The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es, Oxford University Professor of English Literature, has been named the 2018 Costa Book of the Year.
The Cut Out Girl is the extraordinary true story of Lien de Jong, a young Jewish girl in Holland during World War II who hides from the Nazis in the homes of an underground network of foster families, one of them the author’s grandparents. Hidden and raised by a foster family during the Nazi occupation, she survived the war only to find that her real parents had not. Much later, she fell out with her foster family, and Bart van Es – the grandson of Lien’s foster parents – knew he needed to find out why. His account of tracing Lien and telling her story is a searing exploration of two lives and two families.
The Cut Out Girl is the seventh biography to take the overall prize, with the last Biography to win being H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald in 2014. Bart van Es beat bestselling Irish novelist Sally Rooney for her second novel, Normal People, debut author Stuart Turton for his first novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, the Scottish poet J. O. Morgan for Assurances and children’s writer Hilary McKay for The Skylarks’ War to win the overall prize and £30,000.
Also announced at the ceremony was the winner of the Costa Short Story Award. Caroline Ward Vine, a former magazine publisher and now a strategic consultant to the creative industries and education, won the public vote and £3,500 for her story, Breathing Water.