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Days Without Wnd by Sebastian Barry named 2016 Costa Book of the Year

10 Feb 2017 Sustainability

Costa Winner

London, 20:30 31st January 2016: Days Without End, 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 evening (Tuesday 31st January) 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 Costa Book Awards 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. 

Originally established in 1971 by Whitbread Plc, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s most prestigious book prize in 2006. 2016 marks the 45th year of the Book Awards.

Days Without End, published by Faber, is the twelfth novel to take the overall prize.  Hilary Mantel was the last author to take the Book of the Year with a novel in 2012 with Bring Up the Bodies.The 2015 Costa Book of the Year was The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, only the second children’s book in the prize’s history to win Book of the Year. 

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won twelve times by a novel, five times by a first novel, six times by a biography, seven times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book.

Jess Kidd wins 2016 Costa Short Story Award

Also announced at the ceremony was the winner of the Costa Short Story Award. Debut novelist Jess Kidd from Richmond, Surrey won the public vote and £3,500 for her story, Dirty Little Fishes.  Two runners-up, writer Billy Callaghan from Cork, Ireland and Edinburgh-based writer Rob Ewing, received £1,000 and £500 respectively.

Established in 2012, the new Award – run in association with the Costa Book Awards but judged independently of the main five-category system – is unique in that it was judged anonymously (ie without the name of the author being known throughout the process).  It is for a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words written in English by an author aged 18 years or over, and is open to both published and unpublished writers.

A shortlist of three stories was selected by a panel of judges – Sarah Franklin, Joe Haddow, Adele Parks, Simon Trewin and Kit de Waal – and then made available on the Costa Book Awards website for the public to download and vote for their favourite.  Costa Managing Director, Dominic Paul, announced the winner and runners-up and presented them with their cheques.

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For further press information please contact:

Amanda Johnson

Costa Book Awards Press and Publicity

Telephone: 07715 922 180



Kate Burton

Faber and Faber


Telephone: 0207 927 3887

Notes for Editors:

About the Costa Book Awards:

· * Seamus Heaney won the Book of the Year in 1996 for The Spirit Level and in 1999 for Beowulf. Ted Hughes won in 1997 for Tales From Ovid and posthumously again the following year in 1998 for Birthday Letters.

· The Costa Book Awards, formerly the Whitbread Book Awards, were established in 1971 to encourage, promote and celebrate the best contemporary British writing.

· The total prize fund for the Costa Book Awards – including the Costa Short Story Award – stands at £60,000.

· The award winners from the five categories – Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – each receive £5,000.

· The overall Costa Book of the Year is selected from the five category Award winners with the winner receiving a further £30,000. 

· The 2015 Costa Book of the Year was The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books).

About Costa:

Costa is the UK’s favourite coffee shop, having been awarded “Best Branded Coffee Shop Chain in the UK and Ireland” by Allegra Strategies for seven years running (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 & December 2016).

With over 2,000 coffee shops in the UK and more than 1,280 in 30 overseas markets, Costa is the fastest growing coffee shop business in the UK.  Founded in London by Italian brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa in 1971, Costa has become the UK’s favourite coffee shop chain and diversified into both the at-home and gourmet self-serve markets.

Costa is committed to looking after coffee-growers. As part of our commitment to look after coffee farm communities we established The Costa Foundation, a registered charity. The Costa Foundation’s aims are to relieve poverty, advance education and the health and environment of coffee-growing communities around the world. So far, the Costa Foundation has funded 69 school building project to help improve the social and economic welfare of coffee-growing communities. The Costa Foundation has a target to build 100 schools by 2020. We also source 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified™ coffee and were the first coffee chain in the UK to use sustainably grown beans sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms.

Costa is committed to tackling the UK’s literacy challenge and is proud to be a signatory of the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge which started in 2016. In continuation of this commitment, and inspired by the Costa Book Awards and the ongoing work of the Costa Foundation, Costa launched its annual Reading Week in September 2016 in conjunction with over 500 schools across the UK. 

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