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Novel and biography heralded

'Our Horses in Egypt' and 'God's Architect' take the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes.

August 23, 2008|From the Associated Press

LONDON -- Novelist Rosalind Belben and first-time biographer Rosemary Hill have won Britain's oldest literary award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes, the University of Edinburgh said Friday.

Belben won the fiction prize for "Our Horses in Egypt," which tells the story of a young war widow who travels to the Middle East to retrieve her mare in the aftermath of World War I -- and follows the horse itself as it struggles to survive conflict and privation.

Hill took the best biography award for her first book: "God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain," a study of Augustus Pugin, one of Victorian Britain's leading architects.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh for the best work of fiction and the best biography published during the previous year. Both prizes are worth $18,500.

"Rosalind Belben's novel was innovatively plotted and convincingly executed, while Rosemary Hill's first book is a biography that does justice to the many facets of the man Augustus Pugin and his work," said professor Colin Nicholson, the awards' manager.

The lesser-known writers won out over bestselling American author Daniel Mason, novelist and poet John Burnside and Pakistani-born Mohsin Hamid.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband's love of reading.

Past winners include D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh, Ian McEwan, Cormac McCarthy and Graham Greene.

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