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A Lancaster University alumnus has won the 2011 Costa Book of the Year Award for his sixth novel, Pure.
Andrew Miller, who received a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster in 1995, was presented with the prestigious award and a £30,000 prize cheque at a ceremony in London.
Pure, described by The Guardian as a “vivid tale of life in pre-revolutionary Paris”, triumphed against the bookmakers’ odds, winning the prize in favour of promising debut biographer Matthew Hollis for his book regarding the final years of Edward Thomas, as well as popular Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy for her poetry collection The Bees.
Christie Watson (Tiny Sunbirds Far Away) and Moira Young (Young for Blood Red Road), both nominated for debut novels, were also a pace behind Miller, who has previously won prominent awards for his novels Ingenious Pain and Oxygen, including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 1999.
Centred around young engineer Jean-Baptiste Baratte in 1786, Pure boldly explores such themes as the implementation and effects of change through the premise of a protagonist who is tasked with the removal of the Les Innocents cemetery and its church from Les Halles, Paris.
Commenting as chair of the judges for the awards, Geordie Greig said that Pure was “a rich and brilliant historical novel of death and superstition”, while James Urquhart of The Independent thought that the novel was “richly textured”, with “energetic, acutely observed characters.”
2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the Book Awards, with world-renowned authors such as Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman and Ian McEwan previously crowned as winners.