Monday, 6 February 2012

Lancaster University graduate wins £30K book prize

Author Andrew Miller
Lancaster graduate Andrew Miller has won the 2011 Costa Book of the Year Award, netting a £30,000 prize for his novel, Pure, set in pre-revolutionary France.

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 last week.

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 (and regular Lancaster LitFest guest) 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.

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.

Grieg 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."

Born in 1960 in Bristol, England, Andrew Miller has lived and worked in several countries, including Spain, France, Holland and Japan. He studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 1991 and finished a Ph.D. in Critical and Creative Writing at Lancaster University in 1995.

His first novel, Ingenious Pain, was published in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction), the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Italian Grinzane Cavour Prize. Set during the eighteenth century, it tells the story of surgeon James Dyer and his extraordinary inability to feel pain. It was followed by Casanova (1998), a fictional portrait of the infamous libertine and writer.

Both novels are currently being adapted for film.

His next novel, Oxygen (2001), set in England in 1997, was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread Novel Award. The book narrates two loosely connected narratives, those of a dying mother attended by her two sons and a Hungarian playwright living in Paris. His other novels are The Optimists 2005), the tale of a photojournalist who returns to Britain from Africa where he was involved in reporting on an atrocity, and One Morning Like a Bird (2008).

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.

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