It’s been a few months since my last Historical Musings post, so I thought I’d start by taking a look at what’s going on in the world of historical fiction and then give an update on my own current reading.
First of all, the winner of this year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been announced. Congratulations to Hilary Mantel and The Mirror and the Light!
There were five shortlisted titles this year and I’m sorry to say that so far I have only managed to read one of them…
The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte
A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
The one that I read was Hamnet and I’m quite surprised that it didn’t win. I wasn’t really a fan (I know I’m in a minority there) but I thought it was the sort of book the judges would go for.
Although I haven’t read The Mirror & the Light, I’m sure it’s a deserving winner. I did actually start to read it last year and enjoyed what I read, but it was a victim of my pandemic-induced reading slump at that time and I found it impossible to concentrate on such a long and complex novel. I have every intention of picking it up again soon!
This means that Hilary Mantel has now won the Walter Scott Prize twice, with two of the books in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy: Wolf Hall in 2010 was the other, although Bring Up the Bodies lost out in 2013 to Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists.
Last week also brought some more sad news for historical fiction readers; not only did we lose Sharon Penman earlier this year, the family of Lucinda Riley announced on 11th June that Lucinda had died following a four year battle with cancer. Not all of her novels were historical, but most featured dual timelines covering a wide range of historical periods and settings. I recently reviewed her latest novel, The Missing Sister. For those of you who have been following the Seven Sisters series, here’s a recent interview in which Lucinda talks about her research for the new book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrzJyFMOjxQ
My current historical reading:
I have just finished The Wrecking Storm, the second book in Michael Ward’s Thomas Tallant mystery series set in 17th century London during the events leading to the Civil War, and am now reading Alison Weir’s Katherine Parr, the Sixth Wife, the last of her Six Tudor Queens novels. The next book I’m planning to start is Red Adam’s Lady by Grace Ingram, which is on my 20 Books of Summer list. I think it’s already safe to say that I’m not going to read all twenty books on that list before September, so I’m going to focus on the ones I’ve been most looking forward to reading.
New to my historical TBR this week:
Mrs England by Stacey Halls (set in the Edwardian era) which was published earlier this month, and The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters (set in the 1640s), via NetGalley, due to be published in November.
Have you read any good historical novels lately? Which book do you think should have won the Walter Scott Prize?