Days Without End is a powerful novel of duty and family set against the American Indian and Civil Wars by Irish novelist and playwright Sebastian Barry, has been named the 2016 Costa Book of the Year.
Barry’s win secures him a unique place in literary history as the first novelist to ever win the overall Book of the Year twice. Poets Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes are the only two writers to have achieved the double to date. Barry first won the Book of the Year in 2008 for his fourth novel, the bestselling The Secret Scripture.
The announcement was made this week at an awards ceremony held at Quaglino’s in central London.
Days Without End, Barry’s seventh novel, sees narrator Thomas McNulty recount how, having fled Ireland when orphaned during the Great Famine, he made his way across America as part of the US Cavalry. With his long-time friend and companion John Cole, Thomas witnesses the birth of America – from the atrocities committed against the Native Americans to the horrors of the Civil War – and, ultimately, finds his own family and identity.
Professor Kate Williams, chair of the final judges, said: “We all loved this magnificent, searing, thrilling book – brutal, terrifying yet with moments of light and beauty. Brilliant writing that takes you to the depths and the heights of humanity, and a voice you simply can’t forget.”
Williams chaired a final judging panel that included BAFTA-winning comedian and presenter, Graham Norton; Downton Abbey and Cold Feet actor, Robert Bathurst; broadcast journalist and author, Sian Williams; writers Nicci Gerrard and Matthew Dennison; author-illustrator Cressida Cowell; and journalists Kate Kellaway and Charlotte Heathcote.
Barry beat bookmakers’ favourite, debut non-fiction writer Keggie Carew, for Dadland, debut novelist Francis Spufford for Golden Hill, poet Alice Oswald for Falling Awake, and YA writer Brian Conaghan for The Bombs That Brought Us Together to win the overall prize and a cheque for £30,000 at the awards ceremony.
The Book Awards, now its 45th year, is the only major UK book prize that is open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and also, uniquely, recognises the most enjoyable books across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year. Costa has been title sponsor of the awards since 2006.
For more information please visit www.costabookawards.com.