Honor roll: Costa Book Award for First Novel

Each of these works has been nominated for one of these awards: Costa Book Award for First Novel, Whitbread Book Award for First Novel. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:The Restraint of Beasts

The Restraint of Beasts

Magnus Mills

Here is the captivating tale of three men who work for a company specializing in high-tension fences, the kind that keep beasts in and humans out—or maybe the other way around. Tam and Richie are good Scots lads at heart (taciturn and suspicious of authority) who have turned loafing and pub-crawling into an art form. They try the patience of their foreman, the narrator of the novel, who has the misfortune of being British. Carefully laid plans go haywire from the start. The fence they had built for Mr. McCrindle has gone slack, and while he watches them attempt to set things right, things go horribly, terribly wrong. Covering their tracks as best they can, the hapless trio head south from Scotland to do a job in England. But sometimes good fences make disastrous neighbors.

Book:Reading in the Dark

Reading in the Dark: A Novel

Seamus Deane

Seamus Deane’s first novel is a mesmerizing story of childhood set against the violence of Northern Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s.

The boy narrator grows up haunted by a truth he both wants and does not want to discover. The matter: a deadly betrayal, unspoken and unspeakable, born of political enmity. As the boy listens through the silence that surrounds him, the truth spreads like a stain until it engulfs him and his family. And as he listens, and watches, the world of legend—the stone fort of Grianan, home of the warrior Fianna; the Field of the Disappeared, over which no gulls fly—reveals its transfixing reality. Meanwhile the real world of adulthood unfolds its secrets like a collection of folktales: the dead sister walking again; the lost uncle, Eddie, present on every page; the family house “as cunning and articulate as a labyrinth, closely designed, with someone sobbing at…[more]

Book:City of Bohane

City of Bohane

Kevin Barry

A blazingly original, wildly stylish, and pulpy debut novel.

Thirty or so years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the North Rises, and the eerie bogs of the Big Nothin’ that the city really lives. For years it has all been under the control of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there’s trouble in the air. They say Hartnett’s old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchmen are getting ambitious; and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight.

Book:The Tenderness of Wolves

The Tenderness of Wolves: A Novel

Stef Penney

1867, Canada. As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a seventeen-year-old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead mans cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township journalists, Hudson Bay Company men, trappers, traders but do they want to solve the crime, or exploit it?

Book:Eve Green

Eve Green: A Novel

Susan Fletcher

“Ten days before Christmas I lost her. What do I remember? Every little thing…. For twenty-one years I’ve picked away at my memory of it, lifting up moments, testing myself. Believing I might have finally healed to a neat white scar.”

Pregnant with her first child, Eve Green recalls her mother’s death when she was eight years old and her struggle to make sense of her parents’ mysterious romantic past. Eve is sent to live with her grandparents in rural Wales, where she finds comfort in friendships with Daniel, a quiet farmhand, and Billy, a disabled, reclusive friend of her mother’s. When a ravishing local girl disappears, one of Eve’s friends comes under suspicion. Eve will do everything she can to protect him, but at the risk of complicity in a matter she barely understands. This is a timeless and beautifully told story about family secrets and unresolved liaisons.

Book:The Ventriloquist's Tale

The Ventriloquist's Tale

Pauline Melville

Pauline Melville conjures up vivid pictures both of savanna and forest and of city life in South America where love is often trumped by disaster. Unforgettable characters illuminate theme and plot: Sonny, the strange, beautiful and isolate son of Beatrice and Danny, the brother and sister who have a passionate affair at the time of the solar eclipse in 1919; Father Napier, the sandy-haired evangelist whom the Indians perceive as a giant grasshopper; Chofy McKinnon the modern Indian, torn between savanna life and urban future. This is a novel that embraces nearly a century, large in scope but intimate as a whisper, where laughter is never far from the scene of tragedy; a parable of miscegenation and racial elusiveness, of nature defying culture, magic confronting rationalism and of the eternally rebellious nature of love.

Book:The Debt to Pleasure

The Debt to Pleasure: A Novel

John Lanchester

The Debt to Pleasure is a wickedly funny ode to food. Traveling from Portsmouth to the south of France, Tarquin Winot, the book’s snobbish narrator, instructs us in his philosophy on everything from the erotics of dislike to the psychology of the menu. Under the guise of completing a cookbook, Winot is in fact on a much more sinister mission that only gradually comes to light.

Book:Flying to Nowhere

Flying to Nowhere

John Fuller

Book:The Short Day Dying

The Short Day Dying: A Novel

Peter Hobbs

This is the story of four seasons in the life of Charles Wenmouth, a twenty-seven-year-old apprentice blacksmith and Methodist lay preacher in Cornwall in 1870. Life is at its hardest; poverty is everywhere. Charles crosses and recrosses the raw, beautiful landscape, attending to the sick and helping the poor, preaching in chapels with ever-dwindling congregations. He questions his faith along the way but never quite loses it, balancing it with the pleasure he takes in nature, the light in the skies, the colors of the earth, and in his attachment to a girl to whom he is drawn by the piety and patience she maintains despite her long illness.

Inspired by the language of his great-great-grandfather’s diaries and the Bible, influenced by authors as diverse as Hardy, Blake, and Faulkner, Peter Hobbs has created a first novel of breathtaking ambition and stylistic innovation, and of enormous emotional power.

Book:Buddha Da

Buddha Da

Anne Donovan

Anne Marie’s dad, a Glaswegian painter and decorator, has always been game for a laugh. So when he first takes up meditation at the Buddhist Center, no one takes him seriously. But as Jimmy becomes more involved in a search for the spiritual, his beliefs start to come into conflict with the needs of his wife, Liz. Cracks appear in their apparently happy family life, and the ensuing events change the lives of each family member.

Donovan completely captures these lives in her clear-eyed, evocative prose, rendered alternately in the voices of each of the main characters. With seamless grace and astonishing veracity, Buddha Da treats serious themes with humor and its characters with humanity.

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