January 29, 2014

Nurse Nathan Filer Wins Costa Book Award

Nathan Filer shocks the literary establishment by winning the £30,000 Costa Book Award with his first novel.

Costa Book Awards 2014 Nathan Filer

Video: Debut Author Wins Top Book Prize

A mental health nurse has shocked the literary establishment by bagging one of its biggest prizes with his first book.

Costa Book Award winner Nathan Filer, 33, drew on his background for The Shock of the Fall – a novel about the descent of one of two brothers into schizophrenia after a tragic accident.

Filer, still a registered nurse working in and around Bristol, beat contenders including bookies' favourite Kate Atkinson's Life After Life to the £30,000 prize – formerly known as the Whitbread.

The judging panel praised the book as "astonishingly sure-footed" for a debut novel.

Filer spoke about the benefits of having more to his life than writing, adding that he was due to work a hospital shift this weekend.

He said he had not set out to raise awareness about mental health with the book.

He said: "I didn't set out to write about mental illness or schizophrenia, I set out to write about this character and his illness is one aspect of his character and there are many more than that".

It is the first time a debut novel has won the prestigious prize since Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves in 2006.

Also in the running for this year's prize were Lucy Hughes-Hallett for The Pike, an account of the life of Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, and poet Michael Symmons Roberts for his collection Drysalter.

Chris Riddell also made the shortlist for his children's book Goth Girl And The Ghost Of A Mouse.

Noveliset Rose Tremain, who chaired the judging panel, said the winning book was about grief.

She said: "This is a subject which we all have experience of and it is grief analysed but treated absolutely without sentimentality."

A spokesman for booksellers Waterstones said: "This is a real giant killer of a winner, and shows the Costa is as exciting as the other major literary prizes.

"While The Pike was a strong second favourite, the Costa does not favour biography so the smart money was on Life After Life.

"But Atkinson's was not the only book people were reading and, essentially, talking about in 2013.

"This will make The Shock of the Fall a major best-seller, and put its multi-talented author firmly on the literary map."