WITNESS THE NIGHT by Kishwar Desai,
shortlisted alongside COCONUT UNLIMITED by Nikesh Shukla, THE
TEMPLE-GOERS by Aatish Taseer and NOT QUITE WHITE by Simon Thirsk, has
emerged as the judges' favourite, coming away with the prestigious Costa
First Novel Award.
The Costa Book Awards is one of the most prestigious and popular literary prizes in the UK and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland. It started life in 1971 as the Whitbread Literary Awards. From 1985 they were known as the Whitbread Book Awards until 2006, when Costa Coffee took over ownership - the year that both Costa and the Book Awards celebrated their 35th anniversary. Recent winners include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, Beowulf by Seamus Heaney, Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, Small Island by Andrea Levy, biographies of Pepys and Matisse by Claire Tomalin and Hilary Spurling respectively and, most recently, Stef Penney's first novel -The Tenderness of Wolves, A.L. Kennedy's Day, Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture and A Scattering by Christopher Reid.
The win was announced last night on BBC Radio 4's Front Row program - to listen, click here.
Described by Maggie Gee as 'A powerfully-felt, shocking and moving indictment of cruelty and oppression', WITNESS THE NIGHT tells a powerful story about prejudice and violence against women, set in Punjab. Durga is a traumatized 14-year-old, imprisoned as chief suspect in a sensational case. Every single member of her family - including two servants - had been poisoned and some of the victims viciously stabbed. Straight-talking Sikh social worker Simran Singh is concerned, and fascinated by the case - the murders took place in her home town Jullundur - and travels to Punjab, uncovering more than she wants to know - and others want her to know - about female foeticide. Film rights have been sold to Complementary Films who are currently seeking co-production partners.
Reviews for WITNESS THE NIGHT:
justice campaigner Desai's debut novel is very much an issue-based
book, the issue being "gendercide" and, for those girls who survive
birth, oppression in Indian society. Set in Punjab, Witness the Night
begins when 14-year-old Durga is found beaten and tied to a bed inside a
house which contains 13 butchered corpses. Social worker Simran Singh,
independent and scandalously untraditional in her behaviour, is tasked
with getting the mute and traumatised girl, who is suspected of
murdering her relatives, to talk. Singh finds a web of deceit and
corruption as she uncovers the way in which a family has sacrificed its
female members in order to preserve status. ... this sad and
thought-provoking tale is certainly worth the read.' -- Laura Wilson, The Guardian
"Very important themes [and a] very appealing central character." -- Jane Garvey, BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour
"Essential reading." -- Nihal, BBC Asian Network