About Women’s Fiction
The Booker Prize shortlist in 1991 did not include any women authors, which had escaped quite a few people’s notice before the press started making it clear. After this, a group of men and women, in January 1992 meet in an apartment on London to discuss whether it mattered that there were no novels written by women in the shortlist, and how they could improve that situation.
By Autumn 1995, the group who had meet up had become the Women’s Committee, and they had reached out to Orange (after securing the Prize money from a private donor), who admired the Committee’s ‘educational and lifelong learning initiatives’; which lead to The Orange Prize for Fiction starting January 1996.
Since then, the Women’s Prize has strived ‘to continue to celebrate, honour and promote outstanding fiction by women from all over the world’! By 2018, the Women’s Prize grew into a charity status, known as the Women’s Prize Trust, that is working all year round to promote and encourage women’s fiction writing. Each year the winner wins £30,000 and a bronze figure known as ‘Bessie’ (created and donated by artist, Grizel Niven.
Women’s Prize for Fiction Long List
On 10th March 2021, the sixteen longlisted books were announced by Women’s Prize for Fiction, which included a variety of new and well-known writers. As well as ranging over a variety of themes and genres, there was also a first of the first Transgender woman author being included!
The chair of judges, Bernardine Evaristo had said; ‘We read so many brilliant novels for this year’s prize and had an energetic judging session where we discussed our passions, opinions and preferences. Sadly, we had to let some very deserving books go but we’re confident that we have chosen sixteen standout novels that represent a truly wide and varied range of fiction by women that reflects multiple perspectives, narrative styles and preoccupations. These novels fascinated, moved, inspired and challenged us and we’re excited at announcing their inclusion on the Women’s Prize longlist.’
Below is the list of the books, as well as the plot outline and the beautiful covers!
Because of You by Dawn French
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight.
The old millennium turns into the new.
In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters.
Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl.
Anna leaves with empty arms.
Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all.
The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits.
Perhaps beyond . . .
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her arranged marriage to join an ashram, took a hapless artist for a lover, rebelled against every social expectation of a good Indian woman – all with her young child in tow. Years on, she is an old woman with a fading memory, mixing up her maid’s wages and leaving the gas on all night, and her grown-up daughter is faced with the task of caring for a mother who never seemed to care for her.
This is a poisoned love story. But not between lovers – between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar gradually untangles the knot of memory and myth that bind two women together, revealing the truth that lies beneath.
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Saskia and Jenny are twins, alike in appearance only: Saskia has a single-minded focus on her studies, while Jenny is glamorous, thrill-seeking and capricious. Still, when Jenny is severely injured in an accident, Saskia puts her life on hold for her sister.
Sara and Mattie are sisters with another difficult dynamic: Mattie needs almost full-time care, while Sara loves nothing more than fine wines, perfumes and expensive clothing, and leaves home at the first opportunity. But when their mother dies, Sara must move Mattie in with her. Gradually, Sara and Saskia learn that both their sisters’ lives, and indeed their own, have been altered by the devastating actions of one man…
In turns razor-sharp, provocative and precise, Consent is a blistering novel of sisters and their knotty relationships, of predatory men and sexual power, of retribution and the thrilling possibilities of revenge.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Reese nearly had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York, a job she didn’t hate. She’d scraped together a life previous generations of trans women could only dream of; the only thing missing was a child. Then everything fell apart and three years on Reese is still in self-destruct mode, avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.
When her ex calls to ask if she wants to be a mother, Reese finds herself intrigued. After being attacked in the street, Amy de-transitioned to become Ames, changed jobs and, thinking he was infertile, started an affair with his boss Katrina. Now Katrina’s pregnant. Could the three of them form an unconventional family – and raise the baby together?
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents’ money, it’s called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she’s not sure what to call it, but it involves:
– a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children;
– Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room;
– Edith, who Ava meets while Julian is out of town and actually listens to her when she talks;
– money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections.
Exciting times ensue.
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers.
For Wilma, it’s the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result.
When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope – of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man.
And Mira Whalen? It’s about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn’t get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all.
Luster by Raven Leilani
Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.
No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal’. Are we in hell? the people of the portal ask themselves. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?
Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: ‘Something has gone wrong,’ and ‘How soon can you get here?’ As real life and its stakes collide with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
Nothing But blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
David thought so. But when his wife Mary Rose dies suddenly he has to think again. In reliving their twenty years together David sees that the ground beneath them had shifted and he simply hadn’t noticed. Or had chosen not to.
Figuring out who Mary Rose really was and the secrets that she kept – some of these hidden in plain sight – makes David wonder if he really knew her. Did he even know himself?
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has.
In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.
Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?
Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
1957, the suburbs of South East London. Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape.
When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud.
As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness.
But there will, inevitably, be a price to pay.
Summer by Ali Smith
In the present, Sacha knows the world’s in trouble. Her brother Robert just is trouble. Their mother and father are having trouble. Meanwhile the world’s in meltdown – and the real meltdown hasn’t even started yet. In the past, a lovely summer. A different brother and sister know they’re living on borrowed time.
This is a story about people on the brink of change. They’re family, but they think they’re strangers. So: where does family begin? And what do people who think they’ve got nothing in common have in common?
The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
When Hannah is invited into the First-Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider’s web. Now a poor young single mother, Hannah once escaped Cornwall to go to university. But once she married Jake and had his child, her dreams were crushed into bitter disillusion. Her husband has left her for Eve, rich and childless, and Hannah has been surviving by becoming a cleaner in London. Jinni is equally angry and bitter, and in the course of their journey the two women agree to murder each other’s husbands. After all, they are strangers on a train – who could possibly connect them?
But when Hannah goes to Jinni’s husband’s home the next night, she finds Stan, a huge, hairy, ugly drunk who has his own problems – not least the care of a half-ruined house and garden. He claims Jinni is a very different person to the one who has persuaded Hannah to commit a terrible crime. Who is telling the truth – and who is the real victim?
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two – and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away.
Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life, she turns to science for answers. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty soon learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach farther than she ever thought. Tracing her family’s story through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.
Transcendent Kingdom is a searing story story of love, loss and redemption, and the myriad ways we try to rebuild our lives from the rubble of our collective pasts.
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.
But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.
Happy Reading, x