HWA Crowns 2018: The Shortlists

HWA Debut Crown Shortlist 2018
The Optickal Illusion by Rachel Halliburton

Populated by a cast of celebrated eighteenth-century painters jockeying for fame and fortune, this delightful tale of high art and low fraud is a celebration of the alchemy of painting and the dangers of unbridled ambition.

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

In this remarkable family saga, Ásta’s journey from Iceland to Algiers and back again turns her — and our — understanding of the seventeenth-century world upside down. It is a tale that is sometimes humorous, often terrifying, but always deeply humane.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

A moving inter-generational story of a family living on the Great Lakes. The narrative back-and-forth from the present to the past is beautifully controlled and the revelation of the secrets at the heart of the novel perfectly timed.

The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades

The harsh landscape, racial tension and overt sexism of war-time Australia is wonderfully evoked in this absorbing story of a woman trying to save her sprawling sheep farm in the face of greed, small-town pettiness and family tragedy.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Beginning with a man waking up confused and frightened in an Agatha-Christie-esque house party where everyone seems to know his name, this feverish whodunnit is a uniquely gripping and mind-bending read.

Estoril by Dejan Tiago-Stankovic

Assured, surprising and complex, this poignant story of divided loyalties among the extraordinary residents of a hotel in neutral Portugal during the Second World War reads like a rediscovered classic.

HWA Non-Fiction Crown Shortlist 2018

White King: Charles I – Traitor, Martyr, Murderer by Leanda de Lisle is a quietly revolutionary biography of a man obscured by layers of myth, prejudice and misunderstanding. Drawing on new sources, and interrogating familiar material in a new way, de Lisle emphasises Charles’s humanity, his weaknesses and his strengths, while restoring the women in his life to centre stage.

The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us by Keith Lowe

A brilliant exploration of the impact – geopolitical, social, economic, philosophical and psychological – that World War Two has had on the modern world. Told through a series of personal stories that are emblematical of a broader theme, Lowe’s book is a masterpiece of historical inquiry: painstakingly researched, cleverly constructed and elegantly written.

Pie and Mash Down the Roman Road by Melanie McGrath Dodging all the cliches, McGrath does a remarkable job of excavating the lives of the owners, employees and customers of G. Kelly’s Pie and Mash Shop, to produce a fresh and constantly surprising portrait of working-class life in the East End over a century, from 1917 to 2017. A triumph of acute, empathetic but unsentimental observation, her crisp prose throws light on uncelebrated lives with thrilling forensic detail.

A History of Rome in Seven Sackings by Matthew Kneale

With a combination of enormous verve and admirable scholarship novelist Matthew Kneale alights on seven crux moments in Rome’s 2500-year history, and through them tells a terrific story of destruction, resilience and transformation, while drawing a series of vivid and seductive portraits—social, political, cultural, architectural, even olefactory— of the city over time. Popular history at its absolute best.

The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England by Graham Robb

Part investigation, part travel book and part personal quest this book is a remarkable tale of a piece of land on the border between Scotland and England. Graham Robb’s book is a treat for the general reader and historical scholar alike.

Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister by Nicholas Shakespeare: revisits the disastrous Norway campaign of 1940, our first engagement with Hitler’s war machine, to ask how the architect of the debacle nonetheless emerged as Britain’s wartime Prime Minister. As the action moves back from the frozen north to London political circles, Shakespeare draws on his novelistic background to provide gripping studies of the main protagonists, Halifax, Chamberlain and Churchill.

HWA Sharpe Books Gold Crown Shortlist 2018

Blood’s Game by Angus Donald

A gripping page-turner, full of Restoration swagger, with an intriguing hero and brilliant action. Compulsively readable.

Sugar Money by Jane Harris

A novel with fantastic energy and verve – a bold and ambitious book that is both a vivid recreation of a neglected period of history and a gripping adventure story in the tradition of Robert Louis Stevenson. Powerful narration, atmospheric and immersive.

The Valentine House by Emma Henderson

A subtle, soulful, beautifully written period drama with an irresistible central character. A compelling, humorous, powerful and rewarding read.

To Die in Spring Ralf Rothmann trans by Shaun Whiteside

Beautifully written, affecting and intensely readable – a powerful novel that works on many levels. On a separate note, the judges praised the translation as being one of the best they had read.

The Last Hour by Harry Sidebottom

An energetic and gripping thriller, a great shot of adrenaline, and hugely entertaining. Does something fresh and appealing with the genre.

The Zoo by Christopher Wilson

Highly original, this fascinating novel swings from satire to horror to tragedy. Bittersweet, vital and commendably different.