Glasgow-based Gail Honeyman has beaten off stiff competition from 99 other candidates to scoop the 2017 Costa First Novel Award for her first book Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Describing the work, which highlights the loneliness of life and the power of compassion, judges said: “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fantastic. The end.”
Ms Honeyman, grew up in Stirling, penned the book while holding down a full-time job, fitting writing into early mornings, evenings, weekends and holidays.
The story follows 31-year-old Eleanor Oliphant, who lives a simple, orderly life, wearing the same clothes and eating the same lunch every work day and drinking two bottles of vodka each weekend. She is content – until her world is rocked by an unexpected act of kindness.
The book was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress and won the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014, which included a stay at a creative writing retreat.
The work became the focus of an eight-way auction at Frankfurt Book Fair and has since gone on to sell in more than 30 countries worldwide.
It is also due to be adapted for the big screen after US actress and producer Reese Witherspoon, star of comedy Legally Blonde and Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, bought the film rights through her newly created production firm Hello Sunshine.
Ms Honeyman says she is “stunned” to have received the accolade.
“It’s going to take a while for this news to sink in,” she said.
“I’m completely and utterly delighted about it, and it was an honour to be shortlisted alongside the other incredibly talented writers in this category. It’s a very exciting way to start the new year.”
The Scot joins four other winning authors named in the 2017 Costa Book Awards – Jon McGregor, whose fourth book Reservoir 13 came top in the Novel category; Rebecca Stott, who claimed the Biography award with her memoir In the Days of Rain; the late Helen Dunmore, whose work Inside the Wave posthumously won her the Poetry award; and Katherine Rundell, whose Amazonian adventure story The Explorer earned her the Children’s Book award.
The five, each of whom will receive £5,000, will now compete for the top prize – the 2017 Costa Book of the Year award, which is set to be announced on 30 January. The winner of the Short Story award will be revealed on the same day.
Dominic Paul, managing director of Costa, has congratulated the winners.
He said: “What a fabulous collection of books, all of them terrific reads.
“The Costa Book Awards has an extraordinary track record for showcasing and celebrating some of the best and most enjoyable books by authors based in the UK and Ireland, and I’m delighted to say that this year is no exception.”
Previous Book of the Year winners include Irish playwright, poet and novelist Sebastian Barry, who won in 2016 with Days Without End and in 2008 with The Secret Scripture. He is the only novelist to win the top prize twice.
Scottish writer A L Kennedy was the judges’ favourite in 2007 for her book Day.