SEVEN books have been shortlisted for this year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction:

Today we look at Ancestry by Simon Mawer (Little, Brown)  and find out why the judges chose it.

“A family history opening on a Suffolk beach is bound to invite thoughts of David Copperfield and the picaresque novel, and Simon Mawer is bold enough to wonder in the course of his narrative how Dickensian his story might be.   

READ MORE: Find out what the judges thought of each book

The subject is his own family – the ancestors whom he’s uncovered like any genealogical researcher – and he refuses to choose between fiction and fact, melding their imagined lives with the documentary history of their comings and goings.   

“A former winner of the Walter Scott Prize, Mawer has written another ambitious novel, blending the wildness and weariness of war in Crimea in the 1850s (on his father’s side) with the hurly-burly of poverty-stricken life back in London (his mother’s).   

“The result is a memorable family odyssey that takes the reader deep into a fictional realm while refusing to cut the guy ropes that anchor it to the real architecture of chance and fate in a distant time, with all its drama and its workaday routine, from which he sprang.”

The winner will be announced at the Borders Book Festival in June.