Prize winning book written in Costa

An Exning author whose book was awarded one of the country’s most prestigious literary prizes on Tuesday, has revealed she wrote it in a town coffee shop.

Poet and naturalist Helen Macdonald’s haunting book H is For Hawk describes her painful struggle to come to terms with her father’s death helped by an unusual companion - a goshawk. It details how she trained the baby bird, which she bought for £800. She had experience of breeding and training hawks and said: “I trained the hawk because I didn’t want to be me anymore. I wanted to stop being a human because humans feel deep grief and emotions and i wanted to fly away from that and become something else.”

Her story was named the £30,000 winner of the 2014 Costa book prize, adding to the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction that it won in November. Writer Robert Harris, who chaired the judges, said it was a book that haunted several members of the panel and was one they would never forget.

After being announced the winner Miss Macdonald, 44, admitted feeling wobbly. “My mum was hoping I’d win. I think she put some money on me. It is never expected and I’m really thrilled and a little bit all over the place,” she said.

She also revealed that appropriately she had written the book in Costa’s branch in The Guineas in Newmarket.

“I’m sure that when I go in again next week for a cup of tea they might even buy me a slice of cake,” she joked.

The Costa, which was formerly the Whitbread, is different to other prizes in that it pits individual category winners against each other. So the best novel goes up against the best biography, best poetry, best debut and best children’s book.