Annal: 2009 Costa Book Award for Novel

Results of the Costa Book Award in the year 2009.

Book:Brooklyn: A Novel

Brooklyn: A Novel

Colm Tóibín

It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Leaving her family and country, Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn, and to a crowded boarding house where the landlady’s intense scrutiny and the small jealousies of her fellow residents only deepen her isolation.

Slowly, however, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life—until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. As she falls in love, news comes from home that forces her back to Enniscorthy, not to the constrictions of her old life, but to new possibilities which conflict deeply with the life she has left behind in Brooklyn.

In the quiet character of Eilis Lacey, Colm Tóibín has created one of fiction’s most memorable heroines and in Brooklyn, a luminous novel of devastating power. Tóibín demonstrates once again his astonishing range and that he is a true master of nuanced prose, emotional depth, and narrative virtuosity.

Book:The Elephant Keeper

The Elephant Keeper

Christopher Nicholson

“I asked the sailor what an Elephant looked like; he replied that it was like nothing on earth.”

England, 1766: After a long voyage from the East Indies, a ship docks in Bristol, England, and rumor quickly spreads about its unusual cargo—some say a mermaid is on board. A crowd forms, hoping to catch a glimpse of the magical creature. One crate after another is unpacked: a zebra, a leopard, and a baboon. There’s no mermaid, but in the final two crates is something almost as magical—a pair of young elephants, in poor health but alive.

Seeing a unique opportunity, a wealthy sugar merchant purchases the elephants for his country estate and turns their care over to a young stable boy, Tom Page. Tom’s family has long cared for horses, but an elephant is something different altogether. It takes time for Tom and the elephants to understand one another, but to the surprise of everyone on the estate, a remarkable…[more]

Book:Family Album

Family Album

Penelope Lively

All Alison ever wanted was a blissful childhood for her six children, with summers at the beach and birthday parties on the lawn at their family home. Together with Ingrid, the family au pair, she has worked hard to create a real “old-fashioned family life.” But beneath its postcard sheen, the picture is clouded by a distant father, Alison’s inexplicable emotional outbursts, and long-repressed secrets that no one dares mention. For years, Alison’s adult children have protected her illusion of domestic perfection-but as each child confronts the effects of past choices on their current adult lives, it becomes evident that each must face the truth.

Penelope Lively’s novels of history, memory, and character have earned her a loyal readership. Like Ian McEwan’s Atonement, this novel is a measured, thoughtful look at how events of the past, both small and large, seen and unseen, deeply inform character and the present. Quietly provocative and disturbing, Family Album is a highly nuanced work that showcases a master of her craft.

Book:Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall: A Novel

Hilary Mantel

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but…[more]

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