30 January 2019
Bart van Es and Lien de Jong, the subject of the Costa Book of the Year-winning The Cut Out Girl

Bart van Es and Lien de Jong, the subject of his Costa Book of the Year-winning biography The Cut Out Girl

Oxford University professor Bart van Es has won this year's Costa Book of the Year award for The Cut Out Girl - the story of Lien de Jong, a girl taken to a foster family (Bart's own grandparents) to be hidden away from the Nazis during the Second World War. Published by Fig Tree, the book sees Bart exploring her side of the story, asking what really happened her to her during the war and after.  

The £30,000 prize is chosen from the winners from five individual categories, with The Cut Out Girl up against Normal People by Sally Rooney; The Seven Death of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton; Hilary McKay's The Skylarks War; and Jonathan Cape poet J. O. Morgan's collection Assurances. Previous winners have included Hilary Mantel, Helen Dunmore and Kate Atkinson.

Bart van Es at the Costa Book Awards

Now 85, Lien de Jong attended last night's ceremony, and spoke to The Guardian about what the book meant to her, commenting that "Without family you don’t have a story. Now I have a story ... Bart has reopened the channels of family." BBC journalist and chair of the judges Sophie Raworth stressed the importance of the book within today's world, commenting: "It’s a story that would never have been told if he hadn’t gone in search of it. We all thought it had huge resonance with today, the number of displaced people there are today and the number of stories that go untold."

Bart's editor Juliet Annan also paid tribute to the book and author: "It was so exciting to see Bart win last night at the Costa Awards, and particularly emotional because 85 year old Lien de Jong, the subject of his family memoir, was there with us. This is a thoroughly European book that is so timely, moving and brilliant in the way it talks about displacement and family stories, even while it tells a family story over the last sixty years."

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