Meek and Pears on shortlist for Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize

Meek and Pears on shortlist for Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize

Novelists James Meek and Tim Pears are among six authors shortlisted for this year's £25,000 Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize.

Set in the 14th century and praised by the judges as "a most extraordinary novel" containing "messages of great potency", James Meek's  To Calais, In Ordinary Time (Canongate) is shortlisted for the award, alongside the final instalment in Tim Pear's West Country trilogy, The Redeemed (Bloomsbury).

 Also shortlisted is Christine Dwyer Hickey's 1950s art-focused novel The Narrow Land (Atlantic) which explores the marriage of Josephine and Edward Hopper. It is joined by Isabella Hammand's debut novel The Parisian (Jonathan Cape), which is set in the First World War and illustrates foreign policy between Europe, France and the Levant.

Victorian gothic novel Shadowplay by Joseph O'Connor (Harvill Secker) and religious South African tale A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland (Penguin South Africa) complete the line-up.

This year, each shortlisted author will receive £1,500 with the overall winner awarded £25,000 funded by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch.

This year's judging panel is chaired by Katie Grant, who succeeds Alistair Moffat in the role, and also comprises  Elizabeth Buccleuch, James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, James Naughtie and Kirsty Wark. 

In a joint statement, they said:  "In times of crisis, historical fiction is both reassurance (nothing is completely new) — and escape, so it’s with almost medicinal pleasure that we unveil the eleventh Walter Scott Prize shortlist which offers, we hope, a measure of both.

"Set aside your anxieties and smell greasepaint with Bram Stoker. Share Leo Sercombe’s incredulity as the German fleet scuttles at Scapa Flow. Lament, for Stephen Mzamane, the injustices in the 19th-century Anglican church.

"With Thomas, Will and the Lady Bernadine, delight in a 14th-century linguistic tour-de-force. Linger inside the minds of the artist Edward Hopper and his wife. And savour a glorious 20th-century epic of the Middle East written with such sparkling immediacy you’re more witness than reader.

"Six books from writers as varied as they are talented. Six books to absorb. Six books to fortify. Enjoy them all!’"

The prize-winner is traditionally announced at the Baillie Giffords Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland.

Owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, the festival has been postponed and the mode of announcement of 2020's winner is currently being reviewed.  

The 2019 prize was won by Robin Robertson for his post-Second World War novel, The Long Take.