The Costa Book Awards category winners were announced last night, and with the all-female shortlist for Best Novel, the dominance of women in literary awards continues with Kate Atkinson, for her book Life After Life. Nathan Filer was awarded the First Novel prize (which Atkinson also won in 1995), with his tale The Shock of the Fall, inspired by his time working as a mental health nurse. Atkinson and Filer will compete with the other category winners for the Book of the Year title, and if Atkinson wins, she will be the first woman to win it twice. If either she or the other female category winner, Lucy Hughes-Hallet (Biography), wins, it will mean that all recent major literary awards will have been won by women.
This triumph of female writers has been discussed a lot recently, and I highlighted it when reading the Costa shortlist back in December. It is making people wonder whether times are changing, in an awards arena previously dominated by men – is it all just coincidence, or have women suddenly become better writers, or are they just being better recognised for their achievements?
Whatever it is, to me, a good book is a good book. If I read a bad book, I don’t tend to pick up another one by the same author, and for that reason, I have only read one title by Kate Atkinson. That sounds quite mean – When Will There be Good News wasn’t necessarily bad, I just didn’t like it. I felt like there was something about it I just didn’t get. But perhaps I will try Life After Life – having read reviews and articles about the Costa winners, it doesn’t seem to have come as much of a surprise that it won, only a surprise that it hadn’t made the shortlist for more awards.
The overall winner will be announced on 28th January.