Irish writer Sally Rooney has been hailed as a "major talent" after her second novel, Normal People, was named Book of the Year at the British Book Awards on Monday night.
The 28-year-old writer took the top prize at the book awards, beating competition from the hotly tipped autobiography Becoming by former US First Lady Michelle Obama and Anna Burns’s Milkman, last year's Man Booker winner.
Rooney said of her win: "It’s an enormous privilege and an honour for me to receive the overall Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards. I want to say thank you, specifically, because I feel I had an extraordinary lucky experience with this book.
"I’ve received such enormous support and generosity from my own publisher, Faber & Faber, of course, and also from the bookselling community generally, from libraries and librarians, and the community of people who love books. It has been a really privileged experience for me, and I do feel astonishingly lucky."
The Book of the Year judges - chaired by The Bookseller books editor Alice O'Keefe - said that despite the huge sales for Obama's Becoming, they decided Rooney's novel was the most deserving of the top accolade.
O’Keeffe said: "It was a really difficult decision and we went back and forth for a good while, but after much discussion, we felt that Sally Rooney is such a major talent and that her 'difficult second novel' was just as impressive as her debut was astonishing.
"She has been described as a millennial writer with millennial concerns, but I know readers in their seventies who loved Normal People. The passion that came through on the grassroots for this book is really something."
.@dollyalderton is here to reveal that the winner of the Fiction Book of the Year award, accepted by @FaberBooks editor @alex_is_editing, is Sally Rooney’s Normal People #Nibbies ✒️📚🏆 pic.twitter.com/GsCyAVuxHL— The Bookseller (@thebookseller) May 13, 2019
Fellow judge Stig Abell, editor of the TLS, said: "Sally Rooney may well be on her way to becoming the major literary figure of our time, a generational talent.
"This is a book that, five years from now and 50 years from now, we will still be reading. It is fantastically important."
Normal People, which charts the on-off love affair between two young Irish students over several years, previously won the Costa novel award and the Waterstone’s Book of the Year gong.
Obama’s Becoming won two awards at the ceremony, Non-Fiction: Narrative Book of the Year and Audiobook of the Year.
Meanwhile, David Walliams won the Children’s Fiction category with The Ice Monster, bestselling crime writer Lee Child was crowned Author of the Year and Sam Taylor’s translation of Leïla Slimani’s Lullaby picked up the gong for best debut novel.