Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction Short List Announced

The shortlist for the prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been announced for 2017 and seven books are fighting for the £25,000 prize!

ABOUT THE SHORTLISTED BOOKS

Jo Baker A Country Road, A Tree – The Judges said: ‘We loved the quiet, lyrical, beauty of this novel and its skillful recreation of Samuel Beckett’s years in France throughout the Second World War. It’s illuminating about Beckett’s individual heroism and humanity. The descriptions of France under occupation are always surprising and moving as he (and Baker) chart the horror, despair, starvation and uncertainty of those years with a writer’s eye. Central to the narrative is Beckett’s love for Suzanne, the young French woman he eventually married. The strain of five years of war, their escape from Paris, their long walk to Roussillon and their repeated separations takes a heavy toll on their relationship. But through all of this their quiet love survives.’ Sebastian Barry Days Without End The Judges said: ‘Intimate, lyrical, courteous, Barry offers the authentic voice of Thomas McNulty, a nineteenth century Irish-American possessed of a

Sebastian Barry Days Without End – The Judges said: ‘Intimate, lyrical, courteous, Barry offers the authentic voice of Thomas McNulty, a nineteenth century Irish-American possessed of a nineteenth century respect for both language and reader. In this tale of Indian War and American Civil War carnage, the voice is also, miraculously, the voice of love. The voice alone secures Days Without End a place on the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize. And the story of course. Neither comfortable nor pretty, it pulses with courage, loyalty and, amid the horrors, grace. This is a living novel. From its pages, Thomas shakes the reader’s hand and the hand of every ragged soldier on our ragged streets.’

Charlotte Hobson The Vanishing Futurist – The Judges said: ‘Charlotte Hobson’s The Vanishing Futurist fulfils the ultimate requirement of a historical novel: it inhabits a moment in history and in doing so illuminates recurring truths about the past, present and future. The moment in history is the Russian revolution and the avant-garde theories of community, art and science which it spawned. But the charismatic founder of a commune, and the evangelical zeal of its members, are recurring phenomena throughout history, from early Christian times to our own day. The narrator’s voice, disciplined yet passionate, is a perfect vehicle for this fascinating novel, with its fast moving plot and characters who are so real that I found myself leafing through the book in the hope of finding their photographs.’

Hannah Kent The Good People – The Judges said: ‘This is a marvellously physical evocation of rural Ireland, which is deeply personal without ever being mawkish. With a cracking good narrative, Hannah Kent has conjured up an entire world that most of us would never see or know about, and has created three entirely different female characters who resonate long beyond the novel. The hold of the church and of superstition over the people is both totally believable and plausible.’ Francis Spufford Golden Hill The Judges said: ‘Pre-revolutionary New York, and a stranger arrives in town, where he finds a ferment of social jostling, politics and money that invites adventure. A great, unruly city is being born. Francis Spufford creates a world that is hypnotic and believable, brought to life in sparkling prose and pitch-perfect dialogue, and tells a gripping story that’s full of tension and surprise, with characters who live on after the book is closed. His non-fiction writing has been much-admired. This first novel is an astonishing achievement because his novelist’s voice is already enticing, rich and mature. An eighteenth-century treat.’

Graham Swift Mothering Sunday – The Judges said: ‘It is March 30, 1924. Mothering Sunday. The day that servants were allowed to return to their families. Jane Fairchild is a housemaid and orphan with no prospect of a visit home but she has a rendezvous, nevertheless. It is that encounter and its consequences that are described in this short novel by Graham Swift. Jane’s life will never be the same as she begins a journey from servitude to independence. It is a perfect and life-affirming novel.’ Rose Tremain The Gustav Sonata The Judges said: ‘Set at first in Switzerland as the Second World War swirls around its borders, this novel is simply magnificent, by turns cold and bleak, life-affirming and always very beautifully written. The images in The Gustav Sonata filled my eye, its story captured my heart and it made me marvel at Rose Tremain’s remarkable skills.’

Graham Swift Mothering Sunday – The Judges said: ‘It is March 30, 1924. Mothering Sunday. The day that servants were allowed to return to their families. Jane Fairchild is a housemaid and orphan with no prospect of a visit home but she has a rendezvous, nevertheless. It is that encounter and its consequences that are described in this short novel by Graham Swift. Jane’s life will never be the same as she begins a journey from servitude to independence. It is a perfect and life-affirming novel.’ Rose Tremain The Gustav Sonata The Judges said: ‘Set at first in Switzerland as the Second World War swirls around its borders, this novel is simply magnificent, by turns cold and bleak, life-affirming and always very beautifully written. The images in The Gustav Sonata filled my eye, its story captured my heart and it made me marvel at Rose Tremain’s remarkable skills.’

Rose Tremain The Gustav Sonata – The Judges said: ‘Set at first in Switzerland as the Second World War swirls around its borders, this novel is simply magnificent, by turns cold and bleak, life-affirming and always very beautifully written. The images in The Gustav Sonata filled my eye, its story captured my heart and it made me marvel at Rose Tremain’s remarkable skills.’

The Judges commented: “We have a longer shortlist than usual due to the variety of the longlist, and the fresh perspectives and lively debate generated by the introduction of three new judges to the panel. Our shortlist was achieved by the judges’ instinctive reaction to each book. The seven shortlisted novels, a mix of old hands and new voices, offer readers joy in the discovery of unusual subjects and times; appreciation of historical research and insight worn lightly and applied skilfully; and, perhaps most important of all, that visceral connection to the characters which is the prerequisite of every novel, whether historical or not. These seven wonderful books encapsulate moments in history in truly unforgettable ways, making the 2017 Walter Scott prize shortlist one to savour.”

The winner will be announced at the Borders Book Festival on Saturday 17th June.

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