( AFP ) - Alison Louise Kennedy was awarded one of Britain's most prestigious literary awards on Tuesday for "Day", a novel about a World War II veteran coming to terms with his past.
The 42-year-old comedienne's fifth novel garnered the 2007 Costa Book of the Year award and the accompanying 25,000-pound (33,600-euro, 49,000-dollar) prize after judges described it as "a masterpiece" which reminded them of the late Irish author James Joyce.
Kennedy's book, the eighth novel to win the prize since the competition began in 1985, tells the story of World War II veteran Alfred who, while playing an extra in a prisoner of war film, confronts his own personal past.
Joanna Trollope, a best-selling author who chaired the panel of judges, said that while the field of wartime novels was "well-trodden", Kennedy's book was "perfectly, beautifully written."
"Very witty, very lyrical -- it's quite dark," she said. "Her style is arresting. There's a shadow of James Joyce in it."
Trollope said that Kennedy's novel won over the eight-member judging panel by a vote of five to three following more than an hour's deliberation.
Kennedy, who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, travelled to the ceremony in London from the United States where she has been on a book tour.
When she first began writing, she declined to publish her work in her full name for fear that it would not be received well.
She has previously summed up the life of a novelist by saying: "Sometimes it is nice. Sometimes it is immensely grisly. Then again it is nowhere near as lousy as waking up in Fallujah (in Iraq) or being a coal miner - so the whining should be limited."
The Costa prize, formerly the Whitbread prize, pits five books from five different categories -- best novel, debut novel, biography, poetry and children's book -- against each other.
The authors do not have to be citizens of Britain or Ireland, but they must have been resident in either country for more than six months of the three years previous to their book being submitted for consideration.
"Day", which had been the bookies' favourite, beat out Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel "What Was Lost", Simon Sebag Montefiore's biography "Young Stalin", Jean Sprackland's "Tilt" in the poetry section and Ann Kelley's children's book "The Bower Bird".
Each of them, along with Kennedy, received a 5,000-pound prize for winning their individual categories.
Last year's winner was Stef Penney, who won the award for her debut novel "The Tenderness of Wolves", despite never having been to Canada where the book is set.