December 6, 2021

Costa Book Awards 2021 shortlist: Nadifa Mohamed nominated for miscarriage of justice novel The Fortune Men

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A novel inspired by the real-life story of a Somali seaman who was wrongfully executed for murder in Wales has been shortlisted for the 2021 Costa Book Awards.

Nadifa Mohamed began writing The Fortune Men after reading a 2004 Daily Mail article about Mahmood Mattan, a 28-year-old British Somali sailor, who was accused of slitting a local shopkeeper’s throat, in the Tiger Bay area in 1952. Despite no forensic evidence, he was wrongfully hanged.

A British-Somali writer, Mohamed spent 17 years researching the case before completing her loosely fictionalised account of the scandal.

Now it has made the Best Novel shortlist for the Costa prize.

The judges called it “an evocative, historical novel that also exposes the truths and ills of the society we’re living in today.”

It is one of four novels that explore survival in a hostile environment feature on the Novel shortlist.

The second novel from short story writer and novelist Jessie Greengrass is centred around a modern-day Noah’s Ark in a world devastated by climate change

The list also includes The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak, which follows two teenagers living in war-torn Cyprus.

The Biography shortlist includes Consumed: A Sister’s Story by Arifa Akbar, a former literary editor of The Independent.

The “moving excavation of a family’s secrets” was prompted by Akbar’s grief after her sister succumbed to tuberculosis.

The Poetry shortlist includes educator and writer, Raymond Antrobus, a deaf poet whose second collection is an exploration of language and miscommunication.

A first-time author’s novel about a woman who hides from the apocalypse inside a beached whale has been nominated for the First Novel category.

The Stranding by Kate Sawyer, was called an “immersive end of the world story full of hope and imagination”.

The novel tells the story of Ruth who leaves London to pursue her dream of working with whales in New Zealand. She climbs into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger when the world appears to be ending and emerges into an unrecognisable landscape.

Ms Sawyer, who worked as an actor before turning her hand to fiction, had previously written for theatre and short film.

She said she recently moved from London to East Anglia to have her first child as a solo mother by choice.

The awards, open to UK and Ireland-resident writers and previously sponsored by Whitbread, are celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “We are delighted to celebrate these 20 brilliant books as we mark a milestone 50th anniversary year for both Costa Coffee and the Costa Book Awards.”

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