Irish writers Sebastian Barry and Maggie O’Farrell on 2016 Costa Novel Award shortlist

Irish authors Sebastian Barry and Maggie O’Farrell have been shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award

Both of them are previous winners of the prestigious award and they have been nominated this time around for their books Days Without End and This Must Be The Place.

Derry novelist Maggie O’Farrell previously won the award for her book The Hand That First Held Mine in 2010.

The judges said that Ms O’Farrell’s This Must Be The Place, about a New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, is “an utterly involving read, both funny and heartbreaking — technically dazzling, but never losing its human touch.”

Wicklow-based Sebastian Barry previously won the award in 2008 for The Secret Scripture, which has been made into a feature film by Oscar-winning director Jim Sheridan.

Barry’s latest novel, Days Without End, is about the struggles of two young soldiers during the American Civil War.

It was described by the panel of judges as a “beautiful, poetic book, heart-wrenching and hopeful in equal measure”.

A total of 20 authors have been shortlisted this year for the prestigious awards, which are the only major UK book prize open solely to authors living in the UK and Ireland.

It recognises books across five categories: first novel, novel, biography, poetry, and children’s book.

Only six male authors have been shortlisted across the categories, the lowest figure since records were first compiled in 1995.

The poetry category, whose shortlisted writers include Kate Tempest. Melissa Lee-Houghton and Alice Oswald, has no male names at all.

Francesca Simon, the author of the Horrid Henry series of children’s books, is in the running for the children’s award for The Monstrous Child, her first novel for readers aged 12 and up.

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on January 3.

The overall winner of the 2016 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and will be announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London on January 31.


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