Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2022

The thirteenth longlist for the 2022 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction was announced today and the shortlist will be announced in April.  The winner will be announced and awarded at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland, in June 2022.

The Walter Scott Prize celebrates quality of writing in the English language, and is open to novels published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. Reflecting the subtitle ‘Tis Sixty Years Since’ of Scott’s famous work Waverley, the majority of the storyline must have taken place at least 60 years ago.

As historical fiction is a favourite genre of mine I always look out for this award. These are the books on this year’s longlist:

I have started to read Mrs England and would also like to read The Magician, and maybe Rose Nicolson.

BLUE POSTCARDS Douglas Bruton – An experimental novella written in 500 postcard-sized paragraphs, set in post-WW2 Paris, interweaving three narrative strands and timelines, including the point of view of renowned French artist Yves Klein, whose obsession with the colour blue runs like silk thread motif throughout.  A meditation on the way memory reshapes itself over time and on the nature of truth and lies.

SNOW COUNTRY Sebastian Faulks – Set in Vienna, first during WW1, and then under the looming shadow of the rise of Fascism as WW2 approaches, the novel follows the lives of a small group of individuals trying to make their way in the new, terrifying world, whilst still mourning the loss of the old.  An epic novel about youth, hope, suffering and redemption.

ROSE NICOLSON Andrew Greig – Set in the late sixteenth century, during the troubled and violent years of James VI, the novel follows William Fowler as he embarks on his student life in St Andrews, and as he first encounters Rose, the woman who will prove to be the love and lodestar of his life.

MRS ENGLAND Stacey Halls – 1904, and Norland trainee nanny Ruby May is posted to a remote Yorkshire mansion, home of mill-owner Charles England and his wife, Lilian, to care for their four children.  But Lilian seems detached and lonely, and in the background remains the mystery of Ruby May’s own impoverished family in Birmingham, to whom she sends most of her wages each month.

THE BALLAD OF LORD EDWARD AND CITIZEN SMALL Neil Jordan – Follows the life of freed American slave Tony Small, who arrived in Ireland in the 1780s, and his relationship with Lord Edward FitzGerald, the parliamentarian aristocrat turned guerrilla republican, whose life Small had saved on the battlefields of the American War of Independence, and who rewards Small with his emancipation papers and lifelong employment.  But what will become of Small once his benefactor is no longer by his side?

THE SUNKEN ROAD Ciaràn McMenamin – Set during WW1 and the Irish Civil War, turning on two pivotal stories in Ireland’s history — the foundation of the State, and the Protestant memory of WW1 – the novel follows the story of a brutal IRA man, who now needs the help of his childhood sweetheart, and sister of his dead friend, to cross the border to safety.

THE FORTUNE MEN Nadifa Mohamed (Viking) – When a local shopkeeper in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay is murdered, Mahmood Mattan learns that 1952 Britain is not necessarily the haven of justice he thought it was, and must fight to clear his name, against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of a state where innocence is, sometimes, simply not enough.

NEWS OF THE DEAD James Robertson– Set in the fictitious Glen Conach in north-east Scotland, the stories of three different eras unfurl, linked by place and an ancient manuscript, but separated by centuries.  The narratives weave together to explore the space between the stories people tell of themselves — what is forgotten and what is invented — and the stories through which they may, or may not, be remembered.

CHINA ROOM Sunjeev Sahota – Entwines the stories of a young bride trying to discover the identity of her new husband in 1929 rural Pujab, and a young man battling heroin addiction in turn-of-the-twenty-first-century northern England, who takes enforced flight from Britain to spend a summer in Pujab with an uncle, armed only with whisky and a reading list that reflects his inner turmoil and preoccupations.

FORTUNE Amanda Smyth – Catches 1920s Trinidad at a moment of historical change, as the oil-rush begins and Eddie Wade happens upon a would-be investor who seems to have the power to make true Eddie’s dreams of sinking his own well.  But the partnership also brings the beautiful Ada, into the picture, and into Eddie’s life forever.  A thrilling Shakespearean tragedy of a story, about love, lust, ambition, destiny, and human frailty.

LEARWIFE JR Thorp – The story of the most famous woman ever written out of history, Shakespeare’s dead King Lear’s Queen, exiled to a nunnery, but now with a chance to tell her story, and to seek answers, despite her grief and rage, whilst grappling with her past and the terrible choice she must make and upon with her destiny rests.

THE MAGICIAN Colm Tóibín  – Through the life of Thomas Mann, Tóibín tells the awe-inspiring story of the twentieth century, in a novel about love, intimacy, family, exile, war and creativity, spanning three generations, and managing to secure itself as both epic and intimate in equal measure.

STILL LIFE Sarah Winman – A historical sweep of a novel, beginning in 1944 in the ruins of a wine cellar in Tuscany, as a young British soldier and a sixty-something art historian meet, bombs falling around them.  The connection they make will shape the young man’s life over the coming decades, as the novel moves between the hills of Tuscany, the grand piazzas of Florence and the East End of London, exploring themes of love, family, beauty and destiny.

Have you read any of these? Which one/s tempt you?

6 thoughts on “Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2022

  1. This is also one of my favourite prizes, but I have never got on with Sebastian Faulks and I’m hit and miss with Sarah Winman. The Magician was a novel that I was a little ambivalent about at the time, but it’s one I remember and think about still, which is a good sign.

    I have The China Room on my TBR and I would be keen to try Learwife, Blue Postcards, The Ballad of… and Rose Nicolson.


  2. The one on my radar that I’ve heard mentioned the most is Still Life, so I plan to get a copy of that at some stage and read it. I must look up some of the others as I didn’t really realise how much of my reading turns out to be historical too.


  3. I loved Snow Country, and Rose Nicolson is wonderful – it may well turn out to be my Book of 2022! The only other one I’ve tried is Learwife but I’m afraid I didn’t get on with her writing style. Just a personal preference thing though, so don’t be put off by that. I haven’t even heard of most of the rest – shame how so many books slip under the radar.


  4. I have only read two of these – Rose Nicolson, which I loved, and Still Life, which I also quite enjoyed. Mrs England is on my TBR and of the others, I would like to read Snow Country and The Fortune Men at least. It will be interesting to see which ones end up on the shortlist.


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