Walter Scott historical fiction prize longlist announced

Statue of Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, alongside the Balmoral Clock, on Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Statue of Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, alongside the Balmoral Clock, on Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Contenders for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction have been announced, coinciding with celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the author’s birth.

The longlist has 11 books in contention for the £25,000 and was revealed on Tuesday.

This year’s longlist includes four books from Australia, two of which are not yet published in the UK.

  • 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)

Settings range from Tudor, Victorian and Edwardian England to Borneo, Tasmania, Indonesia, Japan, the US, Russia and East Africa.

The judges said: “Historical fiction has not obeyed any lockdown.

“Instead, in this year’s new publishing, there has been an explosion of lively ideas and fresh ways of storytelling, with traditional notions of historical fiction stretched and tested.

“The Walter Scott Prize 2021 longlist authors, some well-established, some newer voices, challenge, charm, alarm, comfort, and electrify.

“Each book in its own way fulfils the WSP criteria of ambition, originality and innovation, with fine writing always the priority.”

“Readers of this year’s longlist will be spirited into jungles, political intrigues and even the pages of dictionaries; smell a most extraordinary sea; hear music never written; and touch the fourth dimension.

“When escape has never been more appealing, the 2021 Walter Scott Prize longlist authors will gather you up and sweep you away.”

The 2021 prize was open to books published in the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth during 2020.

Those in the running include Hinton, by Mark Blacklock, The Tolstoy Estate, by Steven Conte, as well as The Mirror And The Light, by Hilary Mantel.

First awarded in 2010, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction honours the Scottish author and will join the celebrations for the 250th anniversary of his birth.

The prize-judging panel comprises Katie Grant, chairwoman, Elizabeth Buccleuch, James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, James Naughtie and Kirsty Wark.

The winner receives £25,000, and each shortlisted author receives £1,500, making the Walter Scott Prize among the richest fiction prizes in the UK.

Previous winners include Mantel, Andrea Levy, Sebastian Barry, Tan Twan Eng, Robert Harris, John Spurling, Simon Mawer, Benjamin Myers, Robin Robertson and Christine Dwyer Hickey.

A shortlist, usually of six books, will be announced at the end of April, and a winner announced in mid-June.

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