If I Gave the Award

Now that I’ve finished reading the shortlist for the 2019 Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize, it’s time for my feature where I examine whether I think the judges got it right. This time, I’m starting with the book I liked the least.

After the Party by Cressida Connolly is about Fascists in World War II England. I was confused about the message of this novel and found all the characters unsympathetic and some downright disgusting.

Although I did not actively dislike any of the other entrants, I was not that enthralled with the winner of the prize, The Long Take by Robin Robertson. As it was written in poetic form, it is not as accessible as the others, and it is mainly atmospheric. However, it is about an interesting subject and period, homeless ex-soldiers after World War II and the selling out of Los Angeles.

I liked four of the novels about equally well for different reasons. Now We Shall Be Entirely Free is essentially an adventure novel about a deserting officer during the Napoleonic Wars. It is about redemption and self-forgiveness.

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is also set during World War II, about two teenagers deserted by their parents whose lives turn chaotic and dangerous.

I admired the zippy energy of A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey. It starts out seemingly being an adventure and love story and ends up being about the treatment of Aboriginal people in 1950’s Australia.

I think I’m going with The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey, a Medieval tale about a drowned man that reveals its secrets slowly as it moves backward in time. I liked the structure of the book as well as the atmosphere.

4 thoughts on “If I Gave the Award

  1. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis June 4, 2021 / 10:27 am

    I have read only The Western Wind although I have a couple of the others on my TBR. I can’t imagine liking any of them better than Wind. When I finished it, I read it again – from the back, starting with the 1st day of the story. It’s excellent either way!

  2. Helen June 4, 2021 / 1:49 pm

    I still need to read Warlight, The Long Take and A Long Way From Home. Of the others that I’ve read, I think Now We Shall Be Entirely Free is the one I liked best.

    • whatmeread June 4, 2021 / 2:05 pm

      As I said, I liked the four books about equally well but just wasn’t that taken by The Long Take. Definitely didn’t like After the Party, but you weren’t that thrilled about it either.

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