Sally Rooney hailed as major literary talent after British Book Awards win

The Irish author has bested Michelle Obama to claimed the prize.

Sally Rooney has claimed top prize at the British Book Awards for her novel Normal People.

The Irish author has been praised for her “profoundly moving” work, which has been named Book Of The Year.

Normal People follows the youthful romance of Irish students, and has fended off fierce competition from the likes of former first lady Michelle Obama, and Booker Prize-winner Anna Burns.

Obama’s book Becoming instead claimed honours for best memoir, non-fiction and audiobook.

Rooney, 28, has thanked the literary community for her win, from librarians to readers.

She has been hailed for her approachable style and delicate handling of romance in the modern world, which was also displayed in her debut work Conversations With Friends.

Judges have proclaimed her to be destined to literary importance, and a “generational talent”.

Rooney said of her win: “It’s an enormous privilege and an honour for me to receive the overall Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards.

“I want to say thank you, specifically, because I feel I had an extraordinary lucky experience with this book.

Costa Book Awards 2018
Normal People has been named Book Of The Year.

“I’ve received such enormous support and generosity from my own publisher, Faber & Faber, of course, and also from the bookselling community generally, from libraries and librarians, and the community of people who love books.

“It has been a really privileged experience for me, and I do feel astonishingly lucky.”

Alice O’Keeffe, books editor of award organiser The Bookseller, said: “Beautifully observed and profoundly moving, Sally Rooney’s Normal People was unanimously praised by our Book of the Year judges.

“It really is an exceptional novel from one of the most exciting young writers we have.”

Michelle Obama
Former US first lady Michelle Obama during a book tour for her memoir, which claimed honours at the British Book Awards (Kirsty O’Connor)

Editor of the Times Literary Supplement Stig Abell added further praise, saying: “Sally Rooney may well be on her way to becoming the major literary figure of our time, a generational talent.”

Rooney has been proclaimed “the voice of a generation” by judges, with a book that is “fantastically important”.

Obama won best memoir, non-fiction and audiobook for her reflections in Becoming, losing out on Book Of The Year to the young Irish author.

Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams won in the children’s fiction category for his work The Ice Monster. Matthew Syed won in the children’s illustrated and non-fiction category for You Are Awesome.

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Prix Goncourt-winning Franco-Moroccan writer Leila Slimani’s Lullaby was named best debut fiction book of the year, which “captures the zeitgeist”, according to prize judges.

Louise Candlish claimed the crime fiction honour for Our House, besting veterans Ian Rankin and Jo Nesbo.

Vegan cookbook Bosh!, by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, was named the best non-fiction lifestyle book.

Crime writer Lee Child was crowned Author of the Year at the Awards Ceremony.

The beloved British writer and illustrator Judith Kerr was named Illustrator of the Year.

Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, said: “We are delighted with all of the winners in the book and author categories this year, which show off the breadth and dynamism of UK publishing.”

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