· Versatile Scottish writer gains victory at last· Judges hail postwar novel as a masterpiece
The Dundee-born writer is just as likely to be seen on newspaper comment pages as she is on bookshop shelves. If not there, then on stage as a stand-up comedian, or in front of students as an academic.
Last night she was on the stage of a posh London hotel as she picked up the Costa book award and a cheque for £25,000.
After being presented with the award, Kennedy said she felt a sense of impending doom
surrounding British culture and said if she was starting out as a writer today
she probably would not get picked up. "I work all the time. I don't have
a family. I live quite inexpensively."
She said researching the book had increased her fear of flying, although it did not stop her flying in from the US for last night's ceremony and returning the next day.
The chair of the judges, Joanna Trollope, said it had been a passionate 80-minute judging session and Kennedy had won on a 5-3 vote. "It is a perfectly and beautifully written
novel. She is an extraordinary stylist," said Trollope.
Asked whether the novel, which centres on a traumatised second world war tail gunner, was excessively gloomy, Trollope said it was realistic but not gloomy. "I wouldn't
recommend it to anyone who was profoundly, clinically depressed. You need to
work at the novel a little."
This is the eighth time a novel has won and it is a victory at last for Kennedy, 42. Day is her fifth novel.
Guardian, praised Kennedy's gift for writing but said the constant shifting
between three narrative modes never quite worked for her.
Much of the novel's action takes place in the head of main character Alfred Day. Day misses the war, misses the crew of the Lancaster bomber he served on and even the
prisoner-of-war camp he was held in. It is 1949 and he has landed a role as an
extra in a PoW film being shot in Germany.
She dislikes talking about herself. In an interview with the Observer last year she said: "I have
sex about once every five years. I've lived alone since I was 17. I am
slightly tired. My life is not comfortable to me. But I am philosophical."
Jonathan Ruppin, promotions manager of Foyles bookshops , said Kennedy's win was "long overdue recognition for one of Scotland's outstanding talents".
Aside from the glory which comes from winning the prize there is the undoubted sales boost.
Amazon yesterday highlighted the astonishing sales spike of O'Flynn's novel, which it said was outselling the other books seven to one, and seems to be a hit with book groups across
the UK .
Overall, Simon Sebag Montefiore, winner of the biography category with his work Young Stalin, has enjoyed the biggest sales over the year. Last night's winner can expect even
more sales joy.
The other two works competing unsuccessfully last night were Jean Sprackland's volume of poetry, Tilt, and Ann Kelley's children's novel, The Bower Bird.