Historical Musings #79: The CWA Historical Dagger Longlist 2023

Welcome to my series of posts on all things historical fiction!

Just a quick post this month as the Crime Writers’ Association revealed the longlists for their 2023 Dagger awards yesterday. I don’t usually follow the CWA awards, but noticed that I had read three of the books longlisted in this year’s Historical Dagger category and this made me curious about the other titles, particularly as I haven’t even heard of some of them!

The Historical Dagger is awarded to ‘the best historical crime novel, first published in the UK in English during the judging period, set in any period up to 50 years prior to the year in which the award will be made’. Here are the twelve books on the 2023 longlist:

The Darkest Sin by DV Bishop
Blackstone Fell by Martin Edwards
Two Storm Wood by Philip Gray
The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys by Jack Jewers
The Bookseller of Inverness by SG MacLean
The Clockwork Girl by Anna Mazzola
Death at the Dolphin by Gretta Mulrooney
The Homes by JB Mylet
The Bangalore Detectives Club by Harini Nagendra
Blue Water by Leonora Nattrass
Hear No Evil by Sarah Smith
The Mushroom Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu


Of the three books I have read, two of them – The Clockwork Girl, an atmospheric Gothic novel inspired by the real life case of the ‘Vanishing Children of Paris’ and the 18th century advances in the creation of automata, and Blue Water, a wonderful historical mystery set during a long sea voyage in 1794 – were on my Books of the Year list for 2022. The other, The Bookseller of Inverness, I found interesting for the setting (Scotland in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion) but not a particularly strong mystery.

I know very little about any of the other longlisted books. I probably won’t read Blackstone Fell as I wasn’t all that impressed with the previous Martin Edwards book, Mortmain Hall, but if you’ve read any of the others please let me know what you thought!

The shortlist will be announced on 12th May and the winner on 6th July. More details and the full lists of nominees for all of the other Dagger categories can be found on the CWA website.

Historical Musings #78: Real people or fictional?

Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction! This month, I’m going to look at two different kinds of historical novel – those that insert fictional characters into historical settings and those that focus on real historical figures. The second type of book is sometimes referred to as a ‘biographical novel’ and ranges from Robert Graves’ I, Claudius to Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen. I read and enjoy all sorts of historical fiction, but I know some people like their novels to be completely fictional while others prefer to read about real kings, queens, artists, musicians, politicians etc, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts!

I’m happy to read either of these kinds of book and they both seem to be equally popular, although I’m aware that a lot of readers don’t like reading fiction about real historical figures and would rather read non-fiction about them instead. Personally, I often seem to struggle to digest information through non-fiction, which is why I prefer to get to know historical figures in fictional form first and then use that as a starting point to find out more. I think if I’d just read a non-fiction biography of Thomas Cromwell, I would have forgotten half of what I’d read by the time I finished the book, whereas his story as told in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy has stayed with me. I know, though, that Wolf Hall only gives me one author’s interpretation of Cromwell’s character and that to get a full picture I would need to explore as many versions as possible, both fictional and factual. We also need to consider an author’s personal prejudices, their target audience or the information and sources available to them at the time of writing. Just look at Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III!

There are some obvious advantages to an author in writing about fictional characters – more freedom to invent personalities, dialogue and storylines without having to worry about readers saying, “but that never happened” or “she would never have said something like that”. However, these fictional stories still need to be believable and plausible within the context of the historical period in which the characters are living. And while some authors populate their entire book with imaginary characters only, others include a mixture of real and fictional. In some books, the interactions between the two feel natural and convincing (in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, for example, her fictional characters mix seamlessly with Mary, Queen of Scots, Ivan the Terrible and John Dee, to name just a few), while others don’t feel quite right to me (I didn’t like seeing Prince Philip appear in Kate Quinn’s The Rose Code, a book I otherwise loved).

In general, I’m much more comfortable reading about historical figures from previous centuries rather than people who have only recently died or are even still alive, as Prince Philip was at the time the Kate Quinn book was published. I’m also not very keen on books that put real people into completely imaginary situations, for example the current trend for using historical figures such as the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens or Josephine Tey as detectives in mystery novels. I know a lot of people love these, but they don’t really appeal to me.

