Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for
Historical Fiction 2023

The Chosen

One Wednesday morning in November 1912 the ageing Thomas Hardy, entombed by paper and books and increasingly estranged from his wife Emma, finds her dying in her bedroom. Between his speaking to her and taking her in his arms, she has gone.

The day before, he and Emma had exchanged bitter words – leading Hardy to wonder whether all husbands and wives end up as enemies to each other. His family and Florence Dugdale, the much younger woman with whom he has been in a relationship, assume that he will be happy and relieved to be set free. But he is left shattered by this loss.

Hardy’s bewilderment only increases when, sorting through Emma’s effects, he comes across a set of diaries that she had secretly kept about their life together, ominously titled ‘What I Think of My Husband’. He discovers what Emma had truly felt – that he had been cold, remote and incapable of ordinary human affection, and had kept her childless, a virtual prisoner for forty years. Why did they ever marry?

He is consumed by something worse than grief: a chaos in which all his certainties have been obliterated. He has to re-evaluate himself, and reimagine his unhappy wife as she was when they first met.

Hardy’s pained reflections on the choices he has made, and must now make, form a unique combination of love story and ghost story, by turns tender, surprising, comic and true.

Elizabeth Lowry’s gripping ghost story

The Chosen, the extraordinary new novel by Elizabeth Lowry, hauntingly searches the unknowable spaces between man and wife; memory and regret;
life and art.

The Chosen Reviews

What people are saying


“The prose is exquisite… Above all, Lowry understands the intricacies of the human heart”

The Times

“Fascinating and powerful”

“Both a fascinating analysis of Hardy and a powerful and exquisite work of art in its own right… her novel is glorious – the best that I have read in several years”

Literary Review

“Beautifully described”

“Hardy’s overwhelming feelings of loss are beautifully described in Lowry’s bell-like, silvery prose”

The Daily Mail

“Wise and beautifully written”

“Lowry unflinchingly dissects the small tragedies, the misunderstandings, the betrayals, the slow chipping-away of the love of a once-loved object… Hardy destroyed Emma’s diaries but, daringly, Lowry recreates them. A wise and beautifully written book.”

The Sunday Times, Best Historical Fiction Books of 2022

“Heart-breaking, life-affirming”

The Chosen combines psychological depth with prose of mesmerising beauty… [a] heart-breaking, life-affirming exploration of the perversity of the human heart and the paradox of creativity”

The Financial Times


“With remarkable steadiness and fine judgement, Elizabeth Lowry goes right into the midst of this legendary maelstrom and opens a space for fiction”

The Guardian, Fiction Book of the Day

“Powerfully perceptive”

“This novel is exquisitely written and powerfully perceptive, yet never loses sight of its biographical nature”

Country Life


“A lyrical meditation on love and literary inspiration”

The Financial Times, Best Summer Books of 2022

“Marvellously sensitive”

“Perceptive and eloquent… a marvellously sensitive interpretation of Hardy”

The Times Literary Supplement

“Tour de force”

“A stylistic tour de force… Miss this work of art – and cautionary tale against long-term gaslighting – at your peril”

Strong Words

The Chosen Extract

Dorset, 1912

He knows that he’s already lost. He is following a ghost.

He’s poised on the margins, on the verge of the solid world. When he can’t feel his body any more he turns away and looks down, from his haunted height, into the depths.