Reading the Walter Scott Prize

As an avid reader of historical fiction, I am constantly searching for the best the genre has to offer. Having seen other bloggers working through the longlists and shortlists for the Booker Prize or Women’s Prize for Fiction, I thought it might be interesting to do something similar with the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.

This is what the prize is all about:

Sponsored by Sir Walter Scott’s distant kinsmen the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, the Prize celebrates quality, innovation and longevity of writing in the English language, and is open to books first published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. Reflecting the subtitle ‘Sixty Years Since’ of Scott’s most famous work Waverley, the majority of the storyline must have taken place at least 60 years ago.

From http://www.walterscottprize.co.uk/

As I read each book I’ll link below to my review. The books marked with an asterisk are the winning books in each year.

Kay of What Me Read is joining me in reading the Walter Scott Prize nominees and I have also linked to her reviews where available.

2010

Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Adam Thorpe – Hodd [What Me Read review]
Robert Harris – Lustrum [My review] [What Me Read review]
Sarah Dunant – Sacred Hearts [What Me Read review]
Iain Pears – Stone’s Fall [My review] [What Me Read review]
Simon Mawer – The Glass Room [What Me Read review]
Adam Foulds – The Quickening Maze [What Me Read review]

2011

Andrea Levy – The Long Song * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Tom McCarthy – C [What Me Read review]
David Mitchell – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet [What Me Read review]
Joseph O’Connor – Ghost Light [My review] [What Me Read review]
C. J. Sansom – Heartstone [My review] [What Me Read review]
Andrew Williams – To Kill A Tsar [What Me Read review]

2012

Sebastian Barry – On Canaan’s Side * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Patrick deWitt – The Sisters Brothers [My review] [What Me Read review]
Esi Edugyan – Half-Blood Blues [What Me Read review]
Alan Hollinghurst – The Stranger’s Child [What Me Read review]
Andrew Miller – Pure [My review] [What Me Read review]
Barry Unsworth – The Quality of Mercy [What Me Read review]

2013

Tan Twan Eng – The Garden of Evening Mists * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Pat Barker – Toby’s Room [What Me Read review]
Thomas Keneally – The Daughters of Mars [My review] [What Me Read review]
Hilary Mantel – Bring Up the Bodies [My review] [What Me Read review]
Anthony Quinn – The Streets [My review] [What Me Read review]
Rose Tremain – Merivel: A Man of His Time [My review] [What Me Read review]

2014

Robert Harris – An Officer and a Spy * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Kate Atkinson – Life After Life [My review] [What Me Read review]
Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries [My review] [What Me Read review]
Jim Crace – Harvest [My review] [What Me Read review]
Andrew Greig – Fair Helen [My review] [What Me Read review]
Ann Weisgarber – The Promise [What Me Read review]

2015

John Spurling – The Ten Thousand Things * [What Me Read review]
Martin Amis – The Zone of Interest [What Me Read review]
Helen Dunmore – The Lie [My review] [What Me Read review]
Hermione Eyre – Viper Wine [What Me Read review]
Adam Foulds – In the Wolf’s Mouth [What Me Read review]
Damon Galgut – Arctic Summer [My review] [What Me Read review]
Kamila Shamsie – A God in Every Stone [My review] [What Me Read review]

2016

Simon Mawer – Tightrope * [What Me Read review]
William Boyd – Sweet Caress
Patrick Gale – A Place Called Winter [My review] [What Me Read review]
Gavin McCrea – Mrs Engels [My review] [What Me Read review]
Allan Massie – End Games in Bordeaux
Lucy Treloar – Salt Creek [My review] [What Me Read review]

2017

Sebastian Barry – Days Without End * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Jo Baker – A Country Road, A Tree [What Me Read review]
Charlotte Hobson – The Vanishing Futurist
Hannah Kent – The Good People [My review] [What Me Read review]
Francis Spufford – Golden Hill [My review]
Graham Swift – Mothering Sunday [My review]
Rose Tremain – The Gustav Sonata [My review] [What Me Read review]

2018

Jennifer Egan – Manhattan Beach
Jane Harris – Sugar Money [My review]
Paul Lynch – Grace
Patrick McGrath – The Wardrobe Mistress
Rachel Malik – Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves
Benjamin Myers – The Gallows Pole

~

Additional reading ideas

I am not setting any targets here or planning to read all of these books, but I thought it would be interesting to list the prize longlists for each year and see how many I have read. These longlists have only been made public since 2015. In 2017, the Walter Scott Prize Academy also began to announce a further list of recommendations – providing even more ideas for future reading!

