Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain and The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, both published by Chatto & Windus, are among titles longlisted for this year's £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
The Penguin imprint is listed alongside titles from both the big five and independent publishers.
The longlist this year includes four books from Australia, two of which are not yet published in the UK. Settings range from Tudor, Victorian and Edwardian England to Borneo, Tasmania, Indonesia, Japan, the US, Russia and East Africa. The 2021 prize was open to books published in the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth during 2020.
The 11 books in contention for the prize are: Hinton by Mark Blacklock (Granta), The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte (HarperCollins Australia), The Year Without the Summer Guinevere Glasfurd (Two Roads), A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville (Canongate UK, Text Publishing Australia), Mr Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press), Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Bloomsbury), A Treacherous Country by K L Kruimink (Allen & Unwin Australia), The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate), Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline), Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus) and The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (Affirm Press Australia, Chatto & Windus UK).
The Prize judging panel comprises Katie Grant (chair), Elizabeth Buccleuch, James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, James Naughtie and Kirsty Wark. Commenting on this year's line-up the judges said: "Historical fiction has not obeyed any lockdown. Instead, in this year’s new publishing, there has been an explosion of lively ideas and fresh ways of storytelling, with traditional notions of historical fiction stretched and tested. The Walter Scott Prize 2021 longlist authors – some well-established, some newer voices – challenge, charm, alarm, comfort and electrify. Each book in its own way fulfils the WSP criteria of ambition, originality and innovation, with fine writing always the priority. Readers of this year’s longlist will be spirited into jungles, political intrigues and even the pages of dictionaries; smell a most extraordinary sea; hear music never written; and touch the fourth dimension. When escape has never been more appealing, the 2021 Walter Scott Prize longlist authors will gather you up and sweep you away."
The announcement of the list coincides with the 250th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott's birthday. First awarded in 2010 and sponsored by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, the prize honours Scott, who is considered the inventor of the historical fiction genre.
The winner receives £25,000, and each shortlisted author receives £1,500, making the prize among the richest fiction prizes in the UK. Previous winners include Hilary Mantel, Andrea Levy, Sebastian Barry, Tan Twan Eng, Robert Harris, John Spurling, Simon Mawer, Benjamin Myers, Robin Robertson and Christine Dwyer Hickey.
A shortlist, usually of six books, will be announced at the end of April, and a winner announced in mid-June. Because of the postponement of the Borders Book Festival this year, the winner will be announced online.
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- Mantel wins £25k Walter Scott Prize for second time