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Life After Life and Drysalter claim Costa top prizes

Life After Life

Story by Jack Foley

LIFE After Life, a tale of perpetual resurrection by Kate Atkinson, and poetry collection Drysalter by Michael Symmons Roberts have claimed the top two awards at the Costa Book Awards 2014.

Atkinson topped an all-woman shortlist to win the Costa novel award 19 years after she claimed the overall Costa prize for her debut, Behind The Scenes At The Museum.

Roberts also won his second Costa in the poetry category for his sixth collection of poems.

Each receives £5,000 and go forward to compete for the main book of the year prize at a London ceremony on January 28, 2014.

Costa’s judges described Life After Life, which follows a character named Ursula Todd, who dies at birth in 1910, but is given several chances to live again, as “astonishing”.

They added: “This book does everything you could ask for in a work of fiction and so much more.”

Williams, meanwhile, saw his collection of 150 poems, or “super sonnets” of 15 lines each, triumph ahead of Clive James’s translation of Dante’s Inferno. The collection derives its name from the old high street traders called drysalters, who were dealers in gums, drugs, poisons and powders.

Other Costa winners were political cartoonist Chris Riddle, who won the children’s book category for Goth Girl And The Ghost Of A Mouse, which was described by the judges as “an instant classic for children of all ages”, and Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who took the biography title for The Pike, her study of philandering Italian poet and politician Gabriele D’Annunzio.

Former mental health nurse Nathan Filer won best first novel for The Shock of the Fall, which follows the experience of Matthew Holmes, a 19-year-old who is haunted after witnessing his brother’s death at a holiday park in Dorset.

The Costa judges said: “It’s hard to believe this is a first novel – it’s so good it will make you feel a better person.”

The Costa Book Awards were formerly known as the Whitbread Prize. The overall winner will receive £30,000. This year’s awards had a record 617 entries.