South Scotland

Irish author Christine Dwyer Hickey wins Walter Scott historical fiction prize

Christine Dwyer Hickey
Image caption Christine Dwyer Hickey's novel drew the judges back "again and again"

Irish author Christine Dwyer Hickey has won the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.

Her novel The Narrow Land, in which she explores the marriage of the artists Edward and Jo Hopper, was described by judges as "a masterpiece".

The prize would normally have been awarded at the Borders Book Festival near Melrose.

However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the winner was announced on BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme.

It is hoped that a special event can be held at Scott's Borders home Abbotsford later in the year.

The book festival has been moved online and will begin next month.

In a joint statement, judges said Ms Hickey had "quietly, inexorably and with pinpoint perception" brought the Hoppers' story to life.

"With the pull of a shifting sea, The Narrow Land drew the judges back again and again, each reading richer than the one before," it said.

Image copyright Walter Scott Prize
Image caption The book saw off five others on the shortlist

The author said the book had taken some time to complete.

"Writing a novel takes a big chunk of one's life - The Narrow Land was six years in the making - which is why I really, really appreciate this recognition," she said.

"I would like to send my thoughts to a grave in a hillside cemetery in Nyack, overlooking the Hudson river, a few miles from New York City, where the artists Edward and Jo Hopper lie, and where I hope they have at last found peace.

"I also hope they will forgive me the intrusion."

The Narrow Land saw off works by Joseph O'Connor, Isabella Hammad, James Meek, Tim Pears, and Marguerite Poland to secure the top spot.

Previous winners

Image copyright Alex Hewitt
Image caption Robin Robertson picked up the award at last year's Borders Book Festival
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - 2010
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy - 2011
  • On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry - 2012
  • The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng - 2013
  • An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris - 2014
  • The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling - 2015
  • Tightrope by Simon Mawer - 2016
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry - 2017
  • The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers - 2018
  • The Long Take by Robin Robertson - 2019

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