What is your opinion on this? If you’re reading a novel set in the past, do you prefer to read about real or fictional characters – or both?

Historical Musings #77: My year in historical fiction – 2022

Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction. For my first Musings post of the year, I am looking back at the historical fiction I read in 2022 and have put together my usual selection of charts and lists! I have kept most of the same categories I’ve used for the previous six years so that it should be easy to make comparisons and to see if there have been any interesting changes in my reading patterns and choices (here are my posts for 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016).

Before I begin, just a reminder that I do actually read other genres but haven’t included those books in these stats!


Time periods read about in 2022:

No big changes here – the 19th and 20th centuries are nearly always the most popular settings for my historical reading and the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries usually do well too. Earlier time periods never feature as strongly, but I was pleased to find two books set in the Roman period that I enjoyed last year (The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper and The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff).


43% of the historical fiction authors I read in 2022 were new to me. This is more than the last few years (39% in 2021 and 32% in 2020) and I think that’s a good balance of new authors and old favourites.


I read 3 historical novels in translationThe Reindeer Hunters by Lars Mytting (Norwegian, transl. Deborah Dawkin), Ashes in the Snow by Oriana Rammuno (Italian, transl. Katherine Gregor) and Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk (Turkish, transl. Ekin Oklap). I must try to do better in 2023!


Sources of historical fiction novels read in 2022:

NetGalley – 41
Books from TBR – 15
Other review copies – 7

As I mentioned in my 2023 Reading Resolutions post, I have been making an effort to get up to date with my NetGalley shelf and I expect to be requesting and reading fewer NetGalley books this year. This will allow me to get on with reading books from my own TBR, including the older books that tend to be the ones I enjoy most. Which brings me to the next category…


Publication dates of books read in 2022:

Following on from my comments on NetGalley above, you can see in this chart that my 2022 historical reading was dominated by newly published books. I only read four books published in the 20th century, but I expect these figures to look quite different in next year’s charts as I focus on picking up more books from my own shelves.

The oldest historical fiction novel I read in 2022 was Cup of Gold by John Steinbeck, published in 1929. It tells the story of the Welsh pirate, Henry Morgan.


9% of my historical reads in 2022 were historical mysteries.

This is about the same as in previous years. Here are three I enjoyed reading in 2022:

Traitor in the Ice by KJ Maitland
Death and the Conjuror by Tom Mead
The Blood Flower by Alex Reeve.


I read historical fiction set in 17 different countries in 2022:

As you can see, I still read far more historical fiction set in England than anywhere else, which is mainly a reflection of the books that are being published and coming to my attention rather than a deliberate choice of mine. I’m happy with the range of other countries I read about in 2022, which is more than the previous year – and I’m almost certain that Fortune by Amanda Smyth is the first book I’ve ever read set in Trinidad.

In addition, I read a book set almost entirely at sea (Blue Water by Leonora Nattrass) and one on a fictional Mediterranean island (Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk).


Four historical men I read about in 2022:

Edward Whalley (Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris)
Varian Fry (The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer)
Mahmood Mattan (The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed)
Giorgio Barbarelli (The Colour Storm by Damian Dibben)

Four historical women I read about in 2022:

Alice Samuel (The Bewitching by Jill Dawson)
Joan of Arc (Joan by Katherine J Chen)
Bridget Cromwell (The Rebel Daughter by Miranda Malins)
Lyudmila Pavlichenko (The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn)


What about you? Did you read any good historical fiction last year? Have you read any of the books or authors I’ve mentioned here and have you noticed any patterns or trends in your own reading?

Historical Musings #76: Books to look out for in 2023

Now that 2022 is almost over, it’s time to look ahead to the historical fiction being published in 2023. I’ve listed below a selection of books that have caught my attention for one reason or another – some are review copies I’ve received (and in a few cases have already read), some are new books by authors I’ve previously enjoyed and others just sounded interesting. 2023 looks like being a great year for historical fiction and I hope there’s something here that appeals to you.

