London-based Indian writer Kishwar Desai has won United Kingdom's prestigious Costa First Novel Award 2010 for her book Witness by Night, which addresses issues like unwanted girl child, gender prejudice and men-women equality.
"Kishwar Desai pulls off a remarkable trick, transplanting a country house murder to modern-day India in a book that is not afraid to tackle serious themes," the judge trio of Anita Rani, Anneka Rice and Mark Thornton said of the book by the wife of House of Lords member Meghnad Desai.
"We were thrilled and exhilarated by this stunning debut. Just like her feisty main character, Desai has fearlessly blown the lid on the problems that simmer under the surface of modern-day India," the judges said in a statement.
The Costa Book Awards are one of the most prestigious and popular literary prizes in the UK and recognise books of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.
The awards have five categories -- First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Book. The winners in each category will receive $8000 at a ceremony in central London on January 25. Desai, along with the winners in the other four categories, is now a contestant for the 30,000 pound award of the Costa Book of the Year 2010. This will be announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony.
The story revolves around 14-year-old Durga, found all alone in a sprawling farm house tucked away in a corner of Punjab, the sole suspect in the mass murder of 13 members of her family. Simran, a whisky-swigging, chain-smoking unmarried social worker from Delhi, is Durga's only hope.
As Simran tries to explore every corner of Jalandhar and its people, from an enigmatic tutor Harpreet and his disfigured wife to the picture perfect high-society Arminder and her superintendent husband Ramnath, she delves deeper and deeper into a cruel world where even the ties of family are meaningless. It isn't long before she realises that nothing is quite as it seems.