The shortlists for the Costa Book Awards 2013 are announced, with Bernardine Bishop, who passed away in July, among those selected
In previous years, the overall winners have tended to come from one of the two novel categories. Last year’s overall Costa prize went to novelist Hilary Mantel for Bring Up The Bodies.
A victory for Bishop would make her the first posthumous winner of the Costa prize, although Ted Hughes won in a previous incarnation of the awards, for Birthday Letters, in 1998, just months after his death.
Kate Parkin, Bishop’s editor, said: “That Unexpected Lessons in Love should be shortlisted for such a prestigious prize is a matter of great pride to all of us who loved and admired Bernardine Bishop. Wise, witty and astonishingly frank, Unexpected Lessons in Love is the distillation of a lifetime of reflection on the human condition. It is also one of those rare books that leaves the reader feeling better for having read it.”
The awards, which were taken over by the coffee shop chain in 2006, had a total of 617 entries this year: the highest number yet.
The entries were then whittled down to the five shortlists by the judges, which this year include Paul Ross, the broadcaster, Emma Kennedy, the scriptwriter, and Matthew Cain, the former Channel 4 News culture editor, as well as the writers Olivia Cole, Anne de Courcy and Clemency Burton-Hill.
The 20-strong shortlists contain five debut writers, across the categories, including Ross Montgomery, a former pig farmer and postman, nominated for Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door, in the children’s section.
Clive James is also nominated, for his translation of The Divine Comedy. The writer and broadcaster, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010 and is battling terminal emphysema, was shortlisted in 2009, for his poetry anthology Angels of Elsinore.
In the biography section, Lucy Hughes-Hallett is listed for her work on the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, which won this year’s Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction.
That category continues its tradition of including some fairly unusual biographical works. Also included this year, is Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins, by Gavin Francis, a GP.