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.