Robert Harris wins the Sir Walter Scott Prize

Posted: June 17, 2014 in Book Awards, France, Historical

51DiUU6W8XL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Robert Harris has won the 5th Annual Sir Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction with his account of  that great miscarriage of justice the Dreyfus Case; An Officer and A Spy.J_accuse

I reviewed this brilliant book last year here and named it among my best reads of 2013. 

I cannot understand why it was not shortlisted for the CWA Endeavour Historical Crime Fiction Award, but I hope winning the Walter Scott Prize will bring it to an even wider readership. 

You could say that the divisions in French society exacerbated by the Dreyfus Affair would re-emerge and contribute to the collapse of the Third Republic in 1940 and the German Occupation.  

How ironic that the country of  Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité became the country that incarcerated the innocent Jew Alfred Dreyfus on Devil’s Island, and the country of the murderous collaborationist Vichy Regime.  An Officer And A Spy should perhaps become compulsory reading in our schools and universities by academics as well as students, because some people never learn the lessons of history.

When entries that did not make the shortlist come from writers such as Laura Wilson, Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Harris [the superb An Officer And A Spy], Robert Goddard, Michael Ridpath, Patrick Easter and John Lawton, I wonder if my status as an amateur historian and apprentice reviewer is under threat. 

[from my post about the Endeavour Historical Crime Fiction Prize]          

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    This is very good news, Norman. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Blighty says:

    Thank you for this, this book sounds excellent, I really must read it. I am also a fan of Laura Wilson

  3. Jose Ignacio says:

    because some people never learn the lessons of history.

    Very true Norman and I would add paraphrasing a famous Spanish citizen “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, known as George Santayana)

  4. Thanks for telling us Norman. I thought this was a marvellous book – a page-turning thriller, but also an informative piece of history. Everything you hope for from historical fiction.

  5. kathy d. says:

    This is interesting and good news, I think. I would read this book if I had time. I just haven’t had reading time lately, to my own disadvantage. I’m interesting in the Dreyfus case, and one of my all-time favorite movies is The Life of Emile Zola, with Paul Muni, which opened my eyes to the injustice perpetrated against the Jewish Dreyfus.

    I’m also interested in several other nominated authors, including Laura Wilson and John Lawton. Lawton, by the way, wrote a fascinating essay about anti-Semitism among the British establishment, wealthy, government officials and others, before and during WWII. I thought it was stellar.

    For instance, Jewish immigrants and Nazi sympathizers were sent on the same vehicles to be deported to the Isle of Man. I can barely think of how the Jewish deportees felt at having to share space with fascists.

    Anyway, I’m glad this book won. And “the murderous Vichy regime” is how I’d describe it, too.

    A very compelling, but tragic French movie about the horrors of that regime is “A Secret,” about how the Vichy regime harmed one family, but it chills a viewer to the bone. It still haunts me.

  6. kathy d. says:

    Does the book include Emile Zola’s role in freeing Dreyfus — even if it is fictionalized?

  7. kathy d. says:

    OK — you’ve sold me. I’ll add this to the staggering-over TBR avalanche and hope to read it soon.
    This case has fascinated me since I first saw Paul Muni in “The Life of Emile Zola,” a terrific movie.

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