If I Gave the Award

Cover for The Garden of Evening MistsHaving posted my last review of the shortlisted books for the 2013 Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize, it is time for my feature in which I give my opinion of the books on the shortlist. I have to say that 2013 is another difficult year with several excellent historical novels on the list.

Let’s begin with the ones I didn’t like as well. Although The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Kenneally tells an interesting story about nurses in World War I, it keeps such a distance from its characters that you lose some interest in what happens to them. Merivel: A Man of His Time by Rose Tremain accomplishes the same thing with its semi-comic, mocking tone.

I became more involved in Toby’s Room by Pat Barker. An important consideration for this prize is how fully realized the period and place seem to be, and in this novel that goal was accomplished. It was also accomplished in The Streets by Anthony Quinn. These were both good, solid, and interesting historical novels.

Cover for Bring Up the BodiesBy far the two best novels, though, were the winning book, The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. They both created an entrancing world for their characters and were beautifully written. When I sat down to write this feature, my intention was to choose The Garden of Evening Mists, probably because I had read it more recently. I posted my review of that book a few months ago and of Bring Up the Bodies way back in 2012. However, rereading my original review of that book made me remember how much I was impressed by it. Therefore, I find myself unable to choose between these two books. For this year, with quite a few good books to chose from on the list, I find that the most impressive were The Garden of Evening Mists and Bring Up the Bodies.

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4 thoughts on “If I Gave the Award

  1. FictionFan June 14, 2018 / 12:08 pm

    Both excellent books, and the only two on the shortlist that I’ve read. From those two, though, for me Bring Up the Bodies would have been the clear winner. I enjoyed it even more than Wolf Hall, I think.

  2. Helen June 14, 2018 / 2:38 pm

    I haven’t finished the 2013 list yet as I still need to read Toby’s Room. Of the others, I would also find it difficult to choose between The Garden of Evening Mists and Bring Up the Bodies – I loved them both! I did enjoy Merivel, though, so would put that one in third place.

    • whatmeread June 14, 2018 / 8:55 pm

      I wonder if I would have liked Toby’s Room even more had I read the first book. It’s hard to know.

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