Author Sarah Perry has beaten off competition from Harry Potter creator JK Rowling and a recently discovered Beatrix Potter manuscript to win the Waterstones Book of the Year Award.
Perry’s gothic novel, The Essex Serpent, is rooted in a village that is being terrorised by a winged creature of folklore.
Set in the late 19th century, the book follows widow Cora Seaborne who moves to the Essex countryside with her son and investigates rumours of a serpent causing a spate of deaths in the community.
The author’s second novel, The Essex Serpent, was a bestseller over the summer and was lauded by literary critics.
She said: “I am delighted beyond measure that The Essex Serpent is the Waterstones Book of the Year.
“From the moment The Essex Serpent was released, Waterstones’ booksellers were true friends of the book, and week after week I was moved and astonished by the creativity that went into windows, displays and murals all over the country.
“No author could hope for better champions of their work, or a more heartfelt introduction to readers, and I could not be more grateful.”
She faced stiff competition on the six-strong shortlist, up against JK Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Cursed Child — a script based on the West End play of the same name.
Also nominated were Emma-Jane Kirby’s The Optician Of Lampedusa, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air and Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher De Hamel.
The final nominee was a Beatrix Potter novel that was discovered more than 100 years after it was originally written.
The Tale Of Kitty-In-Boots – illustrated by Quentin Blake – tells the story of a well-behaved black cat who leads a double life, and features classic Potter characters including Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Peter Rabbit.