Thirty-six outstanding history and historical fiction books enter the race for the top prizes in three categories as the 2019 HWA Crown Awards longlists are announced.
The HWA Crown Awards are divided into three categories: the HWA Gold Crown; the HWA Non-Fiction Crown; and the HWA Debut Crown.
The longlisted books are:
The HWA Gold Crown for the best historical novel
Little by Edward Carey (Aardvark Bureau)
In Little Edward Carey brings the young servant girl who becomes Madame Tussaud vividly to life against the background of revolutionary France. It is a novel of stunning originality and imaginative depth that manages to be macabre, hilarious, tragic and deeply humane, all at the same time. A book you want to force all your friends to read immediately.
The Lighthousekeeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor (HarperCollins)
A fictional take on the story of heroine Grace Darling. A beautifully-written and moving account, underpinned by a melancholic pull of love and loss.
The Murder of Harriet Monkton by Elizabeth Haynes (Myriad Editions)
A hugely engaging historical crime mystery, which circles around the sad life and brutal death of Harriet Monkton. This highly atmospheric book will keep you guessing right to the very end.
Lancelot by Giles Kristian (Corgi)
Lancelot is the other side of the story, taking a well-known legend and flipping it. Giles brings a real life quality to his characters and the result is a book that you feel as much as you read. An emotional journey that redefines a legend.
Dark Water by Elizabeth Lowry (riverrun)
An elegant and sinister tale of dark deeds on the high seas and within the human heart. A literary tale with real narrative drive.
Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee (Vintage)
A superlative novel. Smoke and Ashes is another perfect depiction of the underbelly of India in the 1920s told from the perspective of a dissolute narrator. The kind of book which leaves you desolate when you reach the final page and realise there is no more.
Mrs Whistler by Matthew Plampin (The Borough Press)
This foray into the world of Victorian art is exquisitely written and utterly beautiful. Readers will not quickly forget the story of Whistler, with all his ego and flair, and his long-suffering muse, Maud.
Triumph in Dust by Ian Ross (Head of Zeus)
A wonderful conclusion to Ian Ross’ excellent Twilight of Empire series set in an extraordinarily vivid fourth-century AD Rome. A story of bitter political intrigue and bloody battles. Brutal, bleak and utterly assured writing.
Tombland by CJ Sansom (Mantle)
This much-anticipated and weighty addition to the terrific Shardlake series immerses us in the troubles of Edward VI’s reign and shows, perhaps better than anyone, just how much of tempestuous Tudor England there is left to explore.
Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott (Bantam Press)
A masterclass in historical thriller writing. This tale of modern day policing and wartime espionage and betrayal is unputdownable. Tautly written and intricately plotted.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (Black Swan)
A river meanders through the lives, loves and fears of a community, and the result is a book of immense vivacity and charm.
Caligula by SJ Turney (Orion)
Caligula is a fascinating take on a much vilified man. Turney brings the perils and glories of Imperial Rome vividly to life in a book rich in authenticity and drama.
The HWA Sharpe Books Non-Fiction Crown for the best work of historical non-fiction
‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms by Naoko Abe (Chatto & Windus)
An enchanting, meticulously researched portrait of a man with a particular horticultural mission at a time of huge and traumatic change. Engrossing and sympathetic story-telling.
The Restless Kings: Henry II, His Sons and the Wars for the Plantagenet Crown by Nick Barratt (Faber & Faber)
Pacy yet thoughtful, an ambitious and fascinating narrative of turbulent power politics in the medieval world.
Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present by Christopher Harding (Allen Lane)
A wide-ranging, fresh, and lively exploration of the unexpected impact of modernity on Japanese society told with great brio.
The Royal Art of Poison: Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicines and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman (Duckworth)
An entertainingly gruesome journey through filth, poison and disease, pulsating with grim and entertaining anecdotes. Wickedly good.
Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham (Bantam Press)
Utterly compelling and brilliantly conceived. An engaging and revelatory investigation into a devastating tragedy.
Devices and Desires: Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England by Kate Hubbard (Chatto & Windus)
Meticulous research and vivid writing combine in this fascinating biography of a remarkable woman whose marriages and mania for building illuminate the shadowy world of Elizabethan high society.
How to Hide an Empire: A Short History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr (Bodley Head)
Highly original, readable, challenging and surprising, peels back the history of America’s expansionist ambitions.
