Literary feud lies behind novel choice for Costa book of the year

Andrew Miller emerges triumphant after support for biography divides the judging panel

The novelist Andrew Miller won the Costa Book of the Year award last night despite "bitter dissent" among the judges over whether the prize should have gone to a biography of Edward Thomas instead.

The Bristol-born writer picked up the £35,000 prize at a ceremony in central London, which also marked the 40th anniversary of the awards. Miller beat the Man Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes to the Novel Award before also winning Book of the Year for his sixth book, Pure. His earlier work Oxygen was shortlisted for Best Novel more than a decade ago, and was also considered for the Booker Prize.

It emerged that the judging panel, chaired by Geordie Greig, editorial director of The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and the London Evening Standard, was locked in a "fierce debate and quite bitter dissent to find the winner".

He said the judges were split over two books in particular, the eventual winner and the winner of the Biography Award. "It was not unpleasant, it was forthright," Mr Greig said. On judging the five very different categories, he remarked: "It's not like comparing apples and oranges – it's like comparing bananas and curry."

Pure follows a young engineer in 18th century Paris who is ordered by the King to demolish the city's oldest cemetery. This year marks the 14th time a novel has won Book of the Year. "It is a real and brilliant historical novel. It is a morality tale which engrosses with its vivid invocation of pre-revolutionary France," Mr Greig said. Some of the eight judges, who included the comedian Hugh Dennis and the broadcaster Mary Nightingale, believed the eventual winner of the Biography Award should have won the main prize. Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis is the account of the final five years in the life of the First World War poet. Mr Greig described it as "an incredibly subtle and brilliant biography of a poet using scant material to set the mood of the early part of the 20th Century."

It is Hollis' first prose work. He released his first collection of poems, Ground Water, in 2004 and was later shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award. Carol Ann Duffy won the Poetry Award for The Bees, her first collection since becoming Poet Laureate.

Christie Watson, a former nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, picked up the First Novel Award for Tiny Sunbirds Far Away. The winner of the Children's Book Award, Blood Red Road, was also a debut. Moira Young's tale of a futuristic dystopia has already been optioned by Ridley Scott's production company, and is the first of a planned trilogy. Young's career has included comedy, opera singing and acting.

The Costa Book Awards were set up in 1971 as the Whitbread Literary Awards. The coffee chain took over sponsorship of the event in 2006.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk