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Costa Book Awards: 2020 Winners

Prior to COVID-19, coffee shops had become a favourite bookish reading spot. Nestle into an armchair with a spiced latte in one hand, a great book in the other, the white noise of cup-clinking and gentle chatter around you, and you can lose yourself for hours. So it comes as no surprise that Costa Coffee have honoured these beloved bookish customers by sponsoring the former Whitbread Book Awards since 2006, with the renamed “Costa Book Awards” becoming one of the major prizes in the UK. The awards hand out a shared prize of £60,000 between winners of five categories: first novel, novel, biography, poetry, and children's, each selected by a varying panel of three judges. Here is a rundown of the 2020 Costa Book Award Winners.


2020 Costa Book Award Winners


First Novel Award - Love After Love by Ingrid Persuad

Novel Award - The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

Biography Award - The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence

Poetry Award - The Historians by Eavan Boland

Children’s Book Award - Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant


The winner of the first novel award is Ingrid Persaud with her debut novel Love After Love, published in April by Faber Books. Set in Trinidad, the novel revolves around a lovingly mismatched household consisting of a mother, her son and their lodger. When a night of spilled secrets drives them apart, they are each forced to confront loyalty and forgiveness. Being Trinidadian herself, Persaud has made her literary debut with a colourful, emotional bang. She was praised by the Guardian as having “a knack for finding the sublime in the ordinary.”


Winning the biography award was Lee Lawrence’s The Louder I Will Sing. Described as “the story of arguably one of the most important, yet least known, events in modern British history”, Lawrence fights for justice in response to his mother being wrongly shot by police, in her own home, during a raid. The bullet fired through her spine, causing it to shatter, changed the course of her life. This memoir is a call to action against systemic racism within British institutions. As described by the Pages of Hackney, “The Louder I Will Sing is powerful, compelling and uplifting.” There can be no doubt as to why this powerful biography snagged this year’s prize.


The famed Irish poet Eavan Boland came out victorious as her poetry book, The Historians, was announced winner of the poetry award. Known as “one of the leading poetic voices of both feminist and Irish literature”, Boland once again displays her unique ability to intertwine myth, history and the life of an ordinary woman into award-winning poetry. Having lost the dearly departed Eavan to a stroke in April 2020, bringing a nearly sixty-year career to an end, this is unfortunately the last volume of her mesmerising work. While she could not witness it, she would undoubtedly been proud of such a fantastic achievement. We can continue to honor her legacy by purchasing a copy of her final collection.


Announced as the winner of the 2020 novel is Monique Roffrey’s mythical masterpiece, The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story. Navigating the love story between David Baptiste, a fisherman, and Aycayia, a mermaid, this novel is set to the backdrop of fictional Caribbean island called Black Conch. Toying with archetypal romance story tropes and narratives, this novel offers a refreshing, stark representation of jealousy among wives and elder women through the mythical mermaid figure. Woven between Aycayia’s personal narrative, Roffrey’s novel also offers a wider social criticism of colonialism and its effects on Caribbean islands. This novel is entirely successful in its elegant and lyrical delivery of complex social criticism.


Winning the children’s book award is Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant. The rolling narrative of this voyage-centred novel follows young Lotti and Ben’s escape from England in the fallout of the first world war. They are both in search of something different, which they believe can be found across the channel in France. While this powerful children’s book offers not only an exciting adventure for its young readers, it also offers nuanced lessons in friendship, family, compassion and empathy. Set to ignite a sense of curiosity and intrigue in its young readership, it is a well-crafted and purposeful novel.


With previous Costa Book Award winners including Phillip Pullman, Hilary Mantel and Sebastien Barry, this year’s prizewinners are certainly in good company. Encased within compelling narratives that each make a perfect read for the seasoned bookworm, these winning books offer an assertive and important point of view. Whether you are interested in memoirs, adventure novels or even books with a mythical flavour, this year’s winners will certainly have something for you to enjoy. Of these five winners, a nine-member judging panel will select the Costa Book of the Year and who will receive £30,000. Keep your ears peeled for the announcement on January 26th.



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