Walter Scott Prize 2012 shortlist announced

Andrew Miller, Alan Hollinghurst, Barry Unsworth, Sebastian Barry, Patrick DeWitt and Esi Edugyan

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Walter Scott Prize 2012 shortlist announced

Alan Hollinghurst / Photo: Robert Taylor

The shortlist for the 2012 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction was revealed earlier this month at the programme launch for the Borders Book Festival in Melrose.

The contenders for the £25,000 prize, the largest annual literary prize awarded outside of London, were announced by the Duke of Buccleuch on 3 April. Founded in 2009, it 'honours the legacy of Sir Walter Scott' founder of the historical novel.

The award ceremony will be held on 16 June as part of the Borders Book Festival. The panel of six judges said they are looking for 'originality and innovation, quality of writing, and the ability of a book to shed light on the present as well as the past' from 'the strongest long list for the Prize so far'.

The shortlisted books

Pure - Andrew Miller
Chosen for being ‘a wholly unexpected story, richly imagined and beautifully structured', Pure tells the tale of Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an engineer summoned to demolish Les Innocents, the oldest Christian burial ground in Paris. Set in the years leading up to the French revolution, Baratte must clear the now overflowing graveyard of its inhabitants. Pure won the Costa Book of the Year prize in January.

The Stranger's Child - Alan Hollinghurst
Beginning in the summer of 1913 and moving through to 2008, The Stranger's Child focuses on the changing inhabitants of the family estate of Corley Court. Using two world wars as a backdrop, Hollinghurst's novel was shortlisted for ‘the elegance of the writing and the quality of the prose’.

The Quality of Mercy by Barry Unsworth
According to the judges Unsworth's novel is ‘a terrific story which successfully knits political, historical and personal strands’. Set in 18th century Britain, The Quality of Mercy follows on from his 1992 Booker winning novel Sacred Hunger, in which a mutinous ship's crew are found in Florida. Now awaiting trial in Newgate, one of them is mistakenly set free and goes in search of the family of his dead crewman Billy Blair.

On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry
Set in Ireland, Chicago, New York and the Hamptons, On Canaan's Side is the story of 89 year old Lily Bere's life in America. Told after the suicide of Lily's grandson and echoing Barry's earlier book The Secret Scripture, the judges said 'the simplicity of the writing belies a deep empathy and understanding of his subject and characters.’

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
Hired killers Eli and Charlie Sisters travel through the American west in search of their next victim, Herman Kermit Warm, in San Francisco. A Western set during the 1850s Californian gold rush, The Sisters Brothers was shortlisted for being ‘a tremendously enjoyable story, with really valuable historical detail as well as dark humour’.

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
A novel that ‘illuminates a corner of history as yet unilluminated, with emotions that almost become characters in their own right’, Half Blood Blues takes place in 1940s Paris and Berlin when Afro-German jazz trumpeter Hiero is arrested and presumed killed in a Nazi concentration camp. In 1992, 50 years later, his bandmate Sid hears he is alive and goes in search of the musician.

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