The shortlist for the 2015 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been announced.
Honouring the achievements of Sir Walter Scott, the founding father of the historical novel, the Prize rewards writing of exceptional quality with a setting of ‘Sixty Years Since’, echoing the subtitle of Scott’s most famous work, Waverley.
The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis
“Well-connected Thomsen looks like a quintessential Aryan, yet seduction, not terror, is his calling. But surely it’s too risky, even for him, to woo Hannah, the statuesque wife of the repugnant concentration camp commandant with the ridiculous last name of Doll. Doll is slowly and inexorably going to pieces trying to manage the logistical nightmare of disposing of thousands of corpses. Szmul, a Jew, has been kept alive to work on this gruesome assembly line, a hell he endures by bearing witness and, occasionally, saving lives. These three men take turns narrating Amis’ slyly sinister comedy of manners and romantic intrigue, a wily collision of content and form that neatly exposes the malignant madness at loose in the Third Reich.” Booklist
The Lie by Helen Dunmore
“Cornwall, 1920. Daniel Branwell has survived the First World War and returned to the small fishing town where he was born. Behind him lie the trenches and the most intense relationship of his life. As he works on the land, struggling to make a living in the aftermath of war, he is drawn deeper and deeper into the traumas of the past and memories of his dearest friend and his first love. Above all, as the drama unfolds, Daniel is haunted by the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie.Set in France during the First World War and in post-war Cornwall, this is a deeply moving and mesmerizing story of the “men who marched away”. publisher
Viper Wine by Hermoine Eyre
“Venetia Stanley was the great beauty of her day, so dazzling she inspired Ben Jonson to poetry and Van Dyck to painting. But now she is married, the adoration to which she has become accustomed has curdled to scrutiny, and she fears her powers are waning. Her devoted husband, Sir Kenelm Digby—explorer, diplomat, philosopher, alchemist— refuses to prepare a beauty tonic for her, insisting on her continued perfection. Venetia, growing desperate, secretly engages an apothecary to sell her “viper wine”—a strange potion said to bolster the blood and invigorate the skin. The results are instant, glorious, and addictive, and soon the ladies of the court of Charles I are looking unnaturally youthful. But there is a terrible price to be paid, as science clashes with magic, puritans rebel against the decadent monarchy, and England slides into civil war.” publisher
In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds
“Will Walker, an English Field Security Officer, attempts mastery of the great game of intelligence and intervention. Ray Marfione, an Italian-American infantryman, experiences the thought-shattering trauma of battle and slowly, in hiding, with the aid of a Sicilian Princess, attempts the long return to life. Cirò Albanese is a Mafioso who has enjoyed a long, productive exile in New York during the years of Italian Fascism. He returns to reclaim his old life, including the wife who had thought him killed long ago. With friends released from prison and the unwitting aid of the Allies, he works to re-establish the Mafia’s hold on Sicily.” publisher
Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut
“In 1912, the SS Birmingham approaches India. On board is Morgan Forster, novelist and man of letters, who is embarking on a journey of discovery. As Morgan stands on deck, the promise of a strange new future begins to take shape before his eyes. The seeds of a story start to gather at the corner of his mind: a sense of impending menace, lust in close confines, under a hot, empty sky. It will be another twelve years, and a second, and much longer time spent in India, before A Passage to India, E.M. Forster’s most beloved work of literature, is completed. During these years, Morgan will come to a recognition of his homosexuality and of the infinite subtleties and complexities of human nature. Arctic Summer is an intimate portrait of the man who became one of Britain’s finest novelists, his struggle to find a way of living and being, and a stunningly vivid evocation of the mysterious alchemy of the creative process.” publisher
A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie
“In the summer of 1914 a young Englishwoman, Vivian Rose Spencer, finds herself fulfilling a dream by joining an archeological dig in Turkey. Working alongside Germans and Turks, she falls in love with archaeologist, Tahsin Bey, and joins him in his quest to find an ancient silver circlet. The outbreak of war in Europe brings her idyllic summer to a sudden end, and her friends become her nation’s enemies. The following spring, in the battlefields of Europe, Qayyum Gul, a Lance Corporal from Peshawar fighting for the British, loses an eye, and is sent to recover in a Royal Pavilion in England, where he slowly begins to doubt his loyalties to the King. Returning home, Qayyum shares a train carriage with Vivian Rose whose search for the circlet has led her to Peshawar in the heart of the British Raj.” publisher
The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling
“In the turbulent final years of the Yuan Dynasty, Wang Meng is a low-level bureaucrat, employed by the government of Mongol conquerors established by the Kublai Khan. Though he wonders about his own complicity with this regime—the Mongols, after all, are invaders—he prefers not to dwell on his official duties, choosing instead to live the life of the mind. Wang is an extraordinarily gifted artist. His paintings are at once delicate and confident; in them, one can see the wind blowing through the trees, the water rushing through rocky valleys, the infinite expanse of China’s natural beauty.
But this is not a time for sitting still, and as The Ten Thousand Things unfolds, we follow Wang as he travels through an empire in turmoil. In his wanderings, he encounters, among many memorable characters, other master painters of the period, including the austere eccentric Ni Zan, a fierce female warrior known as the White Tigress who will recruit him as a military strategist, and an ugly young Buddhist monk who rises from beggary to extraordinary heights.” publisher