- 14 May 19
Irish writer Sally Rooney has received the Book of the Year award for her second novel, Normal People. Photo by Chris Boland.
Irish writer Sally Rooney was honoured at the British Book Awards last night as her second novel, entitled Normal People, was named Book of the Year.
The 28-year-old writer said it was "an enormous privilege" to win both the top prize and fiction book of the year.
Rooney's victory set her apart from other highly acclaimed contenders, such as Michelle Obama with her autobiography Becoming and Anna Burns with her novel Milkman - which was the recipient of last year's Man Booker Prize.
Speaking about the awards, Rooney said, "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.
"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'Keefe, The Bookseller books editor who chairs the judges for the Book of the Year, relayed that the decision to give Rooney the accolade was not an easy one.
Speaking on the matter, O’Keeffe said, "It was a really difficult decision and we went back and forth for a good while, but after much discussion, we felt that Sally Rooney is such a major talent and that her 'difficult second novel' was just as impressive as her debut was astonishing."
Although Michelle Obama's Becoming was widely successful, O'Keefe said the panel of judges ultimately decided that Normal People deserved the award.
"[Rooney] has been described as a millennial writer with millennial concerns, but I know readers in their seventies who loved Normal People. The passion that came through on the grassroots for this book is really something."
Normal People, which explores the nuances of the relationship between two young people in Ireland across several years, previously won the Costa Novel Award.
Fellow judge Stig Abell, editor of the TLS, said: "Sally Rooney may well be on her way to becoming the major literary figure of our time, a generational talent.
"This is a book that, five years from now and 50 years from now, we will still be reading. It is fantastically important."
Photo by Chris Boland.