The Walter Scott Prize Comes Home to Abbotsford

22nd February 2024

The Walter Scott prize for Historical Fiction is moving to what might be considered its natural spiritual home, Abbotsford. Founded fifteen years ago by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, this fantastic literary prize recognises historical fiction authors from around the world and honours the achievements of Walter Scott, the founding father of the historical novel.

From February 2024 the Prize will be managed by The Abbotsford Trust, the independent charity responsible for Sir Walter Scott’s extraordinary Borders home.  Thanks to the generous support of Hawthornden Foundation, and the ongoing patronage of Prize founder and Abbotsford Patron the Duke of Buccleuch, the existing Walter Scott Prize team and judges will continue their work bringing new historical fiction to greater acclaim and honouring the inventor of the genre.

The Duke of Buccleuch, founder of the Walter Scott Prize and Patron of The Abbotsford Trust said:

“For some time it was the dream of my late wife and myself that the Walter Scott Prize should take root in the great writer’s own home and creation at Abbotsford.  Now that the Prize, 15 years on, is firmly established in the literary calendar I am utterly delighted that this is being realised and am deeply grateful to the Abbotsford Trustees for taking over the baton and to Hawthornden Foundation for making it possible.”

The Chief Executive of The Abbotsford Trust, Giles Ingram, said:

“Walter Scott, founding father of the historical novel, understood that our present is shaped by the tales we tell of our past. By setting characters in a historical context, he humanised the past and helped us reflect on what once divided society. Individually and collectively, we need this wisdom and perspective no less today, possibly more so. Which is why we are delighted to be welcoming the Walter Scott Prize home to Abbotsford. I like to think that Walter would be cock-a-hoop, and with this year’s longlist announced from his home, we have such ample proof that the genre is alive and thriving.”

Executive Director of Hawthornden Foundation, Ellyn Toscano, said:

Hawthornden Foundation looks forward to this new partnership with The Abbotsford Trust to support the Walter Scott Prize and the rich genre of historical fiction.”

The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has announced its 2024 Longlist.

The twelve novels in contention for the £25,000 prize are:

THE NEW LIFE Tom Crewe (Chatto & Windus)

A BETTER PLACE Stephen Daisley (Text Publishing)

HUNGRY GHOSTS Kevin Jared Hosein (Bloomsbury)

FOR THY GREAT PAIN, HAVE MERCY ON MY LITTLE PAIN Victoria MacKenzie (Bloomsbury)

MUSIC IN THE DARK Sally Magnusson (John Murray)

CUDDY Benjamin Myers (Bloomsbury)

MY FATHER’S HOUSE Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker)

THE FRAUD Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton)

MISTER TIMELESS BLYTH Alan Spence (Tuttle)

THE HOUSE OF DOORS Tan Twan Eng (Canongate)

IN THE UPPER COUNTRY Kai Thomas (Penguin Canada)

ABSOLUTELY AND FOREVER Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)

The Chair of Judges, Katie Grant, said:

“This year’s longlist sweeps us from one end of the world to the other, and from the Dark Ages to the twentieth century - almost a millennium-and-a-half. Along the way we hear tales of fifteenth century Norwich and of the Highland Clearances of the 1800s; of the secret railroad through the Americas during the mid-nineteenth century and of forbidden love in London at the turn of the twentieth; from tropical Jamaica to Japan and Korea in the late 1800s, and to sultry Penang as the twentieth century dawns; onwards to Trinidad, to Rome, to Crete and to New Zealand during the Second World War years; and to London and Paris in the swinging 1960s when anything seems possible.

‘From the epic to the intimate, from the philosophical to the swashbuckling, from the traditional to the experimental, in each book emotions run deep. If you read the whole list, just like the panel of judges, you'll never be short of conversation.”

First awarded in 2010, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction honours the inventor of the historical fiction genre, Sir Walter Scott, and its 2024 judging panel comprises Katie Grant (chair), James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, James Naughtie, Kirsty Wark and Saira Shah.  The winner receives £25,000, and each shortlisted author is awarded £1,500, setting the Walter Scott Prize amongst the richest fiction prizes in the UK. 

Books must have been written in English, set more than 60 years ago, and published during 2023 in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth.  Longlisted authors this year encompass a range of nationalities including Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, Malaysian and Trinidadian.

A shortlist will be announced in May, and the winner announcement and prizegiving event will take place as before at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, in June.