Biographer Hilary Spurling has won the prestigious 2005 Whitbread Book of the Year award for the second part of her biography, Matisse the Master (Hamish Hamilton), a work which took her 15 years to complete. The announcement was made last night at a star studded awards ceremony held at The Brewery in Central London.
In one of the most open contests since the Book of the Year award was introduced in 1985, Matisse the Master beat odds-on favourite The Accidental by Ali Smith (also published by Hamish Hamilton), first-time novelist Tash Aw for The Harmony Silk Factory (published by Penguin's Riverhead in the US), poet Christopher Logue for Cold Calls and children's book The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, for the overall prize.
Following the judging, Michael Morpurgo, MBE, chair of the final judges, said: "We all agreed that when you get to the end of this book you are sorry it has finished; an extraordinary achievement for a book of this length."
Matisse the Master, published by Hamish Hamilton, is the fifth biography to take the overall prize. Penguin author Claire Tomalin was the last author to win the Whitbread Book of the Year with a biography taking the prize in 2002 for Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (Viking).
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