02 February 2010
I've had the opportunity to do a bit of reading for pleasure over the last couple of weeks, as opposed to reading for research, and I managed to get through quite a few books, including Hilary Mantel's Booker prize winner Wolf Hall. Once I got used to the slightly idiosyncratic use of the personal pronoun I really enjoyed her tale of Thomas Cromwell's life at the perilous heart of Henry VIII's court and its portrayal of sixteenth century London.
No-one was more pleased than me to see a top book prize being awarded to a popular work of historical fiction, because, by and large, authors of historical fiction haven't had many prizes to aim at. So I was delighted to read this weekend about a major new prize being launched in my old stamping ground in the Scottish Borders. The £25,000 Sir Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction will be awarded at the Borders Book Festival in June, from a shortlist of UK authors that will be revealed in March.
The Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, whose family has a long association with Scott, are behind the award and are keen that the great author's name should be linked with such a prestigious prize. It's also a huge coup for the festival's livewire organiser Alistair Moffat and his team and another step towards ensuring that the Melrose-based event is one that nobody who is interested in books can afford to miss.