the moment when he realizes that the musicians have to perform in a freezing cellar underneath the royal apartments, he understands that he’s come to a place where the opposing states of light and dark, good and evil, are waging war to the death. Designated the king’s “Angel” because of his good looks, he finds himself falling in love with the young woman who is the companion of the king’s adulterous and estranged wife, Kirsten. With his loyalties fatally divided, how will Peter Claire find the path that will realize his hopes and save his soul?

With a sure, alchemical touch and the narrative finesse that always turns her histories into a kind of magic, Rose Tremain has fashioned a rich, provocative historical romance as pungent as Denmark’s salty air. This is a tale of opposites: light and darkness, tenderness and violence, music and silence.

Book:Being Dead

Being Dead

Jim Crace

A haunting new novel about love, death, and the afterlife, from the author of Quarantine.

Baritone Bay, mid-afternoon. A couple, naked, married almost thirty years, are lying murdered in the dunes.

Their bodies had expired, but anyone could tell—just look at them—that Joseph and Celice were still devoted. For while his hand was touching her, curved round her shin, the couple seemed to have achieved that peace the world denies, a period of grace, defying even murder. Anyone who found them there, so wickedly disfigured, would nevertheless be bound to see that something of their love had survived the death of cells. The corpses were surrendered to the weather and the earth, but they were still a man and wife, quietly resting; flesh on flesh; dead, but not departed yet.

Book:Chocolat: A Novel

Chocolat: A Novel

Joanne Harris

Illuminating Peter Mayle’s South of France with a touch of Laura Esquivel’s magic realism, Chocolat is a timeless novel of a straitlaced village’s awakening to joy and sensuality.

In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne’s uncanny perception of its buyer’s private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival.

Chocolat’s every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. It’s a must for anyone who craves an escapist read, and is a bewitching gift for any holiday.

Book:Headlong

Headlong: A Novel

Michael Frayn

An unlikely con man wagers wife, wealth, and sanity in pursuit of an elusive Old Master.

Invited to dinner by the boorish local landowner, Martin Clay, an easily distracted philosopher, and his art-historian wife are asked to assess three dusty paintings blocking the draught from the chimney. But hiding beneath the soot is nothing less-Martin believes-than a lost work by Bruegel. So begins a hilarious trail of lies and concealments, desperate schemes and soaring hopes as Martin, betting all that he owns and much that he doesn’t, embarks on a quest to prove his hunch, win his wife over, and separate the painting from its owner.

In Headlong, Michael Frayn, “the master of what is seriously funny” (Anthony Burgess), offers a procession of superbly realized characters, from the country squire gone to seed to his giddy, oversexed young wife. All are burdened by human…[more]

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