Whitbread Awards for categories announced
Ex-college lecturer's novel overtook books by literary giants to snag the Whitbread Novel Award.books Updated: Jan 04, 2006 15:51 IST
The first full-length novel by Scottish author Ali Smith on Tuesday overtook books by such better-known writers as Salman Rushdie and Nick Hornby to clinch this year's Whitbread Novel Award.
Smith, 43, the only female writer short-listed for the prize, said she had been "very lucky" and she couldn't "quite believe" her book, "The Accidental", had scooped the award.
Matisse the Master by Hilary Spurling won the Biography Award. It was the second part of the life of the 20th century French painter Henri Matisse which has taken 15 years to complete.
The First Novel Award went to Tash Aw, 33, for The Harmony Silk Factory, which recounts a journey through the jungles of the author's native Malaysia during World War II.
The Whitbread Poetry Award, also announced Tuesday, was won by Cold Calls, a modern account of Homer's Iliad by Christopher Logue, who previously penned a pornographic novel.
The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, 49, about a boy who wants to give his mother more time as a birthday present, took the Whitbread Children's Book Award.
The five titles - which each earned their authors£ 5,000 (€ 7,250 and $ 8,700) - now go on to become finalists for this year's Whitbread Book of the Year, to be announced January 24.
The Accidental, published in Britain by Hamish Hamilton, recounts the story of a woman named Amber who turns the Smart family's world upside down after arriving on their doorstep in Norfolk.
Its author originally worked as a college lecturer in Scotland, but focused on writing after falling ill with chronic fatigue syndrome.
After moving to the English university town of Cambridge, where she still lives, Smith published a collection of short stories, then in 1997 her debut novel Like.
Her second novel, Hotel World, was short-listed for both the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize in 2001, while The Accidental was in the running for the 2005 Man Booker that went to John Banville's The Sea.
Whitbread judges described The Accidental - which beat Hornby's A Long Way Down and Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown - as "a glorious work of fiction that inspired both laughter and sadness".