Belfast Telegraph

Gothic romance featuring ‘twisted love affair’ wins Costa first novel award

The award give prizes for best novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children’s book.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Costa Book Awards)
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Costa Book Awards)

By Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

A lawyer-turned-writer has scooped a major book award.

Sara Collins, 47, won the prize for best first novel in the Costa Book Awards.

Winners are also awarded in the novel, biography, poetry and children’s book categories.

Collins’s debut The Confessions Of Frannie Langton features a “twisted love affair” between a Jamaican maid and her French mistress in Georgian London.

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Sara Collins (Costa)

The “gothic romance” was inspired by the story of a Jamaican boy, Francis Barber, sent into service in the household of Samuel Johnson.

Johnson wrote that Barber had been “given me by a friend” and the idea that a child could be given as a gift in England formed the springboard for the book.

Jamaican-born Collins worked in the Cayman Islands as a dispute resolution lawyer for 17 years and was also involved in human rights advocacy.

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Middle England by Jonathan Coe (Costa Book Awards)

She wanted to “dispel the myth that the black presence in England started with Windrush”, with the book.

Debut authors scooped two other categories, with Jasbinder Bilan winning the Children’s Book Award with her first novel, Asha And The Spirit Bird, “a thrilling adventure set in contemporary India”.

Mary Jean Chan won the Poetry Award with her debut collection, Fleche,  exploring “themes of multilingualism, queerness, psychoanalysis and cultural history”.

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The Volunteer: The True Story Of The Resistance Hero Who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather (Costa Book Awards)

Middle England, a story of “nostalgia and delusion” by established author Jonathan Coe won the novel category.

The book was described by judges as “the perfect novel for now”.

The Volunteer: The True Story Of The Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz, by former war reporter Jack Fairweather, won the biography category.

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Asha And the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan (Costa Book Awards)

Witold Pilecki created an underground resistance army which smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities out of Auschwitz, via secret messages and radio broadcasts.

The five winning authors each receive £5,000 and are now in the running for the 2019 Costa Book Of The Year, announced later this month.

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Fleche by Mary Jean Chan (Costa Book Awards)

2019 Costa Book Award Category Winners:

First Novel 
The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins
Novel
Middle England, Jonathan Coe
Biography
The Volunteer: The True Story Of The Resistance Hero Who Infiltrated Auschwitz, Jack Fairweather
Poetry
Flèche, Mary Jean Chan
Children’s Book
Asha And The Spirit Bird, Jasbinder Bilan

PA

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