January 26, 2010 / 8:36 PM / in 8 years

Poet wins Costa book award for tribute to late wife

LONDON (Reuters) - British writer Christopher Reid won the Costa Book of the Year award on Tuesday for a work of poetry about his wife’s death.

“A Scattering” beat the favorite, Colm Toibin’s “Brooklyn,” leaving the Irish novelist disappointed once again after he failed to win the Booker Prize after being shortlisted twice.

Josephine Hart, chairman of the judging panel, said “A Scattering” was chosen from five nominated works by a big majority.

“We feel that what Christopher Reid did was to take a personal tragedy and to make its emotions...universal. It is bizarrely life-enhancing, because it speaks of the triumph of love before and after death,” she told reporters.

Asked whether she shared the view held by some that the work was like witnessing someone’s private grief, Hart replied: “The fact that it is personal does not in any way detract from its power...as long as it is kept under artistic control.”

“A Scattering” consists of four poetic sequences, the first written during his wife Lucinda Gane’s final illness and the other three at intervals after her death. She died in October 2005.

SALES BOOST

For booksellers and publishers, the fact that a work of poetry won one of the country’s top literary awards may limit its commercial impact.

Sales of books, especially novels, tend to spike sharply if nominated for a major prize, and more especially if they win.

“Poetry is inevitably more of a niche market than the other categories, but this collection seems to have struck a chord,” said Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles bookshop.

“(Reid‘s) dignity and eloquence puts into words the feelings of anyone who has lost someone dear to them.”

The annual Costa awards honor writers in five categories -- novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children’s book -- from which an overall winner is chosen.

The category winners receive 5,000 pounds ($8,000) each and are eligible for the overall Costa Book of the Year, which comes with a cheque for 25,000 pounds.

The awards honor the most enjoyable book in each category, and works published in the last year by writers based in the United Kingdom and Ireland qualify.

Toibin’s Brooklyn, winner of the novel category, told the story of Irish woman Eilis Lacey who travels to New York in the 1950s in search of a job.

The Costa debut novel prize was won by Raphael Selbourne for “Beauty,” about a Bangladeshi woman on the run from her family, while the biography section went to Graham Farmelo for “The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius.”

Patrick Ness won the children’s book category for “The Ask and the Answer,” second instalment in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.

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