Debut novelist Emma Healey in the running for prestigious Costa Book of the Year award

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A 29-year-old debut novelist whose book sparked a nine-way bidding war between publishers has won the prize for best first novel at the Costa Book Awards. 

Emma Healey started work on Elizabeth Is Missing during her lunch breaks while working at a London art gallery seven years ago. The story is based around an octogenarian-turned-sleuth with dementia, who tries to track down the whereabouts of her missing friend Elizabeth.  

Emma began writing the book aged 22, inspired by her paternal grandmother, who suffers from dementia, and her other grandmother, who loved storytelling. 

Costa judges, who award books judged simply as the most enjoyable, hailed the novel as outstanding. "Once you start reading you won’t be able to stop. Not only is it gripping, but it shows incredible flair and unusual skill. A very special book," they said.

"My editor called me when I was at home and I was sitting on the stairs... I just shook a lot. It is amazing," Emma said, in reaction to her win. 

Elizabeth Is Missing has been compared to Mark Haddon’s hit novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and has also been dubbed "Gone Gran", in reference to Gillian Flynn's global bestseller Gone Girl

Emma will be up against this year's other Costa book award winners Ali Smith, Helen Macdonald, Jonathan Edwards and Kate Saunders, in the running for the Costa Book of the Year award prize.

The judges, led by best-selling novelist Robert Harris, will announce the overall winner at a ceremony in central London on 27 January.

In the meantime check out details on each of the category winners for 2014, and give your reading list a face-lift for the year ahead. 

2014 Costa Novel Award

Ali Smith for How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton) 

"A novel all about art's versatility.  Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions.  There's a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s.  Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance."

(from The Man Booker Prize)

2014 Costa First Novel Award

Emma Healey for Elizabeth is Missing (Viking)

"Maud, an ageing grandmother, is slowly losing her memory – and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger. But no-one will listen to her, not her daughter, nor her carers, not even Elizabeth’s son, Peter - so Maud is determined to rescue her friend in this dark and riveting psychological thriller."


2014 Costa Biography Award

Helen Macdonald for H is for Hawk (Jonathan Cape) 

"As a child Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer. She learned the arcane terminology and read all the classic books, including T. H. White’s tortured masterpiece, The Goshawk, which describes White’s struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest.

When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She buys Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and takes her home to Cambridge. Then she fills the freezer with hawk food and unplugs the phone, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals." 

(from Random House)

2014 Costa Poetry Award 

Jonathan Edwards for My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren)

"My Family and Other Superheroes introduces a vibrant and unique new voice from Wales. The superheroes in question are a motley crew. Evel Knievel, Sophia Loren, Ian Rush, Marty McFly, a bicycling nun and a recalcitrant hippo – all leap from these pages and jostle for position, alongside valleys mams, dads and bamps, described with great warmth. 

Other poems focus on the crammed terraces and abandoned high streets where a working-class and Welsh nationalist politics is hammered out. This is a post-industrial valleys upbringing re-imagined through the prism of pop culture and surrealism."

(from Seren Books)

2014 Costa Children's Book Award 

Kate Saunders for Five Children on the Western Front (Faber & Faber)

"An epic, heart-wrenching follow-on from E. Nesbit's Five Children and It stories. The five children have grown up and World War I has begun in earnest. Cyril is off to fight, Anthea is at art college, Robert is a Cambridge scholar and Jane is at high school. The Lamb is the grown up age of 11, and he has a little sister, Edith, in tow. The sand fairy has become a creature of stories ... until, for the first time in 10 years, he suddenly reappears. The siblings are pleased to have something to take their minds off the war, but this time the Psammead is here for a reason, and his magic might have a more serious purpose."



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