Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was one of the great historical writers and poets of the Enlightenment – and each year a prize for historical fiction is awarded in his name. This edition, we bring you the shortlist for the 2022 Awards – including celebrated Irish writer Colm Toibin’s fictionalised retelling of Thomas Mann’s life and Amanda Smyth’s Fortune – a tale of love and intrigue in Trinidad that’s based on true events…
1. The Magician by Colm Tóibín
The Magician tells the story of Thomas Mann, whose life was filled with great acclaim and contradiction. He would find himself on the wrong side of history in the First World War, cheerleading the German army, but have a clear vision of the future in the second, anticipating the horrors of Nazism. He would write some of the greatest works of European literature, and win the Nobel Prize, but would never return to the country that inspired his creativity.
2. Fortune by Amanda Smyth
Fortune, based on true events, catches Trinidad at a moment of historical change whose consequences reverberate down to present concerns with climate change and environmental destruction. As a story of love and ambition, its focus is on individuals so enmeshed in their desires that they blindly enter the territory of classic Greek tragedy where actions always have consequences.
3. News of the Dead by James Robertson
Hidden in the breath-taking mountains of wild Scotland, Glen Conach is the home of secrets and stories, of fables and folklore. In ancient Britain, the hermit Saint Conach performs impossible miracles, which survive as legend in ‘The Book of Glen Conach’. Generations later in the nineteenth century, the book is rediscovered by charlatan Charles Gibb. In the present-day, young Lachie whispers to Maja of ghosts he has seen in the glen.
4. Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig
Embra, winter of 1574. Queen Mary has fled Scotland, to raise an army from the French. Her son and heir, Jamie is held under protection in Stirling Castle. John Knox is dead. The people are unmoored and lurching under the uncertain governance of this riven land. It’s a deadly time for young student Will Fowler, short of stature, low of birth but mightily ambitious, to make his name.