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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 19:46 GMT
Smith wins Whitbread novel prize
Ali Smith
Smith's novel follows a 12-year-old girl on summer holiday in Norfolk
Author Ali Smith has won the Whitbread Novel of the Year award with her third novel, The Accidental.

The Scottish writer beat authors including Salman Rushdie and Nick Hornby to the title.

Tash Aw picked up the first novel award for The Harmony Silk Factory, beating Rachel Zadok amongst others.

All the category winners receive 5,000 and compete for the prestigious Whitbread Book of the Year title, which carries an additional 25,000 prize.

'Laughter and sadness'

Honouring books from last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland, the latest Whitbread awards attracted a record 476 entries.

A panel of judges - including writer Margaret Drabble, ITN journalist Alastair Stewart, actresses Joanna David and her daughter Emilia Fox - will decide the overall winner on 24 January.

Tash Aw

Ali Smith's novel The Accidental follows a girl spending summer with a family in Norfolk.

The Whitbread judges said: "From the outset, The Accidental stood out as a glorious work of fiction that inspired both laughter and sadness and that none of us could stop reading."

Having been unsuccessfully nominated for last year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction, The Accidental beat Whitbread contenders Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down, Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown and Christopher Wilson's The Ballad of Lee Cotton.

London-based writer Tash Aw's novel The Harmony Silk Factory tells of a journey into the Malaysian jungle in the 1930s.

In common with Susan Fletcher, the winner of last year's Whitbread First Novel award, Aw is a recent graduate from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course.

Kate Thompson
Thompson beat past Whitbread winner Geraldine McCaughrean
"With writing of immense confidence and grace, Aw effortlessly draws the reader into a fascinating world evoked brilliantly by a gripping story," wrote the judges.

Matisse The Master by Hilary Spurling won the biography award and Cold Calls by Christopher Logue took the poetry title.

Kate Thompson beat three-time Whitbread winner Geraldine McCaughrean to take the children's book award for The New Policeman.

Hotel and restaurant firm Whitbread set up the annual awards in 1971.

However, in December the company said it would stop sponsoring the awards after the overall winner is announced on 24 January, as it no longer considers the association to be commercially viable.

It said it was pulling out because it no longer sells products using the Whitbread name.

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