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 Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland

Giles Foden

Shortly after his arrival in Uganda, Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan is called to the scene of a bizarre accident: Idi Amin, careening down a dirt road in his red Maserati, has run over a cow. When Garrigan tends to Amin, the dictator, in his obsession for all things Scottish, appoints him as his personal physician. And so begins a fateful dalliance with the central African leader whose Emperor Jones-style autocracy would transform into a reign of terror.

In The Last King of Scotland Foden’s Amin is as ridiculous as he is abhorrent: a grown man who must be burped like an infant, a self-proclaimed cannibalist who, at the end of his 8 years in power, would be responsible for 300,000 deaths. And as Garrigan awakens to his patient’s baroque barbarism—and his own complicity in it—we enter a venturesome meditation on conscience, charisma, and the slow corruption of the human heart. Brilliantly written, comic and profound, The Last King of Scotland announces a major new talent.

Book:Our Fathers

Our Fathers

Andrew O'Hagan

Hugh Bawn was a modern hero, a dreamer, a Socialist, a man of the people who revolutionized Scotland’s residential development after World War II. Now he lies dying on the eighteenth floor of one of the flats he built, flats that are being demolished along with the idealism he inherited from his mother. Hugh’s final months are plagued by memory and loss, by bitter feelings about his family and the country that could not live up to the housing constructed for it. His grandson, Jamie, comes home to watch over his dying mentor and sees in the man and in the land that bred him his own fears. He tells the story of his family-a tale of pride and delusion, of nationality and strong drink, of Catholic faith and the end of the old Left. It is a tale of dark hearts and modern houses, of three men in search of Utopia. Andrew O’Hagan’s story is a poignant and powerful reclamation of the past and a clear-sighted look at our relationship with personal and public history. Our Fathers announces the arrival of a major writer.

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: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:Morvern Callar

Morvern Callar: A Novel

Alan Warner

Morvern Callar, a low-paid employee in the local supermarket in a desolate and beautiful port town in the west of Scotland, wakes one morning in late December to find her strange boyfriend has committed suicide and is dead on the kitchen floor. Morvern’s reaction is both intriguing and immoral. What she does next is even more appalling. Moving across a blurred European landscape—from rural poverty and drunken mayhem of the port to the Mediterranean rave scene—we experience everything from Morvern’s stark, unflinching perspective.

Morvern is utterly hypnotizing from her very first sentence to her last. She rarely goes anywhere without the Walkman left behind as a Christmas present by her dead boyfriend, and as she narrates this strange story, she takes care to tell the reader exactly what music she is listening to, giving the stunning effect of a sound track running behind her voice. …[more]

Book:Underground Man

Underground Man

Mick Jackson

William John Cavendish Bentinck Scott, the fifth Duke of Portland, who died in 1879, was a singularly eccentric man. What sets him apart from other famous eccentrics is the fact that he had the wealth to indulge his manias to the fullest. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to have a vast network of underground tunnels built beneath his estate, from which, with his horses and carriages, he could secretly escape to the outside world. On a visit to the Duke’s establishment, which still more or less stands, Mick Jackson became fascinated not only by the tunnels but by the stories that surrounded the memory of this strange man. He began to embroider them with fictional ideas of his own, and with the tales the local people passed on to him. Some of the characters’ names in the book are genuine, as indeed are some of the most bizarre details. The actual narrative is, however, pure invention, filled not only with tales of the Duke, but also with the excitement and discoveries of the age in which he lived, and the mysteries that we are still exploring.

Book:White City Blue

White City Blue

Tim Lott

Frankie Blue has an overwhelming desire to fit in somewhere. Up until now, his friends have kept him grounded, but, with his wedding day fast approaching, Frankie starts to question his relationship with the lads as well as his relationship with Vronky, his glamourous, sexy but suddenly nagging fiancee.

White City Blue could so easily have fallen into the makeshift-Nick Hornby-throwback trap, but is saved by the fact that it is actually quite an articulate study of a man made of little more than the suit he wears and the car he drives.

Frankie is as…

Book:Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Kate Atkinson

In her profoundly moving, uniquely comic debut, Kate Atkinson introduces readers to the mind and world of Ruby Lennox, born above a pet shop in York at the halfway point of the twentieth century, and determined to understand both the family that precedes her and the life that awaits her. Taking her own conception as her starting point, the irrepressible Ruby narrates a story of four generations of women, from her great-grandmother’s affair with a French photographer, to her mother’s unfulfilled dreams of Hollywood glamour, to her young sister’s efforts to upstage the Queen on Coronation Day.

Hurtling in and out of both World Wars, economic downfalls, the onset of the permissive ‘60s, and up to the present day, Ruby paints a rich and vivid portrait of family heartbreak and happiness.

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