The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, founded in 2009 by its patrons the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, is the largest annual fiction prize to be judged outside London, and honours the legacy and achievements of Sir Walter Scott, founder of the historical novel. It awards novels set in the past – for the purposes of the prize, at least sixty years ago. Winner of the first Walter Scott Prize, Hilary Mantel, described its founding as ‘much the best thing that has happened for lovers of historical fiction.'
Sebastian Barry has won the eighth £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for his epic American novel Days Without End. Barry’s previous novel On Canaan’s Side was a winner in 2012, and he returned to the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland to receive his Prize from the Duke of Buccleuch on 17 June 2017.
Sebastian Barry said on winning the Prize: “It’s difficult to itemise my simple childish joy at receiving this prize; that the judges did all this work to make a 61 year old man feel 12 again."
The other books that were shortlisted for the award are:
A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker, The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson, The Good People by Hannah Kent, Golden Hill by Francis Spufford, Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift, The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
The Judges commented:
“We have a longer shortlist than usual due to the variety of the longlist, and the fresh perspectives and lively debate generated by the introduction of three new judges to the panel.
Our shortlist was achieved by the judges' instinctive reaction to each book. The seven shortlisted novels, a mix of old hands and new voices, offer readers joy in the discovery of unusual subjects and times; appreciation of historical research and insight worn lightly and applied skilfully; and, perhaps most important of all, that visceral connection to the characters which is the prerequisite of every novel, whether historical or not.
The judging panel comprised Alistair Moffat (chair), Elizabeth Buccleuch, Kate Figes, Katharine Grant, James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, and James Naughtie.
To qualify, books must have been published in the previous year in the UK or the Commonwealth, and be mostly set in the past - for the purposes of the Prize, at least 60 years ago. This definition comes from the subtitle of Walter Scott’s novel Waverley; Or, ’Tis Sixty Years Since.