2015

The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis
The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The Lie by Helen Dunmore
Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre
In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds
Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud
Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut
Wake by Anna Hope
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
The Undertaking by Audrey Magee
A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie
The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak
The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

2016

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Sweet Caress by William Boyd
A Petrol Scented Spring by Ajay Close
A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale
Dictator by Robert Harris
Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt
Death and Mr Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis
Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea
End Games in Bordeaux by Allan Massie
Tightrope by Simon Mawer
Signs For Lost Children by Sarah Moss
Curtain Call by Anthony Quinn
Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

2017

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker
The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Crane Pond by Richard Francis
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

2018

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks
Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Last Man In Europe by Dennis Glover
Sugar Money by Jane Harris
Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr
The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner
Grace by Paul Lynch
The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath
Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik
The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers
The Horseman by Tim Pears
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Walter Scott Prize Academy Recommends:

2017

Carol Birch – Orphans of the Carnival
Emily Bitto – The Strays
Jessie Burton – The Muse
Tracy Chevalier – At the Edge of the Orchard
Emma Donoghue – The Wonder
Susan Fletcher – Let Me Tell you About a Man I Knew
Anna Hope – The Ballroom
Lauri Kubuitsile – The Scattering
Lynne Kutsukake – The Translation of Love
Eowyn Ivey – To the Bright Edge of the World
Ian McGuire – The North Water
Abir Mukherjee – A Rising Man
S.J. Parris – Conspiracy
Steven Price – By Gaslight
Ralph Spurrier – A Coin for the Hangman
Andrew Taylor – The Ashes of London
Natasha Walter – A Quiet Life
A.N. Wilson – Resolution
Alissa York – The Naturalist
Louisa Young – Devotion

2018

The Death of the Fronsac by Neal Ascherson
Mrs Osmond by John Banville
Softness of the Lime by Maxine Case
He by John Connolly
Larchfield by Polly Clark
Goblin by Ever Dundas
The Water Beetles by Michael Kaan
The Iron Age by Arja Kajermo
My Beautiful Imperial by Rhiannon Lewis
Soot by Andrew Martin
Story Land by Catherine McKinnon
Amah and the Silk-Winged Pigeons by Jocelyn Nullity
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert
Speakeasy by Alisa Smith
A Reckoning by Linda Spalding
The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux
The Esquimaux by Tom Tivnan
City of Crows by Chris Womersley
The Photographer by Mieke Ziervoge

14 thoughts on “Reading the Walter Scott Prize

  1. whatmeread says:

    I just read about your post on Emerald City. I am supposed to be following your blog, but I don’t remember getting any of your posts on this, so maybe something is being blocked by my system. Anyway, what an interesting list! I have actually read some of these books, but I’ll be investigating some others. This year I reviewed Viper Wine. I have also reviewed half of the books for 2014, two of the books for 2013, and two for 2010. I agree that most of those were really excellent books. I’ll be keeping an eye on this prize.

    • Helen says:

      I have been very impressed with the quality of the books on the Walter Scott Prize shortlists and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed most of the ones you’ve read too. I must continue working through the 2015 list soon, as I’ve still only read one so far. Viper Wine sounds very unusual – I’m looking forward to it!

  2. whatmeread says:

    Helen, would you mind if I steal your idea and put up a list on my site, too, and try to read them all? If you mind, I won’t do it. If you don’t mind, I’ll write an article and cite your page as well. Since I have read nine of the books already, I think it would be fun to pursue trying to read them all. If you don’t like the idea, then I’ll still try to read the books but I won’t make a page for it, etc. I’m always looking for good historical novels. There are a lot of historical novels out there, but not so many really good ones.

      • whatmeread says:

        Cool! I think it would be fun! I just read all your reviews to give me an idea of which books I’d like to start with first. About half of your list overlaps with the ones I’ve already read. I’m interested that you really loved Robert Harris’ novel, because I am fairly sure that I tried to read one of his once and quit reading it. This one does sound more interesting, and it could be I’m mixing him up with someone else. Of the ones you’ve read so far, which were your favorites? I loved Life After Life, both books by Hilary Mantel, Stone’s Fall, The Luminaries, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but I think I would go with Life After Life. What do you think about cross-posting review links? I think that might be interesting. I would go ahead and post links to your reviews on my page if you wanted to do that. Or do you think that’s too much? I already wrote up a post with a link to your Walter Scott page.

        • Helen says:

          I loved the Hilary Mantel books, Stone’s Fall and Life After Life too. I thought the Robert Harris book was great – it’s not the sort of book I usually choose to read and is as much a thriller as historical fiction, but I really enjoyed it. The Sisters Brothers was a fun read and I also liked The Garden of Evening Mists. And yes, I would be happy to cross-post your review links. 🙂

          • whatmeread says:

            I have read a lot about The Sisters Brothers. Maybe I’ll look for that one next. Thanks! I am going to post about this on Monday, so I’ll add links to your reviews. Be sure and let me know when you add another one, in case I miss the post, and I will let you know about mine. You’ll be able to see mine when I post. This should be fun.

  3. adventuresofcoops says:

    What a great idea. Like some of the other posters, I have read quite a lot of these already but never heard of the prize. Will definitely keep an eye out both for these books and for your reviews!

    • Helen says:

      This prize doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention, which is a shame as the shortlists are always of a very high quality. I’m really enjoying working my way through the lists – even though I don’t feel I’ve made a lot of progress yet!

Please leave a comment. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.