Irish author Christine Dwyer Hickey has won the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for her “masterpiece” The Narrow Land (Atlantic), exploring the marriage of artists Edward and Jo Hopper.
The prize awards the best fiction set 60 or more years ago, and is open to novels published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. This year's winner was announced live on BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row” on 12th June, with Hickey joining the programme from her home in Dublin.
Hickey said: “Writing a novel takes a big chunk of one’s life – The Narrow Land was six years in the making – which is why I really, really appreciate this recognition. I would like to send my thoughts to a grave in a hillside cemetery in Nyack, overlooking the Hudson river, a few miles from New York City, where the artists Edward and Jo Hopper lie, and where I hope they have at last found peace. I also hope they will forgive me the intrusion.”
The novel was picked from a shortlist featuring 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) and A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland (Penguin South Africa)
This year's prize was judged by Elizabeth Buccleuch, James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, James Naughtie, Kirsty Wark, and chair Katie Grant.
The panel said: “It’s a risky business, portraying the marriage of two artists, particularly when both the marriage and the art have already been picked over by biographers and art historians. Christine Dwyer Hickey has embraced the risk and created a masterpiece. In The Narrow Land, she reaches into the guts of the marriage of Jo and Edward Hopper and into the heart of the creative impulse itself. And more, much more. Quietly, inexorably, and with pinpoint perception, our winner has brought to dramatic life not just the Hoppers’ intimate eruptions but the tensions and complexities in those around them, from two young boys scarred by war to the transient summer crowd at Cape Cod, and though this forensic lens we glimpse the upheavals that were to shake all Americans in the post-war world.”
Hickey received a cheque for £25,000 and an original framed print by the renowned photographer and eldest Buccleuch son, Walter Scott, who is also the great writer’s namesake. It is hoped Irish Fiction Laureate Sebastian Barry can present the winner with her trophy in Ireland in the coming weeks.
Organisers also hope to host a special event for all the shortlisted authors in Abbotsford, Scott’s home in the Borders, in the autumn.