Dates provided are for the UK and were correct at the time of posting.


A Marriage of Fortune by Anne O’Brien (19th January) – Set during the Wars of the Roses, this is the sequel to The Royal Game and continues the story of the women of the Paston family.

For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain by Victoria MacKenzie (19th January) – A novella describing a meeting in 1413 between Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, two English mystics and authors.

My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor (26th January) – Based on a true story, an Irish priest in Vatican City helps people escape from the Nazis.


The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell (2nd February) – Laura Purcell’s new Gothic novel is set in a theatre in Victorian London, where an actress is said to have made a pact with Melpomene, the muse of tragedy.

Weyward by Emilia Hart (2nd February) – This book weaves together the stories of three women from different time periods who share a connection to witchcraft.


The Shadows of London by Andrew Taylor (2nd March) – The sixth book in Taylor’s excellent Marwood and Lovett mystery series set in the years following the Great Fire of London.

Lady MacBethad by Isabelle Schuler (2nd March) – The story of Gruoch, the real-life queen who was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. Having read several other books about Macbeth and Gruoch/Groa, I’ll be interested to see how this one compares.

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden (30th March) – A Victorian Gothic novel about a young woman who becomes a governess at an isolated country house.


The House of Whispers by Anna Mazzola (6th April) – I’ve read all of Anna Mazzola’s previous novels and each one has been very different from the one before. This new book is set in Rome in 1938.

The King’s Jewel by Elizabeth Chadwick (13th April) – The new novel from Elizabeth Chadwick is set in 11th century Wales and tells the story of Nesta, daughter of Prince Rhys of Deheubarth.

Rivers of Treason by KJ Maitland (13th April) – The third book in the Daniel Pursglove mystery series sees Daniel returning to his childhood home in Yorkshire and falling under suspicion of murder.

Homecoming by Kate Morton (13th April) – A modern day journalist discovers a family connection with an unsolved murder case in 1950s Australia. I’ve enjoyed some of Kate Morton’s previous books but not others, so I’ll be interested to see what this one is like.

Prize Women by Caroline Lea (27th April) – Set in Canada during the Great Depression, this is the story of two women who become involved in the contest known as The Great Stork Derby.


Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt by Lucinda Riley and Harry Whittaker (11th May) – The final book in the Seven Sisters series, completed by Lucinda Riley’s son after her death in 2021. I can’t wait to find out the truth about Pa Salt at last!

A Lady’s Guide to Scandal by Sophie Irwin (11th May) – I loved Sophie Irwin’s A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting and her second novel, another one set in the Regency period, sounds just as entertaining!

Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown by Alison Weir (11th May) – After writing a series of novels from the perspectives of Henry VIII’s six wives, now Alison Weir is going to give us Henry’s side of the story.

Music in the Dark by Sally Magnusson (11th May) – The new novel by Scottish author Sally Magnusson explores the lives of two people during the Highland Clearances of 1854.

The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman (11th May) – This sounds like a very unusual novel about children in a theatrical troupe in Elizabethan London.

The Stolen Crown by Carol McGrath (18th May) – Following her recent She-Wolves trilogy, Carol McGrath goes further back in time for her new novel which tells the story of Henry I’s daughter Matilda and the period known as The Anarchy.

Mrs Porter Calling by AJ Pearce (25th May) – The third book in Pearce’s series about Emmy Lake, who works for Woman’s Friend magazine during World War II. I still need to catch up with the second one!


The Last Lifeboat by Hazel Gaynor (8th June) – Set in 1940, this new book by Hazel Gaynor tells the story of the evacuees sent away by sea during the war.

Disobedient by EC Fremantle (8th June) – A new EC Fremantle book is always something to look forward to and this one, about the 17th century artist Artemisia Gentileschi, sounds great.

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (22nd June) – I’d been hoping for a third book in the Harry and Caro Corsham mystery series, but this new book about a fortune-teller in Georgian England could be even better!

