Poet wins U.K.’s Costa Book of the Year

Christopher Reid receives prize recognizing the "most enjoyable book" from the British Isles

Topics: Literary Prizes, Comic Books, Books,

Poet Christopher Reid was awarded Britain’s Costa Book of the Year Award on Tuesday with a poetry collection written in tribute to his late wife.

Reid’s “A Scattering” — inspired by his wife’s death from cancer in 2005 — beat four other finalists to the 30,000 pound ($48,426) prize, which aims to reward the most enjoyable book in the last year by writers based in the U.K. and Ireland.

“I’m delighted and bewildered to be the recipient of this important literary prize,” the 60-year-old said as he accepted the award in central London. “The book itself was difficult to write … It hasn’t quietened the grief but it’s helped me think more clearly.”

Judge Josephine Hart described Reid’s winning collection as “austere and beautiful and moving.” She compared Reid’s work to those by Thomas Hardy and W.B. Yeats, who were both inspired to write by personal tragedy.

“We feel that what Christopher Reid did was to take a personal tragedy and to make the emotion and the situation universal,” she said. “It is bizarrely life-enhancing because it speaks of the triumph of love before and after death.”

Hart said the judging panel arrived at the decision by a majority. The Book of the Year prize was chosen from five finalists, each already a winner of separate Costa genre awards — novel, first novel, poetry, biography and children’s book. Each category winner receives 5,000 pounds ($8,000).

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Reid’s collection bested the bookies’ favorite, “Brooklyn,” a novel about a young Irishwoman emigrating to America in the 1950s by Irish author Colm Toibin. Graham Farmelo won the biography prize for “The Strangest Man,” a life of physicist Paul Dirac. Raphael Selbourne won the first novel award for “Beauty,” the story of a young Bangladeshi woman in Britain on the run from an arranged marriage, and U.S.-born writer Patrick Ness won the children’s book award for “The Ask and the Answer.”

The prizes — known until 2006 as the Whitbread Book Awards — were established in 1971. They were renamed in 2006 after sponsorship switched from retail and leisure group Whitbread to the Costa coffee shop chain. They are open to residents of Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Last year’s Book of the Year was awarded to Sebastian Barry for his novel “The Secret Scripture.”

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