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Costa decision 'preceded by bitterness and dissent'

26th January 2012

The awarding of the 2011 Costa Book of the Year award was only made after 'bitter dissent and argument' among the judges, the panel's chair Geordie Greig has revealed.

On Tuesday night, Andrew Miller was presented with the GBP 35,000 prize for his sixth novel, Pure, but Greig revealed that Matthew Hollis' Now All Roads Lead to France would have won if some members of the judging panel had their way.

'It really was a fierce debate as there were passionately held views over two books. The debate was prolonged,' he added.

The panel included eight judges aside from Greig: comedian Hugh Dennis, actress Dervla Kirwan and broadcaster Mary Nightingale, as well as authors Jojo Moyes, Patrick Gale, Flora Fraser, William Fiennes and Eleanor Updale.

According to Greig, they were split down the middle when deciding whether the winner should be Miller or Hollis, who was the bookmakers' favourite ahead of the announcement.

He said the main problem with awarding an overall prize is that books from very different genres, touching on very different subjects and written in very different styles, need to be compared side-by-side.

'It feels like you're comparing a hockey player against a free-style swimmer. It doesn't make it (the prize) invalid, but it does make it difficult. Although anything which promotes books is a good thing,' he added.

Following his victory, Miller said it was 'unsettling but deeply pleasurable' to come out on top against such a strong shortlist.

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