The Other Side of Mrs Wood by Lucy Barker (22nd June) – This one sounds fun – it’s described as an ‘irresistible historical comedy about two rival mediums in Victorian London’.


The Housekeepers by Alex Hay (6th July) – An intriguing-sounding debut novel in which a group of servants plan to carry out a daring heist in a grand London house in 1905.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See (6th July) – I usually love Lisa See’s books and this one is about the life of Tan Yunxian, a Chinese physician during the Ming dynasty.

The Murder Wheel by Tom Mead (11th July) – I loved Tom Mead’s first Golden Age-style mystery novel, Death and the Conjuror, and I’m pleased to see that he’s written another one, again featuring the magician Joseph Spector.


Fair Rosaline by Natasha Solomons (3rd August) – The second novel in this list with a Shakespeare connection, this is the story of Rosaline, the woman Romeo loved before beginning his tragic romance with Juliet.

Night Train to Marrakech by Dinah Jefferies (31st August) – The third book in the Daughters of War trilogy is going to be set in 1960s Morocco. I’m looking forward to finding out how the story ends.


Menewood by Nicola Griffith (3rd October) – The long-awaited sequel to Hild, this book will continue the story of St Hilda of Whitby. The first book was beautifully written and I’ve been looking forward to this one for years!


The Temple of Fortuna by Elodie Harper (23rd November) – This will be the final book in Elodie Harper’s trilogy set in ancient Pompeii. I loved The Wolf Den but still need to read the middle book.


The Witch’s Daughter by Imogen Edwards-Jones (7th December) – The sequel to The Witches of St Petersburg is set in 1916 and follows the story of Princess Militza’s daughter Nadezhda as the Russian Revolution approaches.


Are you interested in reading any of these? What else have I missed?

Historical Musings #75: HWA Crown Awards 2022

Welcome to my not-quite-monthly post on all things historical fiction! I don’t normally post this early in the month, but wanted to highlight the HWA Crown Award longlists which were announced last Wednesday by the Historical Writers Association. There are three separate awards – one for debut novels, one for non-fiction and the other (the Gold Crown) for the best historical novel of the year. The shortlists are announced later in October and the winner in November. I have no plans to try to read all of these books, but thought it would be interesting to look at what I’d read so far from each list.

Gold Crown Award 2022 longlist

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
All of You Every Single One by Beatrice Hitchman
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
The Winter War by Tim Leach
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet
The Thin Place by CD Major
The Rebel Daughter by Miranda Malins
The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
The Great Passion by James Runcie
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

I loved both Booth and The Wolf Den, two of my favourite books of the year so far. I also found The Fortune Men a powerful and emotional read, but I’m a bit surprised to see The Rebel Daughter here – I found it interesting but nothing special. As for the others on the list, I’ve enjoyed earlier books by Tim Leach and Graeme Macrae Burnet, but didn’t like the only book I’ve read by Natasha Pulley so I won’t be reading The Kingdoms. I like the sound of The Thin Place by CD Major, an author I hadn’t come across until now. None of the others really appeal, although I know they have all had good reviews.

Non-fiction Crown Award 2022 longlist

Operation Jubilee by Patrick Bishop
The Invention of Miracles by Katie Booth
Midnight in Cairo by Raphael Cormack
The Turning Point by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
The Irish Assassins by Julie Kavanagh
Metaphysical Animals by Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman
The Library by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen
Loot by Barnaby Phillips
The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes by Zoë Playdon
The Searchers by Robert Sackville-West
National Treasures by Caroline Shenton
Fallen Idols by Alex von Tunzelmann

I haven’t read any of these or even heard of them, but I’m not a big reader of non-fiction so that’s probably not surprising. I’ve investigated a few of the titles and am particularly drawn to The Turning Point, a year in the life of Charles Dickens, and The Library, about the history of libraries from ancient times to the present.

Debut Crown Award 2022 longlist

The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews
The Queen’s Lender by Jean Findlay
The Silver Wolf by J C Harvey
The Flames by Sophie Haydock
Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim
The Mad Women’s Ball by Victoria Mas
Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass
Moonlight & The Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook
The Deception of Harriet Fleet by Helen Scarlett
Hear No Evil by Sarah Smith
The Plague Letters by VL Valentine
The Spirit Engineer by AJ West

I’ve only read three from this list. Black Drop was an interesting historical mystery and I have the sequel, Blue Water, on my NetGalley shelf to read soon. I thought The Silver Wolf, the first in a series, was an impressive, ambitious debut and The Leviathan was great until the fantasy/magical realism elements became more dominant towards the end. I’ve heard of a few of the others on the list but am unfamiliar with the rest, so will have to find out more.


Have you read any of these? Are you interested in reading them?

Don’t forget, you can find links to all 74 previous Historical Musings topics here.

Historical Musings #74: Walter Scott Prize progress report – Part Two

Welcome to this month’s post on all things historical fiction!

As I mentioned in last month’s post, I am slowly working my way through all the titles shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize since it began back in 2010. As I haven’t been making much progress with this recently, I decided it might be motivational to take a detailed look at which books I’ve read so far and which I still need to read. Last month I looked back at the 2010-2015 shortlists – you can see that post here – and now I’m going to focus on 2016-2022.



A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale
Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea
Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar


Tightrope by Simon Mawer (winner)
Sweet Caress by William Boyd
End Games in Bordeaux by Allan Massie

I enjoyed A Place Called Winter and found Mrs Engels and Salt Creek interesting, but didn’t think any of them were outstandingly good. I haven’t read the winner yet, though – it’s the sequel to Mawer’s The Girl Who Fell From the Sky and I was hoping to read the two books in the correct order. Similarly, the Allan Massie book is the last in a four-novel series and I decided to start at the beginning – I’ve only read the first two so far.



Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (winner)
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain


Jo Baker – A Country Road, A Tree
Charlotte Hobson – The Vanishing Futurist

I’ve made good progress with the 2017 list, reading five of the seven books. Of the ones I’ve read, I would definitely have given the prize to Golden Hill which I thought was a wonderful book. I do usually love Sebastian Barry, but Days Without End was not a favourite. Of the two I haven’t read, I have a copy of The Vanishing Futurist which I hope I’ll have time for soon.



Sugar Money by Jane Harris


The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers (winner)
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Grace by Paul Lynch
The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath
Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik

I’m not sure why I’ve still only read one book from the 2018 shortlist! Most of the others did sound good and I had every intention of reading them soon after they were published, but never did. Anyway, I loved Sugar Money and it would probably have been my choice of winner even if I’d read the whole list as I’m a big fan of Jane Harris – I just wish she had written more books!



After The Party by Cressida Connolly
The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey
Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller


The Long Take by Robin Robertson (winner)
A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

I found Now We Shall Be Entirely Free a beautifully written novel and my favourite of the three I’ve read from the 2019 list – although it didn’t have much competition as the other two books just weren’t for me. I’m looking forward to reading Warlight, which will be my first Michael Ondaatje book.



To Calais, in Ordinary Time by James Meek
Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor


The Narrow Land by Christine Dwyer Hickey (winner)
The Parisian by Isabella Hammad
The Redeemed by Tim Pears
A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland

I’ve read two books from the 2020 shortlist and of the two, I preferred Shadowplay. To Calais… was clever and imaginative, but not one that I particularly liked – although I had expected it to win as it’s the sort of book judges usually seem to go for. The other four don’t really appeal, but I’ll still give them a try.



The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (winner)
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell


The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte
A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

I didn’t manage to love Hamnet the way so many other readers have, but I did love The Mirror and the Light, which I just finished reading yesterday, having bought a copy the week it was published in March 2020 and then getting distracted by the pandemic. I do like the sound of all three of the other books and hope I’ll have the opportunity to read them soon, but I’ll be surprised if any of them impress me more than The Mirror and the Light!



Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig
Fortune by Amanda Smyth
The Magician by Colm Tóibín


News of the Dead by James Robertson (winner)

This year the shortlist was disappointingly short – only four books. Typically, I have read three of them, but not the winner! I was hoping the prize would go to Rose Nicolson, which I loved. If News of the Dead is even better, then I’m very much looking forward to reading it!


Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with the judges’ choices?

Historical Musings #73: Walter Scott Prize winner and project progress report

Welcome to this month’s post on all things historical fiction!

The winner of this year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction was announced yesterday at the Borders Book Festival. Congratulations to James Robertson and News of the Dead!

There were only four titles on the shortlist this year and I have managed to read two and a half of them. The two are Rose Nicolson and Fortune and the half is The Magician, which I’m hoping to finish soon. Typically, News of the Dead is the only one I haven’t had time to get to yet.

The 2022 shortlist:

Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig
News of the Dead by James Robertson
Fortune by Amanda Smyth
The Magician by Colm Tóibín

Have you read any or all of these books? Which one do you think should have won?

As some of you will know, I’m attempting to read all of the shortlists since the Walter Scott Prize began back in 2010, but my progress with this seems to have stalled recently. Kay, who blogs at What Me Read and is working on the same project, is doing much better than I am and has almost finished! I am keeping track of all my Walter Scott Prize reads here but thought it might be interesting to take a more detailed look at what I’ve read and not read so far. Below you can see my progress with the 2010-2015 shortlists; I’ll save the 2016-2022 lists for next month’s Historical Musings post.



Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (winner)
Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears
Lustrum by Robert Harris


Hodd by Adam Thorpe
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

It would be difficult to argue with Wolf Hall as the winner here, but I also loved Lustrum and Stone’s Fall – in fact, all three made it onto my books of the year lists in the years when I read them. Of the remaining books, I’m particularly looking forward to the Sarah Dunant as I enjoyed one of her others.



The Long Song by Andrea Levy (winner)
Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor
Heartstone by C. J. Sansom


To Kill A Tsar by Andrew Williams
C by Tom McCarthy
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

I did enjoy 2011’s winner, The Long Song, but as a Shardlake fan I preferred Sansom’s Heartstone. Ghost Light was interesting, but I didn’t really get on very well with the writing style.



On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry (winner)
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Pure by Andrew Miller


The Quality of Mercy by Barry Unsworth
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

I loved On Canaan’s Side – Sebastian Barry writes so beautifully. But then, I loved The Sisters Brothers as well; I never expected to find a Western so enjoyable! Andrew Miller’s Pure was an atmospheric read, but I didn’t like it as much as the other two.



The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (winner)
The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Streets by Anthony Quinn
Merivel: A Man of His Time by Rose Tremain


Toby’s Room by Pat Barker

I’ve read five out of the six books on the 2013 list. The Garden of Evening Mists is another beautiful book and a worthy winner, but my vote would probably have gone to Bring Up the Bodies. I only need to read Toby’s Room now, but I know it’s a sequel to Life Class so would prefer to read that one first.



An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (winner)
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Harvest by Jim Crace
Fair Helen by Andrew Greig


The Promise by Ann Weisgarber

This is a great shortlist! An Officer and a Spy is wonderful (one of my favourites by Robert Harris), but I also really enjoyed the other four that I’ve read, particularly Life After Life and Fair Helen. The Promise doesn’t sound as appealing to me and I haven’t rushed to read it, but will try to get to it soon so I can complete the 2014 list.



Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut
The Lie by Helen Dunmore
A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie


The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling (winner)
The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis
Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre
In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds

I haven’t done very well with the 2015 shortlist. I’ve only read three of the seven books and wasn’t all that impressed with any of them. I liked parts of The Lie, but it’s not a favourite Helen Dunmore book, and A God in Every Stone was interesting, but I suspect it wasn’t the best Shamsie novel I could have started with. Arctic Summer wasn’t my sort of book at all and has put me off trying anything else by Damon Galgut. I hope for better things from the other four books on the shortlist, when I get round to reading them!


And that’s an update on my progress with the 2010-2015 shortlists! In next month’s Historical Musings post I’ll look at the lists from 2016-2022.

Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with the winners?