Walter Scott Prize announces 2020 shortlist

by Rebecca Raeburn
Communications, Edinburgh
City of Literature Trust

31 March 2020

The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has announced this year's shortlist.

The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction was founded in 2009, and is awarded at the Borders Book Festival in June every year. The winner receives £25,000, and shortlisted authors each receive £1,500.

The Prize honours the work of Edinburgh author, Sir Walter Scott, who is widely regarded as having pioneered the historical fiction genre.

The six books making the shortlist this year are:

- The Narrow Land by Christine Dwyer Hickey (Atlantic)

- The Parisian by Isabella Hammad (Jonathan Cape)

- To Calais, In Ordinary Time by James Meek (Canongate)

- Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker)

- The Redeemed by Tim Pears (Bloomsbury)

- A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland (Penguin South Africa)

The judges of the 2020 Prize are Katie Grant (chair), Elizabeth Buccleuch, James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, James Naughtie and Kirsty Wark.

The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction is open to books published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. Reflecting the subtitle ‘Sixty Years Since’ of Scott’s most famous work Waverley, the majority of the storyline must have taken place at least 60 years ago.

You can find out more about the books on this year's shortlist over on the Walter Scott Prize website.

The judges said:

“‘In times of crisis, historical fiction is both reassurance (nothing is completely new) – and escape, so it’s with almost medicinal pleasure that we unveil the eleventh Walter Scott Prize shortlist which offers, we hope, a measure of both. Set aside your anxieties and smell greasepaint with Bram Stoker. Share Leo Sercombe’s incredulity as the German fleet scuttles at Scapa Flow. Lament, for Stephen Mzamane, the injustices in the nineteenth century Anglican church.

With Thomas, Will and the Lady Bernadine, delight in a fourteenth century linguistic tour-de-force. Linger inside the minds of the artist Edward Hopper and his wife. And savour a glorious twentieth century epic of the Middle East written with such sparkling immediacy you’re more witness than reader. Six books from writers as varied as they are talented. Six books to absorb. Six books to fortify. Enjoy them all!’”