British Book Awards: Pullman and Honeyman dominate

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Philip Pullman has been named author of the year award at the British Book Awards for his “outstanding” success.

The children’s author was recognised after returning to the world of his Dark Materials with La Belle Sauvage last year. Awards organisers described Pullman as a “true one-off”.

Gail Honeyman won book of the year for her best-selling debut Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

Judges said it was “brilliantly written” and “the complete package”.

The novel, which was the second biggest-selling debut of 2017, won the debut book of the year award and then beat six other category winners to be named overall book of the year.

The winners across the seven categories were:

  • Fiction: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (Fourth Estate)
  • Debut: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Harper Fiction)
  • Crime and thriller: The Dry by Jane Harper (Abacus)
  • Narrative: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • Lifestyle: 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph)
  • Children’s: The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris (Penguin Random House Children’s) and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)
  • Audiobook: La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman, narrated by Michael Sheen (Penguin Random House UK Audio)

The judges of the British Book Awards, organised by The Bookseller, could not choose between two books in the children’s category – and named them as joint winners.

Young adult novel The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, tells the story of a 16-year-old drawn to activism after witnessing the police shooting of her unarmed friend.

Meanwhile, The Lost Words – a crowd-funded illustrated poem collection by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris- aimed to reconnect young children with natural world.

Children’s book illustrator Axel Scheffler, best known for his work on Julia Donaldson’s books including The Gruffalo series, was named illustrator of the year.

It is the first time that an illustrator of the year award has been given out at the event, also known as the Nibbies.

‘National treasure’

Pullman was named author of the year – another new award – to recognise his “outstanding commercial success alongside a genuine contribution to the general health of the book world”, organisers said.

Accepting the award, Pullman said he “couldn’t be more happy with way” La Belle Sauvage – the long-awaited addition to his Dark Materials trilogy – had been received.

“I seemed to have been writing it for 18 years, and I let the publishers have it when I thought it was OK – but you can never tell what readers and critics will feel,” he said.

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Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage was published in October

The instalment sold 70,000 copies throughout its first week of release last year. It marked a continuation of the series that began with the Northern Lights in 1995.

Pullman was also given the award for being an advocate for literature, supporting causes like school libraries and calling for an end to gender-specific children’s books.

The Bookseller editor Philip Jones said Pullman “transcends his medium”.

“Readers love him, but then so do other authors who appreciate his resolute advocacy on their behalf,” he said. “He is a true one-off who had a year to remember. If he’s not yet a national treasure, this award should make him one.”

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