Canadian wins U.K. Costa Book Award for children

A Canadian-born writer has won Britain's Costa Book Award for children's literature for her debut novel, Blood Red Road.
Moira Young is author of Blood Red Road. (Doubleday))
A Canadian-born writer has won Britain’s Costa Book Award for children’s literature for her debut novel, Blood Red Road. 

Originally from New Westminster, B.C., Moira Young started out 25 years ago as an actress and dancer, then retrained as an opera singer before moving to the U.K., where she took up writing.

Her teen novel Blood Red Road is set in a post-apocalyptic world and follows the adventures of naive 18-year-old girl from an isolated farm as she sets out to find her kidnapped twin brother.

Blood Red Road is the first of Young's Dustlands trilogy, set in the dystopian world ruled by a mad leader bent on prolonging his power. Young has sold the screen rights for the stylish thriller to filmmaker Ridley Scott.

The Costa Book Awards aim to name the most enjoyable books of the year. Winners in the five individual categories were unveiled Tuesday night. Among the winners are Britain’s poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and a nurse-turned-writer, Christie Watson, who continues to work in medicine as she works on her next book.

The winners are:

  • Best novel: Andrew Miller, Pure.
  • Best first novel: Christie Watson, Tiny Sunbirds Far Away.
  • Poetry award: Carol Ann Duffy, The Bees.
  • Biography award: Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas.

Miller was a surprise choice for best novel, with his Pure beating out Booker-winner The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

Britain's poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, shown in 2009, won the Costa Book Award for poetry for her collection The Bees. (Phil Noble/Reuters)
Set in 18th century Paris, just four years before the French Revolution, Miller's novel is a historical thriller involving seduction, murder and suicide. A young engineer is tasked with cleaning out the congested medieval cemetery of Les Innocents, the stink of which taints the air of the surrounding neighbourhood. Before long, he begins to suspect that the cemetery's destruction might be a prelude to his own.

Watson’s Tiny Sunbirds Far Away is the story of 12-year-old girl taken on as an assistant birth attendant by a village midwife in Nigeria. British-born Watson is married to a Nigerian Muslim and has spent time in Nigeria.

Hollis won the biography award for his debut work of prose about the last years of poet Edward Thomas.

Each category winner receives £5,000 (nearly $8,000 Cdn). All five books will compete for the final honour, Costa Book of the Year (worth £30,000 or about $ 47,000 Cdn), which will be named on Jan. 24.