Writer Monique Roffey has won the £30,000 Costa Prize for her “utterly original” novel about a love affair between a fisherman and a mermaid.
Based on an old Caribbean legend, the Mermaid of Black Conch is the seventh book by the Trinidad-born Londoner.
Professor Suzannah Lipscomb, who chaired the judging panel, said they took three hours before choosing their winner from a shortlist of five books.
She said: "The Mermaid of Black Conch is an extraordinary, beautifully written, captivating, visceral book–full of mythic energy and unforgettable characters, including some tremendously transgressive women.
“It is utterly original-unlike anything we’ve ever read-and feels like a classic in the making from a writer at the height of her powers. It’s a book that will take you to the furthest reaches of your imagination-we found it completely compelling.”
Roffey, whose novel is set on a small Caribbean island in 1976, said she was “delighted” with the win.
The book is published by Peepal Tree Press, an independent publishers specialising in Black British writing, and follows winners including Hilary Mantel and Philip Pullman.
She said: "The Costa Book of the Year boasts an impressive lineage of contemporary writers, and I'm proud to be the latest addition to this list. This prestigious prize is a vote for so many things: Caribbean literature, experimental form, magical realism, independent presses, and of course, mermaids.
"A huge thank you to the judges for exposing my book to a wide readership. I’ll be pinching myself for weeks to come.”