The Walter Scott Prize celebrates quality of writing in the English language, and is open to novels published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. The Prize is awarded at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland, in June every year. The winner receives £25,000 and shortlisted authors each receive £1000 – increasing to £1,500 in 2020.
The twelve books longlisted in contention for the £25,000 prize are:
THE NARROW LAND by Christine Dwyer Hickey (Atlantic)
Set in 1950s Cape Cod, the new novel by Dublin writer Christine Dwyer Hickey deals with the marriage of Jo and Edward Hopper, the renowned American painter.
THE PARISIAN by Isabella Hammad (Jonathan Cape)
A sweeping love story that spans Palestine, France and Egypt in the first half of the 20th century and explores identity, family, East vs.West, war, love and betrayal.
HOW WE DISAPPEARED Jing-Jing Lee (OneWorld)
A sweeping epic which tells the heart-rending true story of Singapore’s ‘comfort women’ during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s.
TO CALAIS, IN ORDINARY TIME by James Meek (Canongate)
The new novel about home, belonging, love and courage, set in the fourteenth century, from the Booker-shortlisted author of The People’s Act of Love.
THE OFFING by Benjamin Myers (Bloomsbury)
From the 2018 winner of the Walter Scott Prize, a powerful new novel about an unlikely friendship, set in the former smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay in the aftermath of the Second World War.
THE WARLOW EXPERIMENT by Alix Nathan (Serpent’s Tail)
Based on the bizarre true story of a man kept underground for seven years, this is a seductive tale of self-delusion and obsession.
SHADOWPLAY by Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker)
The new novel from bestselling author Joseph O’Connor is about Bram Stoker’s intense relationships with the actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, while working together at the Lyceum Theatre, and the inspirations that led to the creation of Dracula.
THE REDEEMED by Tim Pears (Bloomsbury)
The final instalment in Tim Pears’s spellbinding West Country Trilogy tells of love, exile and belonging in a world on the brink of change during the First World War.
A SIN OF OMISSION by Marguerite Poland (Penguin South Africa)
A searing account of the brutality of British colonialism in South Africa – as reflected in the life story of a small African boy adopted by the church in 1850, and raised to become a British-educated Anglican minister in the eastern Cape.
ONCE UPON A RIVER Diane Setterfield (Doubleday)
An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery set on the banks of the Thames, which is brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age.
THIS IS HAPPINESS by Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)
Set during the electrification of rural Ireland, this novel is a tender portrait of a community – its idiosyncrasies and traditions, its paradoxes and kindnesses, its failures and triumphs – and a coming of age tale like no other.
THE HIDING GAME by Naomi Wood (Picador)
A suspenseful story of obsession against the tense political backdrop of Germany’s Bauhaus art school.
The judges said:
“In its eleventh year, with more submissions than ever before, the 2020 Walter Scott Prize longlist reflects the energy and dynamism of modern historical fiction, a genre presenting authors with very particular challenges and delights. As always with our longlist, readers will find themselves in all kinds of places in all kinds of centuries, both in the company of familiar authors and hearing newer voices. It’s a privilege to bring these books to wider attention through the prize. So much to savour, so much to think about and, most importantly, so much to enjoy.”
The prize also unveiled a new chair of judges, novelist and columnist Katie Grant, succeeding Alistair Moffat who is stepping down after 10 years.
A shortlist will be announced at the beginning of April and each shortlisted author will receive £1,500, an increase from £1,000 in previous years, making it one of the richest literary prizes in the UK.
The winner will be announced at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival in Scotland on 12th June.
Previous winners include Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate, 2010), The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Headline, 2011), On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry (Faber and Faber, 2012), The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon, 2013), An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (Dubray, 2014), The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling (Duckworth, 2015), Tightrope by Simon Mawer (Little, Brown 2016) Days without End by Sebastian Barry (Faber and Faber, 2017), The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers (Bloomsbury, 2018) and The Long Take by Robin Robertson (Picador, 2019).
Find out more about our longlisted books below.