The finalists for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been unveiled.

Six books have been shortlisted by judges, who say the decision was their toughest yet.

The settings for this years tales range from the gold rush in New Zealand, to the Borders in late medieval times.

The winner - who will receive £25,000 - will be unveiled at the Borders Book Festival in June.

The shortlist is:

LIFE AFTER LIFE Kate Atkinson

THE LUMINARIES Eleanor Catton

HARVEST by Jim Crace

FAIR HELEN by Andrew Greig

AN OFFICER AND A SPY by Robert Harris

THE PROMISE by Ann Weisgarber

 

The Judges said: “This has been the toughest choice of shortlist, from the strongest longlist, in the Prize’s five year history.  The books this year have aroused passions and confounded sensibilities.  We have been entertained, traumatised, haunted, exhilarated and transported to new continents, all miraculously within the two covers of a book.

"In the end, we have come down to this magical set of stories, which contain powerful characters and vivid evocations of time and place.  From hard lives lived out in New Zealand and Texas, to feuding families and dangerous outsiders in Britain’s rural margins, to the political fall-out of war and its effects on everyday people, and the random chances that affect everyone’s lives, the stories told in this shortlist exemplify even more acutely the power that writing about the past can wield. 

"In this golden year of historical fiction, we have a shortlist that Sir Walter Scott would surely have appreciated – and for which readers and critics alike have already shown their appreciation.  We hope to bring these extraordinary novels even more attention, and reward their audacity and inventiveness by shortlisting them for this Prize.”