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Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller favourite for 2021 Costa Book of the Year

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LONDON, UK – The winner of the Costa Novel Award – Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree) is favourite to win the overall Costa Book of the Year, as William Hill closes bets ahead of the Costa Book Awards ceremony taking place on Tuesday 1st February. The fourth novel by the bestselling author – whose writing career only started when she turned 40 – has been given odds of 9/4.

Unsettled Ground tells the story of 51-year-old twins, Jeanie and Julius, who live a in rural poverty with their elderly mother. When she dies suddenly, they are entirely unprepared for life without her. Having been raised in isolation, away from the complexities of the modern world, they soon find themselves facing eviction and a landslide of debt, while the web of secrets their mother has woven around them threatens to tear their world apart.

According to Nielsen BookScan, Unsettled Ground, which was released as a mass-market paperback edition on 6 January saw an increase of 663% in the three weeks following its Category win announcement earlier this month (based on its sales during the previous comparative three-week period). The paperback ranked 39th in the paperback fiction charts in the week following its win.

William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams, said: “We have seen interest in all the shortlisted books, which suggests this is one of the closest to call in recent years.”

In second place, with odds of 3/1, is Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell (Viking) – winner of the Costa Biography Award – by writer and former newspaper arts editor John Preston. Fall is the definitive account of the media mogul and former MP’s extraordinary rise and scandalous fall. The book’s sales doubled in the week following its category award win and – should it win the overall Award – it would be the ninth biography to be named the Costa Book of the Year.

In third place, with odds of 7/2, is Open Water (Viking) by British-Ghanaian short story writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson. Winner of the Costa First Novel Award, this ‘contemporary portrait of masculinity’ has been praised by fellow writers as ‘a love song to Black art and thought’ (Yaa Gyasi) and ‘a lyrical modern love story’ (David Nicholls). It saw a sales increase of 54% in the week it was announced as a category winner.

In fourth place, with odds of 4/1, is The Crossing (Penguin), the second book by writer, actor, director and charity founder Manjeet Mann. This verse novel about two teenagers from opposite worlds inspired by hope, grief and the very real tragedies of the refugee crisis is winner of Costa Children’s Book Award. The Crossing saw an uplift of 628% in sales in the week following its category win.

Finally, The Kids (Bloodaxe Books) – the third collection by the poet and University Lecturer Hannah Lowe -winner of the Costa Poetry Award, has odds of 5/1. It is a book of sonnets drawing on a decade of teaching in an inner-city London sixth form during the 2000s, as well as the author’s own experiences as a teenager and a mother and has seen over 1000% increase in sales since its category win.

The 2021 Costa Book of the Year odds from William Hill are:

  • 9/4 Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree)
  • 3/1 Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (Viking)
  • 7/2 Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking)
  • 4/1 The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin)
  • 5/1 The Kids by Hannah Lowe (Bloodaxe Books)

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won 13 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, eight times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book.

The winner of the £30,000 Costa Book of the Year will be selected by a panel of judges chaired by Reeta Chakrabarti, journalist and broadcaster, BBC News, and comprising category judges Jessie Burton, Rishi Dastidar, Xiaolu Guo, Smriti Halls and Andrew Wilson, and joined by writer and broadcaster, Damian Barr, tennis coach Judy Murray, broadcaster and Editor in Chief of Frank Magazine, Melanie Sykes.

The overall winner will be announced at an awards ceremony hosted by Penny Smith from 7pm on Tuesday 1st February 2022 and available to watch live on YouTube.

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and uniquely recognises some of the most enjoyable books across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year. 2021 marks the 50th year of the Awards. Originally established in 1971, Costa Coffee has been running the UK’s most prestigious book prize since 2006.

To mark the 50th anniversary year of the Awards, the authors of the five category award winning books will each receive a bespoke certificate specially created, designed and produced by leading letterpress studio, The Garage Press, featuring traditional handprinted elements using a vintage press merged with digital production techniques.

The 2020 Costa Book of the Year was The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey.

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