March 26, 2015

Those Prizes again

Ah, prestigious book prizes, that other topic that both fascinates and irritates me no end. Two shortlists just announced. The Walter Scott for Historical Fiction and the Booker International.

When the Walter Scott Prize first came into existence, I - and no doubt many other keen historical fiction readers and writers - hoped it would be one of those awards to recognise the more "popular" titles, i.e. historical novels that a wide readership have enjoyed: that the prize would skirt away from the "literary" (snooty) side of publishing which is already more than well-catered for and perhaps give lesser-known historical fiction authors a chance to shine. So I am somewhat dismayed to see individuals like the multi-lauded literary novelist Martin Amis included in the latest shortlist. Bookseller link here. Yawn ...

What is needed are more international prizes like that of the the Romantic Novelists' Association in the UK, that acknowledge good writing as well as popularity (albeit mostly female in the RNA case). It was a pleasure to see that Hazel Gaynor won the RNA historical fiction award for her delightful The Girl Who Came Homebut a pity that such a book would never find its way into the increasingly esoteric world of the Walter Scott Prize.

Wonder what Sir WS himself would have to say about it all, given that he was the "popular" historical fiction writer of his age who aimed his work at the then-equivalent of the airport stand (stage-coach book peddler?) I'm guessing he wouldn't even make the longlist in his own prize.

The Booker International shortlist here for anyone interested.

Walter Scott's rousing romantic tale of Lochinvar wouldn't get a look-in these days
Click here for a great rendition of the poem


Sarah Johnson said...

In short, I agree with you. The RNA awards reflect the tastes and interests of the (admittedly mostly female) reading public more than the Walter Scott Prize, and I always look forward to seeing what's on the shortlist for its historical fiction award. The one title remaining on the WSP shortlist that I've read was good, but not a special favorite in a year of reading.

Regina of Arbeia said...

Thanks, Sarah, as someone who really knows the world of historical fiction better than many out there your opinion is appreciated!