An alumnus from Lancaster University has won the 2011 Costa Book of the Year Award for his novel, Pure.
Andrew Miller, who gained a PhD in 1995 from the Department of English and Creative Writing, was presented with the overall prize and a cheque for £30,000 at a ceremony in London.
He beat the bookmakers’ odds-on favourite, poet and debut biographer Matthew Hollis for his work Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy for The Bees, debut writer Christie Watson for Tiny Sunbirds Far Away and first-time author, Moira Young for Blood Red Road.
Set in pre-revolutionary Paris in 1785, Pure is the story of Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an ambitious young engineer, who is assigned the task of emptying the noxious, overflowing Parisian cemetery Les Innocents, and of demolishing its church.
Andrew Miller’s first novel, Ingenious Pain, won the Impac Dublin prize and the James Tait Black award. In 2001, his novel Oxygen was shortlisted for the Booker and Whitbread (forerunner of the Costa) novel prize.
Geordie Greig chaired a final judging panel that included actor and comedian Hugh Dennis, actress Dervla Kirwan, broadcaster Mary Nightingale, novelist Patrick Gale, author Jojo Moyes, historical biographer Flora Fraser, author William Fiennes and children’s writer, Eleanor Updale.
Geordie Grieg, chair of the judges, said Pure was ‘a rich and brilliant historical novel of death and superstition. It is a morality tale which engrosses with its vivid evocation of pre-revolutionary France.’
Originally established by Whitbread PLC in 1971, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s book prize in 2006.
2011 marks the 40th year of the Book Awards which, due to its unique category system, has seen 187 awards being given to writers since its launch in 1971, including literary giants such as Iris Murdoch, Roald Dahl, Ian McEwan, JK Rowling, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Philip Pullman, Salman Rushdie, Claire Tomalin, Michael Frayn, William Boyd, Michael Morpurgo and Beryl Bainbridge.