Winner of the 2017 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

Following the revelation of the shortlist for this year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in March, the winner was announced at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose on Saturday. As some of you will know, I am currently attempting to work my way through all of the shortlisted titles since 2010, so I have a particular interest in following this particular prize.

The seven titles on the 2017 shortlist were:

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

And the winner is…

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry!

This is the second time Sebastian Barry has won this prize (On Canaan’s Side in 2012 was the first). I haven’t yet managed to read all of the titles on this year’s shortlist, but Days Without End is one of the four that I have read and although it wasn’t my personal favourite, I did predict that it would probably win. I think it has a lot of the elements judges look for in a prize winner and, like all of Barry’s novels, it is beautifully written. In the words of the judging panel, “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.”

Have you read Days Without End? What did you think of it?

2017 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist

Following last month’s revelation of the 2017 longlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, the shortlist has been announced today. As you probably know by now, I am currently working my way through all of the shortlisted titles for this prize since it began in 2010 (you can see my progress here). There are seven books on this year’s list and for once I’m off to a good start as I’ve already read three of them!

Here are the seven:

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson

The Good People by Hannah Kent

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

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Of the three books that I’ve read, I loved Golden Hill and The Good People, and although I wasn’t a fan of Days Without End, Sebastian Barry’s writing is beautiful and I would say it has a good chance of winning. Of the four that I haven’t read, I already have a copy of The Gustav Sonata which I’m hoping to read soon, but I don’t know anything about the others. Have you read any of them? What do you think of this year’s shortlist?

The winner will be announced in June!

The Walter Scott Prize longlist 2017

I’ve mentioned before that I am attempting to read all of the books shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction since the prize began in 2010. I am always looking for quality historical fiction and I have found the books nominated for this particular prize to be of a consistently high standard. You can see the progress I’ve made with this project here – Kay of What Me Read has also joined in and if anyone else wants to take part you’re very welcome!

The longlist for this year’s prize has just been announced and includes lots of intriguing titles. I’m not planning on trying to read the entire longlist – I’m waiting until the shortlist is announced – but I might still dip into this list from time to time.

Here are the thirteen books on the 2017 longlist.  As you can see, I’ve only read one so far.

days-without-endA Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker
The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Crane Pond by Richard Francis
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

It doesn’t surprise me that Days Without End is on the list and it wouldn’t surprise me if it ends up as the winner. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other Sebastian Barry books I’ve read, but it’s the sort of book that usually does very well as far as prizes are concerned. I’m delighted to see The Good People on the list as I read it recently and loved it (review coming soon) and also Golden Hill, which I just started reading yesterday.

Of the rest, I was already interested in reading The Gustav Sonata and The Essex Serpent, but I know little or nothing about most of the others.

Have you read any of the books on this year’s longlist? Which ones do you think deserve to be on the shortlist?

For the first time this year, the Walter Scott Prize Academy has also put together an additional list of twenty recommended novels. I won’t post the complete list here (you can see it on the Walter Scott Prize website) but I’m pleased to see mentions of Orphans of the Carnival and The Ashes of London, as well as several other novels I’ve read or am interested in. Lots of great ideas for future reading there!

My favourite books of 2016

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! I’m back, as promised, with my list of favourite books of the year. This is a slightly shorter list than in recent years, though I’m not sure whether that means I haven’t read as many outstanding books this year or just that I’ve become more discerning and better at narrowing the choices down. Anyway, here are nine of the best, plus a few more which didn’t quite make it onto my final list…

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magpie-murders

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

From my review: “This is one of the most compelling mystery novels I’ve read for a long time. Both the fictional story and the ‘real life’ one had me completely gripped, trying to figure out which clues were important and which were designed to mislead us, who had a valid alibi and who didn’t…needless to say, I failed to solve either of the mysteries and fell into most of the traps that had been set for the reader.”

Exposure

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

From my review: “The first thing I need to say is that although Exposure certainly is a Cold War spy novel of sorts, it’s also a compelling story of love and betrayal, secrets and lies, as seen through the eyes of a wonderful cast of strong and complex characters.”

Kristin Lavransdatter

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

From my review: “I have always loved long books, the sort you can bury yourself in for weeks, becoming immersed in a fully-formed fictional world and getting to know characters who, by the time you reach the final page, feel almost like personal friends. Kristin Lavransdatter, though, is more than just a ‘long’ book – it’s a very long book!”

Prince of Foxes

Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger

From my review: “Not being an expert on the Renaissance (although I always enjoy reading about it and am gradually building up my knowledge) I found that I was learning a lot from Prince of Foxes as well as being entertained by it. It really is a great book!”

Dictator

Dictator by Robert Harris

From my review: “Until recently, I didn’t have much interest in Ancient Rome and would never have thought that I could find reading about the intricacies of Roman politics so exciting and fascinating. How wrong I was! In fact, the only negative thing I can say about this trilogy is that it has now come to an end.”

