The Walter Scott Prize 2021 Longlist

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you will know that I have been slowly working through all of the books shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction since the prize began in 2010. I have discovered some great books and authors over the last few years thanks to this prize. You can see the progress I’ve made with this here – and I know there are other bloggers working on similar projects too.

The longlist for the 2021 prize has just been announced and includes some titles that I would have predicted, as well as some that I’ve never even heard of! Here are the eleven books on this year’s list:

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Hinton by Mark Blacklock (Granta)

The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte (HarperCollins Australia)

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd (Two Roads)

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville (Canongate UK, Text Publishing Australia)

Mr Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press)

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Bloomsbury)

A Treacherous Country by K L Kruimink (Allen & Unwin Australia)

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (4th Estate)

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline)

Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (Affirm Press Australia, Chatto & Windus UK)

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I’m not at all surprised to see Hamnet on the list – although I didn’t love it as much as most other readers seem to have done, I’m sure it will be shortlisted and possibly win the overall prize. I didn’t particularly enjoy Islands of Mercy either, but again I can see that it’s a well-written, multi-layered novel and deserves its place on the longlist. The only other one I’ve read is The Year Without Summer, which I did find interesting even though it seemed more like a collection of short stories than a novel.

Of the other eight books, I do have a copy of The Mirror and the Light which I started to read last year and abandoned as I wasn’t in the mood for it; I’m hoping to finish it soon! I was already interested in reading A Room Made of Leaves, but am not familiar with any of the others so will have to investigate.

Have you read any of these? Which ones do you think should be shortlisted?

Classics Club Spin #25: The Result

The result of the latest Classics Club Spin has been revealed today.

The idea of the Spin was to list twenty books from my Classics Club list, number them 1 to 20, and the number announced by the Classics Club represents the book I have to read before 30th January 2021. The number that has been selected is…

14

And this means the book I need to read is…

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki

Alphonse, a young Walloon officer, is travelling to join his regiment in Madrid in 1739. But he soon finds himself mysteriously detained at a highway inn in the strange and varied company of thieves, brigands, cabbalists, noblemen, coquettes and gypsies, whose stories he records over sixty-six days. The resulting manuscript is discovered some forty years later in a sealed casket, from which tales of characters transformed through disguise, magic and illusion, of honour and cowardice, of hauntings and seductions, leap forth to create a vibrant polyphony of human voices. Jan Potocki (1761-1812) used a range of literary styles – gothic, picaresque, adventure, pastoral, erotica – in his novel of stories-within-stories, which, like the Decameron and Tales from the Thousand and One Nights, provides entertainment on an epic scale.

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I actually started to read this book by Polish author Jan Potocki earlier in the year but couldn’t give it the attention it deserved at that time. I’m looking forward to trying it again as I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. If anyone has read it, please let me know what you thought!

If you took part in the spin too, I hope you got a good result!

Classics Club Spin #25: My list

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin – the last one of 2020. Spin #24 was a success for me (I managed to read my chosen book, The Black Arrow, before the deadline), so I’m hoping for another good result this time!

If you’re not sure what a Classics Spin is, here’s a reminder:

The rules for Spin #25:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Sunday 22nd November the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 30th January 2021.

And here is my list:

1. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
2. Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
3. A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy
4. La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
5. Armadale by Wilkie Collins (re-read)
6. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
7. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
8. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
9. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
10. Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton
11. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute
12. Germinal by Emile Zola
13. I Will Repay by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
14. The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki
15. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
16. Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner
17. The Turquoise by Anya Seton
18. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
19. Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
20. The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford

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Have you read any of these? Which number do you think I should be hoping for?

Classics Club Spin #24: The Result

The result of the latest Classics Club Spin has been revealed today.

The idea of the Spin was to list twenty books from my Classics Club list, number them 1 to 20, and the number announced by the Classics Club represents the book I have to read before 30th September 2020. The number that has been selected is…

18

And this means the book I need to read is…

The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson

Originally serialized in a periodical of boys’ adventure fiction, The Black Arrow is a swashbuckling portrait of a young man’s journey to discover the heroism within himself. Young Dick Shelton, caught in the midst of England’s War of the Roses, finds his loyalties torn between the guardian who will ultimately betray him and the leader of a secret fellowship, The Black Arrow. As Shelton is drawn deeper into this conspiracy, he must distinguish friend from foe and confront war, shipwreck, revenge, murder, and forbidden love, as England’s crown threatens to topple around him.

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This wasn’t one that I was particularly hoping for from my list, but I’m happy enough with the result. If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought.

Classics Club Spin #24: My list

I shouldn’t really be taking part in this Classics Club Spin as I still haven’t finished my book from the last Spin, Daniel Deronda (in fact, I’ve only just started it). We have until the end of September to read our books for Spin #24, though, so I will see what comes up – and hope it’s a short one this time!

If you’re not sure what a Classics Spin is, here’s a reminder:

The rules for Spin #24:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Sunday 9th August the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 30th September 2020.

And here is my list:

1. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
2. Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
3. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
4. A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy
5. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
6. The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade
7. Armadale by Wilkie Collins (re-read)
8. I Will Repay by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
9. La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
10. The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott
11. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
12. Germinal by Emile Zola
13. Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner
14. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
15. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute
16. Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton
17. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
18. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
19. Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
20. Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari

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Have you read any of these? Which number should I be hoping for on Sunday?

20 Books of Summer – 2020

20 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, is a very simple idea: make a list of twenty books (there are also ten and fifteen book options) and read them during the summer months. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds, and although I’ve taken part for the last three years I have never managed to read all twenty books on my list. I don’t expect to succeed this year either, especially as I’m still struggling to concentrate and not reading as much as I normally would. I’m hoping that making a list of potential reads will help me to focus, even if I don’t end up reading many of them.

This year’s 20 Books of Summer starts tomorrow (Monday 1 June) and finishes on Tuesday 1 September and here is my list of books. 1-10 are review copies from my NetGalley shelf. The others are a mixture of re-reads, the next books in series I’m working through, long anticipated reads, books for other challenges and projects – and my Classics Spin book from April which I really did mean to start reading but never got round to!

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1. Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
2. A Time to Die by Hilda Lawrence
3. The Silver Collar by Antonia Hodgson
4. The Honey and the Sting by EC Fremantle
5. Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten
6. The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
7. The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Penman
8. When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby
9. Katheryn Howard, the Tainted Queen by Alison Weir
10. The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath
11. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
12. City of Dragons by Robin Hobb
13. The Surgeon’s Mate by Patrick O’Brian
14. The Green Gauntlet by RF Delderfield
15. Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard
16. Greenwitch by Susan Cooper
17. The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch
18. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
19. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
20. The Horseman by Tim Pears

Have you read any of these? Will you be taking part in 20 Books of Summer this year?

Classics Club Spin #23: The result

The result of the latest Classics Club Spin has been revealed today.

The idea of the Spin was to list twenty books from my Classics Club list, number them 1 to 20, and the number announced by the Classics Club represents the book I have to read before 1st June 2020. The number that has been selected is…

6

And this means the book I need to read is…

Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

Gwendolen Harleth gambles her happiness when she marries a sadistic aristocrat for his money. Beautiful, neurotic, and self-centred, Gwendolen is trapped in an increasingly destructive relationship, and only her chance encounter with the idealistic Deronda seems to offer the hope of a brighter future. Deronda is searching for a vocation, and in embracing the Jewish cause he finds one that is both visionary and life-changing. Damaged by their pasts, and alienated from the society around them, they must both discover the values that will give their lives meaning.

I have to admit, this was not one of the books on my list that I was particularly wishing for; I had hoped for something shorter and lighter. Still, I’ve enjoyed everything else I’ve read by George Eliot so I’m not too unhappy with this result. If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought!