A few months ago I wrote about the many “firsts” Hilary Mantel achieved when she was awarded the Man Booker Prize (first woman and first British writer to win twice and first sequel to win the award). This week, I’m delighted to bring you another “first” in the world of awards.
Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes has become the first graphic novel to win the Costa Book Award in any category. The work, which was written by Mary Talbot and illustrated by Bryan Talbot, snagged the award in the Biography category on January 2nd of this year. Both the book and the award are pretty special but I’ll start by telling you a bit about the book.
In Talbot’s (or should I say Talbots’) book, readers follow the coming-of-age tales of two young women: Lucia, the daughter of modernist author James Joyce and Mary Talbot, daughter of a Joyce scholar and the author or our tale. We’ve seen many memoirs/autobiographies in the Graphic Novel form (such as Persepolis, Fun Home and Blankets) and a few biographies as well (Feynman, Baby’s in Black, and Gonzo) but I like the way this book juxtaposes the two coming-of-age narratives that take place in different historical contexts. Mary Talbot’s work is able to compare and contrast the way social mores and gender politics affect both women despite their distance in time. Oh, and the art is really lovely. Bryan Talbot’s illustrations help tell the story without distracting the reader away from the text. It’s a great addition to the wide and expanding world of the graphic novel canon.
The Costa award, as I mentioned, is worth a brief discussion at least. The Costa Book Award “recognizes some of the most enjoyable books of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.” Personally, I like their emphasis on enjoy-ability paired with prestige. The award, announced at the beginning of each year, is comprised of five categories: Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Books. And although having categories doesn’t make the prize special, what happens next is. After the category winners are declared and claim their £5,000, an ultimate winner (my phrase, not theirs) is then selected from the winners and receives an additional cash prize of £30,000. The double win appeals to me as it pits the Talbots against literary star Hilary Mantel for the award, but it’s also interesting for putting children’s books, poetry and adult books all on the same playing field. Don’t tell Mantel, but I think I’m pulling for the Talbots on this one.