Reading the Walter Scott Prize

As an avid reader of historical fiction, I am constantly searching for the best the genre has to offer. Having seen other bloggers working through the longlists and shortlists for the Booker Prize or Women’s Prize for Fiction, I thought it might be interesting to do something similar with the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.

This is what the prize is all about:

Sponsored by Sir Walter Scott’s distant kinsmen the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, the Prize celebrates quality, innovation and longevity of writing in the English language, and is open to books first 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.


As I read each book I’ll link below to my review. The books marked with an asterisk are the winning books in each year.

Kay of What Me Read is joining me in reading the Walter Scott Prize nominees and I have also linked to her reviews where available.


Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Adam Thorpe – Hodd
Robert Harris – Lustrum [My review] [What Me Read review]
Sarah Dunant – Sacred Hearts [What Me Read review]
Iain Pears – Stone’s Fall [My review] [What Me Read review]
Simon Mawer – The Glass Room [What Me Read review]
Adam Foulds – The Quickening Maze [What Me Read review]


Andrea Levy – The Long Song * [My review]
Tom McCarthy – C [What Me Read review]
David Mitchell – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet [What Me Read review]
Joseph O’Connor – Ghost Light [My review] [What Me Read review]
C. J. Sansom – Heartstone [My review] [What Me Read review]
Andrew Williams – To Kill A Tsar


Sebastian Barry – On Canaan’s Side * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Patrick deWitt – The Sisters Brothers [My review] [What Me Read review]
Esi Edugyan – Half-Blood Blues [What Me Read review]
Alan Hollinghurst – The Stranger’s Child [What Me Read review]
Andrew Miller – Pure [My review] [What Me Read review]
Barry Unsworth – The Quality of Mercy [What Me Read review]


Tan Twan Eng – The Garden of Evening Mists * [My review]
Pat Barker – Toby’s Room
Thomas Keneally – The Daughters of Mars [My review] [What Me Read review]
Hilary Mantel – Bring Up the Bodies [My review] [What Me Read review]
Anthony Quinn – The Streets [My review]
Rose Tremain – Merivel: A Man of His Time [My review] [What Me Read review]


Robert Harris – An Officer and a Spy * [My review] [What Me Read review]
Kate Atkinson – Life After Life [My review] [What Me Read review]
Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries [My review] [What Me Read review]
Jim Crace – Harvest [My review] [What Me Read review]
Andrew Greig – Fair Helen [My review] [What Me Read review]
Ann Weisgarber – The Promise [What Me Read review]


John Spurling – The Ten Thousand Things * [What Me Read review]
Martin Amis – The Zone of Interest
Helen Dunmore – The Lie [My review] [What Me Read review]
Hermione Eyre – Viper Wine [What Me Read review]
Adam Foulds – In the Wolf’s Mouth
Damon Galgut – Arctic Summer [My review] [What Me Read review]
Kamila Shamsie – A God in Every Stone [My review] [What Me Read review]


Simon Mawer – Tightrope *
William Boyd – Sweet Caress
Patrick Gale – A Place Called Winter [My review] [What Me Read review]
Gavin McCrea – Mrs Engels [My review]
Allan Massie – End Games in Bordeaux
Lucy Treloar – Salt Creek


Sebastian Barry – Days Without End * [My review]
Jo Baker – A Country Road, A Tree
Charlotte Hobson – The Vanishing Futurist
Hannah Kent – The Good People [My review]
Francis Spufford – Golden Hill [My review]
Graham Swift – Mothering Sunday
Rose Tremain – The Gustav Sonata [My review] [What Me Read review]


14 thoughts on “Reading the Walter Scott Prize

  1. whatmeread says:

    I just read about your post on Emerald City. I am supposed to be following your blog, but I don’t remember getting any of your posts on this, so maybe something is being blocked by my system. Anyway, what an interesting list! I have actually read some of these books, but I’ll be investigating some others. This year I reviewed Viper Wine. I have also reviewed half of the books for 2014, two of the books for 2013, and two for 2010. I agree that most of those were really excellent books. I’ll be keeping an eye on this prize.

    • Helen says:

      I have been very impressed with the quality of the books on the Walter Scott Prize shortlists and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed most of the ones you’ve read too. I must continue working through the 2015 list soon, as I’ve still only read one so far. Viper Wine sounds very unusual – I’m looking forward to it!

  2. whatmeread says:

    Helen, would you mind if I steal your idea and put up a list on my site, too, and try to read them all? If you mind, I won’t do it. If you don’t mind, I’ll write an article and cite your page as well. Since I have read nine of the books already, I think it would be fun to pursue trying to read them all. If you don’t like the idea, then I’ll still try to read the books but I won’t make a page for it, etc. I’m always looking for good historical novels. There are a lot of historical novels out there, but not so many really good ones.

      • whatmeread says:

        Cool! I think it would be fun! I just read all your reviews to give me an idea of which books I’d like to start with first. About half of your list overlaps with the ones I’ve already read. I’m interested that you really loved Robert Harris’ novel, because I am fairly sure that I tried to read one of his once and quit reading it. This one does sound more interesting, and it could be I’m mixing him up with someone else. Of the ones you’ve read so far, which were your favorites? I loved Life After Life, both books by Hilary Mantel, Stone’s Fall, The Luminaries, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but I think I would go with Life After Life. What do you think about cross-posting review links? I think that might be interesting. I would go ahead and post links to your reviews on my page if you wanted to do that. Or do you think that’s too much? I already wrote up a post with a link to your Walter Scott page.

        • Helen says:

          I loved the Hilary Mantel books, Stone’s Fall and Life After Life too. I thought the Robert Harris book was great – it’s not the sort of book I usually choose to read and is as much a thriller as historical fiction, but I really enjoyed it. The Sisters Brothers was a fun read and I also liked The Garden of Evening Mists. And yes, I would be happy to cross-post your review links. 🙂

          • whatmeread says:

            I have read a lot about The Sisters Brothers. Maybe I’ll look for that one next. Thanks! I am going to post about this on Monday, so I’ll add links to your reviews. Be sure and let me know when you add another one, in case I miss the post, and I will let you know about mine. You’ll be able to see mine when I post. This should be fun.

  3. adventuresofcoops says:

    What a great idea. Like some of the other posters, I have read quite a lot of these already but never heard of the prize. Will definitely keep an eye out both for these books and for your reviews!

    • Helen says:

      This prize doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention, which is a shame as the shortlists are always of a very high quality. I’m really enjoying working my way through the lists – even though I don’t feel I’ve made a lot of progress yet!

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