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.


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.


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


Simon Mawer – Tightrope * [What Me Read review]
William Boyd – Sweet Caress [What Me Read review]
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 [What Me Read review]
Lucy Treloar – Salt Creek [My review] [What Me Read review]


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 [What Me Read review]
Hannah Kent – The Good People [My review] [What Me Read review]
Francis Spufford – Golden Hill [My review] [What Me Read review]
Graham Swift – Mothering Sunday [My review]
Rose Tremain – The Gustav Sonata [My review] [What Me Read review]


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


Robin Robertson – The Long Take * [What Me Read review]
Peter Carey – A Long Way From Home [What Me Read review]
Cressida Connolly – After The Party [My review]
Samantha Harvey – The Western Wind [My review]
Andrew Miller – Now We Shall Be Entirely Free [My review]
Michael Ondaatje – Warlight


Christine Dwyer Hickey – The Narrow Land * [What Me Read review]
Isabella Hammad – The Parisian [What Me Read review]
James Meek – To Calais, in Ordinary Time [My review] [What Me Read review]
Joseph O’Connor – Shadowplay [My review] [What Me Read review]
Tim Pears – The Redeemed [What Me Read review]
Marguerite Poland – A Sin of Omission [What Me Read review]


Hilary Mantel – The Mirror and the Light *
Steven Conte – The Tolstoy Estate
Kate Grenville – A Room Made of Leaves
Maggie O’Farrell – Hamnet [My review]
Pip Williams – The Dictionary of Lost Words


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!


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


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


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


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


Little by Edward Carey
A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey
After The Party by Cressida Connolly
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey
Dark Water by Elizabeth Lowry
Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
The Wanderers by Tim Pears
The Long Take by Robin Robertson
All The Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy
Tombland by CJ Sansom


The Narrow Land by Christine Dwyer Hickey
The Parisian by Isabella Hammad
How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee
To Calais, in Ordinary Time by James Meek
The Offing by Benjamin Myers
The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan
Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor
The Redeemed by Tim Pears
A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
This is Happiness by Niall Williams
The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood


Hinton by Mark Blacklock
The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte
The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd
A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville
Mr Beethoven by Paul Griffiths
Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah
A Treacherous Country by K L Kruimink
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams


Walter Scott Prize Academy Recommends:


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


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


Love Is Blind by William Boyd
The Prince Of Mirrors by Alan Robert Clark
The Making Of Martin Sparrow by Peter Cochrane
So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres
All Among The Barley by Melissa Harrison
The Hundred Wells Of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah
Only Killers And Thieves by Paul Howarth
Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly
The Black Earth by Philip Kazan
The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson
Mad Blood Stirring by Simon Mayo
As The Women Lay Dreaming by Donald S Murray
Kintu by Jennifer Nansubaga Makumbi
The Angel’s Mark by S J Perry
A View Of The Empire At Sunset by Caryl Phillips
Painter To The King by Amy Sackville
A Treachery Of Spies by Manda Scott
The Tristan Chord by Glenn Skwerer
Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson
The Madonna Of The Mountains by Elise Valmorbida

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!

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