Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize shortlist announced
The Walter Scott Prize is a prestigious annual award which is given to the best historical fiction written in the English language and is “published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth”. Considering sixty years of Walter Scotte’s popular work ‘Waverley’, the storyline of the books nominated for this prize “must have taken place at least 60 years ago”. A shortlist of six books for this year’s prize was revealed by the judges, chaired by Katie Grant, on March 31. “In times of crisis, historical fiction is both reassurance (nothing is completely new) – and escape, so it’s with almost medicinal pleasure that we unveil the eleventh Walter Scott Prize shortlist which offers, we hope, a measure of both… Six books from writers as varied as they are talented. Six books to absorb. Six books to fortify. Enjoy them all!,” they said in a statement.
So, here’s a look at some of the finest historical fictions to read this year, according to experts.
The Parisian by Isabella Hammad
Set in the First World War, Isabella Hammand’s debut book ‘The Parisian’ is about Europe, France and Levant’s foreign policies and how it affected people. The story follows a young Palestinian Midhat Kamal who sets on a journey of self-discovery as the war shatters families, friendships and kills lovers.
To Calais, In Ordinary Time by James Meek
Set in the 14th century, James Meek’s ‘To Calais, In Ordinary Time’ is praised by the judges as a book having “messages of great potency”. Set in the backdrop of the Black Death, the plague in Northern Europe, the story follows the lives of three people– a woman who runs away from an arranged marriage, a Scots proctor, and a young ploughman who is in search of freedom– and how they come together to Calais. The novel explores the themes of love, loss, gender, class and faith.
Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor
Joseph O’Connor’s Victorian gothic book ‘Shadowplay’ is set in 1878 London. The story explores the life of Bram Stoker, who created the iconic Dracula. Bram moves from Dublin to London where he starts working as a manager at the Lyceum Theatre. As he tries to adjust in a new city and a new marriage, he finds inspiration for the eerie tale of Dracula. But Henry Irving, Chief at Lyceum Theatre, is determined that nothing should get in the way of Briam’s work at the theatre. Meanwhile, both men are drawn to Ellen Terry, a beautiful and bold actress of her time.
The Narrow Land by Christine Dwyer Hickey
Christine Dwyer Hickey’s novel ‘The Narrow Land’ focusses on 1950’s art and explores the marriage of artists Josephine and Edward Hopper. Ten-year-old Michael is spending time with Richie and his glamorous yet troubled mother. That’s when Michael meets neighbour Josephine and Edward, and forges an unlikely friendship with the latter.
Tim Pear’s ‘The Redeemed’ is the last book in the West Country trilogy. ”The Redeemed’ is a timeless, stirring and exquisitely wrought story of love, loss and destiny fulfilled, and a bittersweet elegy to a lost world,’ reads the book’s blurb.
A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland
Set in South Africa, Marguerite Poland’s ‘A Sin of Omission’ is Stephen Mzamane’s story. The book follows the life of Stephen Mzamane, a young South African, who is trained to work at Christian missionaries. His loyalty is tested and questioned when he has to choose between supporting his own people, for whom his brother died, or supporting the colonial cause. As he embarks on a journey to his mother’s home in the village to inform her about his elder brother’s death, he tries to resolve his conflicting loyalties.