Lorna Doone

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore

From my review: “A clan of murderous outlaws, a dashing highwayman, stolen jewels, family feuds, political intrigue, lots of beautiful scenery and a tender love story: R.D. Blackmore’s 1869 classic, Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor, has all of these things and more.”

The White Witch

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge

From my review: “…but what I loved most about this book were the details of daily village life in the seventeenth century, the beautiful descriptions of the English countryside, and the undercurrents of magic, mystery and mythology which run throughout the story.”

Troy Chimneys

Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy

From my review: “I was so impressed by the writing and by Margaret Kennedy’s grasp of the period (or periods, as there are really two) in which the story takes place. The Victorian letters felt authentic and Miles Lufton’s own narrative style felt so much like the voice of a Regency gentleman that I could easily forget I was reading a book written in the 1950s and by a woman.”

the-woodlanders

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

From my review: “The Woodlanders was apparently one of Hardy’s own favourites; he is quoted as having said, ‘On taking up The Woodlanders and reading it after many years, I like it as a story best of all’. Now that I’ve read more than half of his novels, I have to say that I think I agree with him.”

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And these books deserve a special mention too:

The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter
The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin
Flush by Virginia Woolf
Revelation by CJ Sansom
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Revelations of Carey Ravine by Debra Daley

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Have you read any of these books? Which books have you enjoyed most in 2016?

Looking back at the Women’s Classic Literature Event

Womens Classic Literature Event

During the last three months of 2015 and throughout 2016, I have been taking part in the Women’s Classic Literature Event hosted by the Classics Club. The idea was simply to read classics written by women, a classic being defined as any type of work (novels, essays, biographies etc) which was preferably published before 1960.

Here are the books I’ve read for this event which were already on my Classics Club list:

My Ántonia by Willa Cather
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1966, but I think most people would agree that it’s a classic!

There are also two more books by Woolf which I read for Ali’s #Woolfalong:

Flush by Virginia Woolf
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

I can’t say that I loved all of these books, but I did find them all interesting, worthwhile reads. I particularly enjoyed Kristin Lavransdatter, Wives and Daughters, Flush and my re-read of Jane Eyre.

However, I have also read other books by women which may or may not be considered classics in the same way as the books above. Because they fit the Classics Club’s definition of a classic for this event, I’m going to mention some of them here.

Non-Combatants and Others

* I’ve read books by authors who are new to me – Non-Combatants and Others by Rose Macaulay, The Nutmeg Tree and Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp and Mauprat by George Sand – and by authors I’ve read before – Amberwell by D.E. Stevenson, Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy and Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby.

regency-buck-heyer

* I’ve read some historical fiction published before 1960: The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge, The Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff and several novels by Marjorie Bowen, Dora Greenwell McChesney and Georgette Heyer.

A Shilling for Candles

* I’ve read some classic crime, including A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey, Death in Berlin by MM Kaye and two Agatha Christies (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and The Labours of Hercules).

a-chelsea-concerto

* And one non-fiction book – A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell.

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So, that sums up my reading over the year-and-three-months of this event! Have you been participating too? What are the best classics written by women that you’ve read recently?

Classics Spin #14: The result

The result of the latest Classics Spin has been revealed today – and I’m very happy with the book I’ll be reading!

The idea of the Spin was to list twenty books from my Classics Club list, number them 1 to 20, and the number announced today (Monday) represents the book I have to read before 1st December 2016. The number that has been selected is…

1

And this means the book I need to read is…

wuthering-heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

This will be a re-read of one of my favourite books. It seems that Wuthering Heights is a book people either love or hate; I’ve always loved it and am looking forward to revisiting it for the Classics Club. It’s been a while since I last read it, so I hope I’ll still enjoy it as much as I used to!

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Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

Classics Spin #14: My list

The Classics Club

I’ve been wondering when there would be another Classics Club Spin – it seems a long time since the last one – so I was pleased to see that Spin #14 has just been announced!

Here are the rules, if you need a reminder:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Monday the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 1st December 2016

And here is my list:

As I only have 15 books left to read for the Classics Club, I’ve had to list some of them twice. I haven’t included East of Eden (because I’ve already committed to reading that one this autumn) or my re-read of The Count of Monte Cristo (because it’s one of my favourite books and I thought it would be nice to save it until last). Of the others, I really don’t mind which one is chosen for me!

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1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (re-read)
2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
3. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (re-read)
5. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
6. Howards End by E.M. Forster
7. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
8. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
9. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
10. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
11. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
12. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
13. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
14. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
15. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
16. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
17. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
18. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (re-read)
19. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
20. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

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Which numbers do you think I should be hoping for? Are you taking part in the Spin this time?