Andrew Miller's Pure a popular choice for Costa Book of the Year 2011
Andrew Miller has won the £30,000 2011 Costa Book of the Year for his sixth novel Pure (Sceptre), set in 18th-century Paris, as the annual award announced a new short story category for next year.
In the shiny, mirrored room of Quaglinos resturants in London, Miller triumphed over bookies' favourite Matthew Hollis' biography category-winner Now All Roads Lead to France (Faber) at a ceremony in London last night (24 January). Pure also beat poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy's The Bees (Picador); Christie Watson's debut novel Tiny Sunbirds Far Away (Quercus); and debut children's author Moira Young's Blood Red Road (Marion Lloyd Books). The category winners were each awarded £5,000 in December.
Chair of the final judging panel Geordie Greig said: “Pure is a rich and evocative historical novel which engrosses with its vivid portrait of pre-revolutionary France," describing the novel as a "memorable gothic tale of morality and mortality". However, he was frank about a "forceful wrangle" among the judges, with many of the panel backing Hollis' biography of poet Edward Thomas for the prize. "The decision did not happen seamlessly and unanimously," he acknowledged, describing Hollis's book as "an incredibly subtle and brilliant biography."
Informally, one of the judges told We Love This Book that the panel was split between four of the titles, with Hollis and Miller running very close for the award - a sign, perhaps, of the strength of the list. In the end, the buzz in the room after the award suggested that the judges had made the right choice, with more than one literary editor (We Love This Book's included) pleased that Miller came out on top after missing out on a Booker shortlisting to what many perceived as weaker novels.
The new Costa Short Story Award will run in association with the Costa Book Awards: Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Book, but will not be judged alongside them for the overall Book of the Year prize. The competition will be launched later this year.