I’m continuing my tradition of commenting on the award projects I have taken on by giving my opinion about whether the judges got it right. Yesterday, with An Officer and a Spy, I finished reviewing the short listed books for the 2014 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. An Officer and a Spy was the winner for that year.
I have to say that there were some excellent historical novels on the list for that year. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson was my best book for one year, and since I read it during a different year, The Luminaries was my best book for another year. I also loved Fair Helen. In fact, I enjoyed all of the nominees for 2014. Of the three named above, Life After Life and The Luminaries are most inventive in structure.
So, for this article, I was forced to consider the idea of giving a historical fiction prize. I think that the prize must partly depend upon how successfully the novel depicts the feel of the period or the historical events being described. Here, The Luminaries is not as strong as some of the others in its sense of time and place. An Officer and a Spy may not be as inventive in structure, but it tells a strong historical story. So, too, though, does Life After Life. So, because it combines an inventive structure with a strong historical background, I pick Life After Life, with the caveat that all of the nominees for this year were good ones.