Oxford University Professor of English Literature Bart van Es has won the Costa Biography Award for his memoir The Cut Out Girl.

His book tells the story of Lien de Jong, a Jewish girl in Holland during the Second World War, who hides from the Nazis in the homes of an underground network of foster families. The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open to authors resident only in the UK and Ireland.

The professor is one of five authors whose books could now be named 2018 Costa Book of the Year on January 29.

The Cut Out Girl focuses on Jewish girl Lien de Jong, who was removed from her parents’ home in The Hague and taken to a foster family to be hidden from the Nazis.

Prof van Es, who was born in the Netherlands and is now a Professor of English Literature at St Catherine’s College, is a grandson of the couple who fostered Lien, so when he discovered her story he wanted to find out more.

Lien de Jong survived the war and Prof van Es tracked her down when she was in her eighties, to chart her life through the war years and beyond.

The result of the professor’s research is The Cut Out Girl: A Story of War and Family, Lost and Found.

Prof van Es wrote in the book’s acknowledgements: “December 21, 2014 was the first of many days that Lien and I spent together as this book evolved.

“After hours of recorded interviews there were hours of walks, meals, Skype conversations and email exchanges over which we discussed its numerous drafts.

“It is thanks to Lien’s faith, honesty and wisdom that The Cut Out Girl has become a reality.”

The book is published by Penguin.