London, 19.30pm 4th January 2010
Former scooter salesman Raphael Selbourne scoops the Costa First Novel Award for Beauty.
Beauty – in name and appearance – is a twenty-year-old Bangladeshi, back in England having disgraced her family by fleeing an abusive arranged marriage. Placed on the jobseekers’ treadmill and under continuing domestic pressure, in desperation she runs away. Her fractious encounters with officialdom, fellow claimants and passers-by in the city streets, exacerbated by the restrictions (and comfort) of her language and culture, place her at the mercy of such unlikely helpers as Mark, a friendly Staffordshire Bull Terrier-breeding ex-offender, and Peter, a middle-class underachiever. Determined and spirited, yet tormented by doubts, Beauty is forced to examine her own beliefs and think seriously about her future. While her brothers search for her across the city, the conflict between her desire for personal freedom and her sense of family duty deepens.
The Costa Book Awards recognise some of the most outstanding and enjoyable books of the last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland. Raphael Selbourne’s story is inspired by his experiences of teaching in a deprived area of Wolverhampton.
Raphael Selbourne was born in Oxford in 1968 to a literary family. His father, David Selbourne, is an historian, philosopher and expert on South Asia and the Middle East who has written several books, and his grandfather, Hugh Selbourne, was a renowned doctor, bibliophile and diarist. Selbourne lived in Italy for several years, where he worked variously as a teacher, translator, sold television advertising and scooters, before moving back to the West Midlands in 2004. Most recently, he has taught Maths and English to the long-term unemployed in Wolverhampton where he still lives.
What the judges said:
“Pitch perfect on every level – we loved this book.”
Former BBC Asian Network Presenter, Nikki Bedi was on the panel of judges.
2009 Costa Book Award Winners
Costa Novel Award: Brooklyn Colm Toibin
First Novel Award: Beauty Raphael Selbourne
Costa Biography Award: The Strangest Man Graham Farmelo
Costa Poetry Award: A Scattering Christopher Reid
Costa Children’s Book Award: The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking, Book Two) Patrick Ness
Christopher Reid won the Costa Book Award on 26th January 2010.