Sebastian Barry has won the eighth Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, for his epic American novel Days Without End. Barry’s previous book On Canaan’s Side was a winner in 2012, and he returned to the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland on 17th June to receive his Prize from the Duke of Buccleuch.
Sebastian Barry said on winning the Prize:
“It’s difficult to itemise my simple childish joy at receiving this prize; that the judges did all this work to make a 61 year old man feel 12 again.“
The Judges said:
‘Our decision to award Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End was one of the hardest the Walter Scott Prize has ever had to make. With all seven books on the shortlist having strong supporters on the judging panel who championed their cause in a protracted and passionate debate about the nature and purpose of historical fiction, the very books themselves seemed to fight tooth and nail for the accolade.
‘Eventually, Days Without End took the lead, for the glorious and unusual story; the seamlessly interwoven period research; and above all for the unfaltering power and authenticity of the narrative voice, a voice no reader is likely to forget. We commend all the authors of this year’s shortlist for their wonderful and important books. What a hard choice it was. But we are delighted to declare Days Without End the winner of the eighth Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction – and Sebastian Barry the first writer to win the Prize twice.’
Days Without End won out over stiff competition from six other novels, including Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill, Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday, Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata, Jo Baker’s A Country Road, A Tree, Hannah Kent’s The Good People, and Charlotte Hobson’s The Vanishing Futurist. Sebastian Barry joined his fellow shortlisters Jo Baker, Charlotte Hobson and Francis Spufford at the Borders Book Festival on Saturday 17th June to hear the final result, and came up on stage to receive his £25,000 cheque and a specially-commissioned glass trophy depicting the rolling landscape of Sir Walter Scott’s Border country, from the Prize sponsor the Duke of Buccleuch.
The Duke congratulated all the seven shortlisted authors for their ‘wonderful’ books, and brought all the authors present up on stage, alongside the two young winners of the Young Walter Scott Prize creative writing competition.
You can see a video of the ceremony here: