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 Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 10:19 GMT
Whitbread winner: What's your verdict?
Claire Tomalin, winner of the Whitbread prize
Claire Tomalin has beaten her husband to win the prestigious Whitbread book prize.

Tomalin's winning biography, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, was described by the judges as a "superb, humane and compassionate portrait".

Her husband Michael Frayn had also been in the running with his coming-of-age fiction Spies, which won the award for best novel.

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop headed the judging panel, which also featured author Joanna Trollope, poet Wendy Cope and Sunday Times fiction editor Peter Kemp.

Why do you think Tomalin's novel stood out? What did you like (or dislike) about her writing? Do you think another author should have won?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Waste of paper. Anyone wanting an insight into Pepys' life, might as well read his diaries and be done with it. Or did he burn them - thus starting the Great Fire of London? Who knows...?
Chris B, England

It's not like the books you read at school

Jeremy, UK
To those of you who think this book is boring, think again. You've got all the ingredients here - every frail aspect of human nature: greed, infidelity, ambition, set against the backdrop of some of Europe's most momentous events: plague, the Great Fire, execution of Charles I. Pepys was unique in documenting this period, and Tomalin has put what he saw and experienced into our own context. Don't be afraid of it just because it's thick and has a picture of a guy wearing a wig - it's not like the books you read at school.
Jeremy, UK

I've had the book on order for a fortnight but listened to the precis as the book of the week on Radio 4 and thought it excellent.
Squiz, London

Overstated, overblown, illiterate waffle

Ellen Corbett, Belgium
Oh dear, what an unfortunate piece of work. These awards have really become a bit silly when something as tedious and pointless as Tomalin's biographies are even considered worthy of notice. How many people will have the interest, not to mention patience, to wade through this overstated, overblown, illiterate waffle?
Ellen Corbett, Belgium

Fact: Michael Moore's book Stupid White Men was read and loved by more people. Fiction: The book in question was actually read by the same number of people. I wonder why Michael Moore didn't win?
James Clarke, UK

Another excellent boost for the cause of history

Chris Klein, UK
I've read the diaries of Pepys and look forward to reading this biography. Another excellent boost for the cause of history, which should be a compulsory subject at school.
Chris Klein, UK

Is this Whitbread prize like the Turner art prize? When I here the word Whitbread I usually think of a round the world race. Haven't read it and probably wouldn't read it anyway.
Ian, Edinburgh Scotland

A load of rubbish and won't be read by 99.9% of the population. Total waste of money.
Sam, UK

Thankfully, Sam, UK, there's 0.1% of the population that believes in spending money on art, benefiting from and enjoying the fruits of human creativity, and keeping themselves above the IQ levels of spoon-fed tabloid reading buffoons.
Wendy, UK

Good for you, Wendy UK. The likes of Sam and Roj (below) are part of the New Endarkenment and actually seem proud of the fact.
John Drake, England

Uniquely uninteresting

Roj, UK
I suspect that any book about Samuel Pepys is so uniquely uninteresting that nobody has read it. Personally I'm disappointed with Ian Hislop for participating in any way. Boo.
Roj, UK

Boring boring boring, I am going to ask for my money back! What planet are these judges on? Not mine that's for sure.
Kathy, UK

Again Robert Rankin has been omitted from the shortlist. His wonderful and accurate portrayals of life in Brentford both in the past and present must surely make him a contender.
L Woodbine, Brentford, London, UK

It is a wonderful read, keeping the reader engaged and challenged from start to finish

Helen Howden, UK
This book really does deserve the recognition it has been given. Tomalin has created a wonderful evocation of the life and times of Samuel Pepys. The book is free from judgement on (what might be considered) the more dubious aspects of his character yet it doesn't flinch from presenting them. It is a wonderful read, keeping the reader engaged and challenged from start to finish. A worthy winner.
Helen Howden, UK

Superb biography: Wonderful achievement. Stands comparison with each and every previous biography. Warmest congratulations.
Gordon Lennox, UK

Get it right - Tomalin's work was not a novel, but a perceptive biography of the diarist Pepys. Personally I could have done with more on the servant of the state, but the whole book, as usual with Tomalin, was a magnificent work of art. Sorry for her husband, though since he is rather underrated and could have benefited from the publicity.
John Barnes, UK

So glad to learn that Claire Tomalin won for her truly brilliant work on Pepys. I note that presenter Kirsty Young "was dressed in 50,000 worth of jewels from DeBeers." Will she wear clothes for next year's presentations?
William Coombes, U.S.A.

See also:

28 Jan 03 | Arts
09 Jan 03 | Arts
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