The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre (Penguin)
Riveting, full of tradecraft and thrills. This story of a KGB double agent is page-turning history at its best.
I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux (Faber & Faber)
A vivid, immersive and insightful biography, framing the philosopher in a fresh and revealing light.
The Race to Save the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport (Windmill Books)
Colourful, fresh and brilliantly told, this new investigation of a century old mystery into the fate of the Romanovs is both tragic and enthralling.
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold (Doubleday)
Eloquent, passionate and haunting. Rubenhold turns the spotlight on the women who were the Ripper’s victims and the complex pattern of their lives.
The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
A fabulous piece of literary detective work, showing that behind Nabokov’s dark tale there lay an even darker true story. Astonishing, necessary and written with great compassion.
The HWA Debut Crown for the best debut historical novel
The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna Marie Crowhurst (Allen & Unwin)
A thoroughly modern feminist Restoration playwright whose letters, diaries and scripts show a coming of age full of bawdy wit that is as clever as it is engaging.
The Familiars by Stacey Halls (Zaffre)
A story about a fascinating period of history with superb female characters and an intriguing premise. This is an enthralling book that is fascinating, spellbinding and scary all at the same time.
Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth (One)
In Only Killers and Thieves we have a vicious tale of revenge in a backdrop of 19th-century Queensland. In turns mesmerising and brutal, with a fascinating story set in a very disturbing time in Australian history.
The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby (No Exit Press)
A fascinating account of death and dark scientific experimentation, where the plight of the poor in Victorian England is thoroughly examined through the eyes of the main character. An atmospheric multi-layered story of Victorian society, poverty, and the helplessness that it evokes.
The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea (Penguin)
A chilling and enthralling telling of Icelandic witch trials. The Glass Woman is not only beautifully drawn but is poignant, evocative and fascinating. A haunting gothic tale that is lyrical and poetic.
As the Women Lay Dreaming by Donald S Murray (Saraband)
As the Women Lay Dreaming is a beautifully-told reimagining of a historical truth. A passionate, atmospheric and evocative novel inspired by the Iolaire disaster which explores how an event can have a dramatic impact on communities. Masterfully written, it speaks of a tragedy that deserves to be remembered.
Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce (Picador)
A winning Second World War story. A novel of good humour and courage where female friendship is important and having a stiff upper lip doesn’t always work. Quirky, charming and engaging, it demonstrates the importance of the roles of the women back home towards the war effort and the courage they had to draw on.
Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd Robinson (Mantle)
Blood and Sugar evokes the passionate denunciation of the British participation in the slave trade. Set in the bowels of 18th-century Deptford, this is a tightly-plotted and frightening crime story that is gripping and harsh and which vividly portrays a side of London that is harrowing and compelling. A compulsive read.
The Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg (Atlantic)
The Confessions of the Fox is an opulently murky but detailed account of a trans person living in 18th-century London. Ambitious and thought-provoking, this meta fictional post modern novel explores everything from gender identity to mass incarceration, whilst moving between centuries. It even features footnotes.
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer (Picador)
A mesmerising tale of photography, sex, love and war set in 1920s Paris through to the battlefields of the Second World War. Powerful and gripping as it is, the meticulous research and gorgeous detail make for a fascinating read.
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (Penguin)
This boldly sweeping epic read details the lives of three generations and their families in Zambia, stretching from the pre-colonial period to the future. Part history, part science fiction, with political overtones, this is a sprawling saga that is highly engaging.
Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton (Quercus)
A rich, atmospheric, but haunting story of struggle within the world of silk weaving set in 18th-century Spitalfields. A splendidly-written tale of complicated relationships entwined with lies, treachery, distrust and dislike with a hint of darkness, alongside complex and complicated characters.
The HWA is hugely grateful to all the judges for offering their time and enthusiasm in support of these awards:
HWA Debut Crown: Elizabeth Fremantle, Susan Heads and Ayo Onatade (chair)
HWA Sharpe Books Non-fiction Crown: Richard Foreman, Jason Goodwin (chair), Roger Moorhouse and Alex von Tunzelmann
HWA Gold Crown: Kate Atherton, Victoria Blake, Robin Carter, Helen Nugent and Antonia Senior (chair)