Costa Book Awards: Inside the Wave named as 2017 Book of the Year

'These people should speak to people who don't normally read poetry'

Ryan Butcher
Tuesday 30 January 2018 20:41 GMT
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Helen Dunmore, British poet, novelist and children's writer.
Helen Dunmore, British poet, novelist and children's writer.

Poet and novelist Helen Dunmore has won the Costa Book of the Year Award for a collection of poetry written in the final weeks of her life.

Inside the Wave had previously won the Costa Poetry Award and considers the author's terminal cancer diagnosis and impending death.

She is only the second writer to win the prestigious award posthumously, following Ted Hughes who won in 1998 for Birthday Letters.

And it is the first time since 2012 that a poetry collection has been named Book of the Year, when Jo Shapcott took home the top prize for Of Mutability.

Dunmore died in June 2016 aged 64 just weeks after completing the anthology, which she wrote in part on her iPhone.

Judges called Inside the Wave "an astonishing set of poems" and "a final, great achievement".

And Wendy Holden, chair of the judging panel for the Costa Book Awards, said that the choice of Dunmore to win Book of the Year was not sentimental.

"Inside the Wave is a modern classic," she said.

"Although it was written while Helen was dying, it is also very life-affirming.

"Some of the poems were written from her hospital bed but even those are uplifting.

"These people should speak to people who don't normally read poetry.

"They are written by an author still at the top of their game."

The £30,000 prize was accepted at a ceremony in London by Dunmore's son, Patrick Charley, who said his mother would have been thrilled just to be nominated.

Dunmore's first poetry collection The Apple Fall was published in 1983.

Inside the Wave beat the bookie's favourite Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, which won the Costa First Novel Award.

Other runners up include Costa Novel Award winner Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor, Costa Biography Award winner In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott, and Costa Children's Book Award winner The Explorer by Katherine Rundell.

Two Steak Bakes and Two Chelsea Buns by Luan Goldie was also named the 2017 Costa Short Story Award.

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