Friday, 04 April 2014 06:54

Walter Scott Prize 2014 Shortlist

The shortlist for the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been announced, after a process the Judges describe as ‘the toughest choice, from the strongest longlist, in the Prize’s five year history.’

The shortlisted books include winners of two other major book awards, and settings as diverse as New Zealand in the gold rush, Texas at the turn of the twentieth century, and the Scottish Borders in late medieval times.

The shortlist is:



HARVEST by Jim Crace

FAIR HELEN by Andrew Greig

AN OFFICER AND A SPY by Robert Harris

THE PROMISE by Ann Weisgarber

The Judges said:

“This has been the toughest choice of shortlist, from the strongest longlist, in the Prize’s five year history.  The books this year have aroused passions and confounded sensibilities.  We have been entertained, traumatised, haunted, exhilarated and transported to new continents, all miraculously within the two covers of a book.

In the end, we have come down to this magical set of stories, which contain powerful characters and vivid evocations of time and place.  From hard lives lived out in New Zealand and Texas, to feuding families and dangerous outsiders in Britain’s rural margins, to the political fall-out of war and its effects on everyday people, and the random chances that affect everyone’s lives, the stories told in this shortlist exemplify even more acutely the power that writing about the past can wield. 

In this golden year of historical fiction, we have a shortlist that Sir Walter Scott would surely have appreciated – and for which readers and critics alike have already shown their appreciation.  We hope to bring these extraordinary novels even more attention, and reward their audacity and inventiveness by shortlisting them for this Prize.”

The Walter Scott Prize, founded in 2009 by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and awarded at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival in June, is the largest annual fiction prize to be judged outside London, and honours the legacy and achievements of Sir Walter Scott, founder of the historical novel.  The winner receives £25,000, and the winner and all shortlisted authors have the chance to stay at the famous writer’s retreat on the remote Scottish island of Jura, courtesy of sponsors Jura Single Malt Whisky. 

The judging panel for the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction comprises Kirsty Wark, Louise Richardson, Jonathan Tweedie, Elizabeth Laird, Elizabeth Buccleuch, and chair Alistair Moffat.  The judges’ criteria include originality and innovation, quality of writing, a strong narrative, and the ability of a book to shed light on the present as well as the past.   Books can be by writers from the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth as long as they are writing in English and the book is first or simultaneously published in the UK.

Shortlisted authors are invited to attend the award ceremony and announcement on Friday 13th June 2014, which is a public event as part of the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival in Melrose, near Scott’s home Abbotsford. 


LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?  Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again.   The book won the Costa Novel Award, twenty years after Kate Atkinson won the same prize for her debut novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum .

THE LUMINARIES by Eleanor Catton

Winner of the Man Booker Fiction Prize, The Luminaries is Eleanor Catton’s second novel and is set in the New Zealand gold rush of the nineteenth century.  At 28, Eleanor Catton is the youngest author to have won the Man Booker Prize.  She lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

HARVEST by Jim Crace

Fear and loathing stalk a green unpleasant land in Jim Crace’s  last novel, which tells the  story of a remote English village as economic progress disrupts pastoral idyll following the Enclosure Act.  Jim Crace lives in Birmingham.

FAIR HELEN by Andrew Greig

Set in the 1590s in the Borderland of Scotland and England, Fair Helen tells the story behind a Border Ballad and legend often called ‘the Scottish Romeo and Juliet’.  Andrew Greig lives in Scotland.

AN OFFICER AND A SPY by Robert Harris

A brilliant retelling of a scandal that became the biggest miscarriage of justice in history, the Drefus Affair, which took place in France in the late 1890s.  Robert Harris lives in Berkshire and is the author of international bestsellers such as Enigma and Fatherland.

THE PROMISE by Ann Weisgarber

The Promise takes place in Galveston, Texas, during the time of the historic 1900 Storm that killed thousands.  It is Ann Weisgarber’s second novel, after The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, which was nominated for the 2009 Orange Prize.  Ann Weisgarber lives in Texas.

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