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Canadian Author Michael Kaan Selected for Walter Scott Prize Academy’s 2018 ‘Recommended’ List

Winnipeg author Michael Kaan has been selected for the Walter Scott Prize Academy’s list of twenty recommended historical novels published in the last year across the UK, Ireland, and Commonwealth countries.  His debut novel, The Water Beetles, is one of four Canadian novels that made the list, which was announced early on Monday morning.

Inspired by the diaries of Michael Kaan's father, The Water Beetles is “a literary high wire act” (Toronto Star) set in China following the Japanese invasion in 1941. As the Empire of Japan invades Hong Kong, the Leung family is dragged into a spiral of violence, repression, and starvation. To survive, they entomb themselves and their friends in the Leung mansion. But this is only a temporary reprieve, and the Leungs are forced to send their children away. The youngest boy, Chung-Man, escapes with some of his siblings, and together they travel deep into the countryside to avoid the Japanese invaders. Thrown into a new world, Chung-Man must survive the horrors of war that await him. This mesmerizing story of adventure and survival captures the horror of war through the eyes of a child with unsettling and unerring grace. "It immediately enters into the canon of coming-of-age stories, as powerful as any you can name" (Winnipeg Free Press).

The Walter Scott Prize Academy Recommended Books are as follows:

  • The Water Beetles by Michael Kaan (Goose Lane Editions, Canada)
  • The Death of the Fronsac by Neal Ascherson (Apollo, UK)
  • Mrs Osmond by John Banville (Viking, UK)
  • Softness of the Lime by Maxine Case (Umuzi, South Africa)
  • He by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton, UK)
  • Larchfield by Polly Clark (Riverrun, UK)
  • Goblin by Ever Dundas (Saraband, UK)
  • The Iron Age by Arja Kajermo (Tramp Press, Ireland)
  • My Beautiful Imperial by Rhiannon Lewis (Victorina Press, UK)
  • Soot by Andrew Martin (Corsair, UK)
  • Story Land by Catherine McKinnon (4th Estate, Australia)
  • Amah and the Silk-Winged Pigeons by Jocelyn Nullity (Inanna Publications, Canada)
  • See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (Tinder Press, Australia)
  • A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert (Virago, UK)
  • Speakeasy by Alisa Smith (Douglas & McIntyre, Canada)
  • A Reckoning by Linda Spalding (McClelland & Stewart, Canada)
  • The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux (Faber & Faber, UK)
  • The Esquimaux by Tom Tivnan (Silvertail Books, UK)
  • City of Crows by Chris Womersley (Picador, Australia)
  • The Photographer by Mieke Ziervoge (Salt, UK)

The twenty books recommended by the Academy are in addition to the Walter Scott Prize longlist of thirteen released at the start of March. This prestigious prize honours the best in historical fiction, and a shortlist will be announced in April. The full list of books is available at

About Michael Kaan
Michael Kaan was born in Winnipeg, the second child of a father from Hong Kong and a Canadian mother. The Water Beetles, which was also named a 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award finalist, is his first novel.

To learn more about The Water Beetles, visit

Books Can Lit Historical Fiction Michael Kaan Recommended Reading The Water Beetles Walter Scott Prize What to Read

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