Women’s Prize 2020: Longlist Predictions, Wishes

The long-awaited announcement of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist is almost upon us! The list is scheduled to appear on March 3rd, and prediction fun has already started to surface. I’m terrible at guessing so do not take any of this seriously, but please join in the fun if you’re also keeping an eye on the Women’s Prize!

Last year was the first year I managed to read the entire longlist before the shortlist announcement, and I’m hoping to do the same this year. Of course, it helped that last year I had read 9/16 of the longlisted books before the announcement- I do not expect that number to be as high this year. It’s also not certain that the longlist will be the same length- the last three longlists have all come in at 16 books, but the Women’s Prize does not have a set number for its longlists so we can expect anywhere from about 12-20 titles to feature. It seems like there are a LOT of excellent contenders this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how far the judges manage to narrow it down!

Let’s look at some of the possible nominees.

 

First off, some Booker Prize titles:

I read (almost) the full 2019 Booker longlist, and so many excellent women featured there in the fall that I’m certain we’ll see some crossover. On the other hand, I doubt the Women’s Prize will want to double up too much, so it’s hard to say how many of these might feature. The titles I MOST want to see nominated are, in order of personal favoritism:

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If we’re just going by merit, Ducks, Newburyport certainly deserves an appearance, though I’m hesitant to say it’s guaranteed a spot because “accessibility” is among the criteria of the Women’s Prize; a thousand-page book consisting mostly of one long sentence won’t necessarily fit everyone’s idea of accessible, though it’s an incredible work and to be honest I’m already rooting for it to advance past the longlist. Might as well place my bets early, I suppose. Ellmann has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize twice previously, and Ducks was a Booker shortlister last year, so hopes are high here.

Girl, Woman, Other seems like a very safe choice, as one of 2019’s Booker winners, and as an excellent piece of literature.

Frankissstein was another personal favorite for me, inventive in structure and dealing with many interesting topics and themes. It wasn’t shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but I’d love to see it get another chance here.

And a couple more Booker nominees that have a chance, though I’m less invested in their potential listing:

42972048  10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World  The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)

I had a great time reading Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything and would be happy to see it longlisted. It’s written brilliantly, though it’s not quite as “timely” a book as the three I’ve listed above so I’m less confident about it going very far with this prize.

I was less impressed with 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, though I appreciated its depiction of Turkey and it’s central conceit, both of which I think give it a fair shot at a spot on the longlist.

Lastly, I’m actually hoping The Testaments sits this one out. It’s been very commercially popular since its release, and with Atwood securing the other 2019 Booker win it would make sense to see it longlisted. Personally, I don’t think it’s literary enough to have been of note for either the Booker or to feature in the Women’s Prize (which isn’t to say it’s a bad book or that you shouldn’t read or enjoy it). Atwood seemed somewhat embarrassed  about her Booker win, and I’m guessing that between her disinterest in the attention and the book’s style, maybe we won’t actually be seeing The Testaments up for this prize.

 

A few titles of note from other prizes:

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It took me a minute to warm up to National Book Award winner Trust Exercise, but it came together in the end. This one’s likely to appear on my favorites list this year!

The Confessions of Frannie Langton won the debut category of the Costa Book Awards; I haven’t read it yet but I very much want to and from what I’ve heard it would be an excellent choice for the Women’s Prize.

Supper Club won the Not the Booker Prize in 2019; this is another title I haven’t read yet but desperately want to and have heard intriguing things.

Saltwater won the Portico Prize, but I have no interest in reading it after seeing a few excerpts and disliking the style. I am hoping not to see this one longlisted, but it is eligible.

 

Miscellaneous eligible titles I’ve read and would like to see featured:

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I don’t know why I never seem to spot anyone reading The Farm, as I loved the way it explored its topic from every angle and I think it’s a great book. It’s one of the titles I’d most like to see recognized with this prize this year.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be lowering my rating for Long Bright River imminently from 5 to 4 stars, but again I loved the way this one tackled its topic and wove a fun mystery besides. It would be nice to see some genre fiction on the 2020 longlist, and the blurb from Paula Hawkins (one of this year’s judges) does seem like a good sign.

 

Miscellaneous eligible titles that I’m less invested in seeing longlisted:

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I liked but didn’t love all three of these, for various reasons. I wouldn’t be upset at seeing any of them longlisted, I’m just not as excited for these as some others. (My review for Weather should be coming soon, but if you’re interested in the others here are The Far Field and Follow Me to Ground.)

 

Authors that have won the Women’s Prize previously:

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Obreht (Inland), and McBride (Strange Hotel) are both previous Women’s Prize winners, whose prize-winning books (The Tiger’s Wife and A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, respectively) I have read, I’m definitely interested in reading their newest releases. I have not yet read any of Patchett’s work, though I have been meaning to; she won previously with Bel Canto and also has The Dutch House eligible this year. These authors’ past recognition bodes well for their placement this year, I think.

 

Books on my TBR that I would appreciate the extra motivation to pick up:

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This is not an exhaustive list of all the eligible books on my TBR, just the titles I either have a copy of already or have some reason to be inclined to pick up within the year. So, these are my selfish choices.

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And I’m frightened but this seems inevitable:

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The Mirror and the Light is the third book in Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell series; both previous books were shortlisted in their publication years, and both won the Booker Prize. I have read none of them. I do want to read them, but they’re a bit long. While others worry about Ducks, Newburyport, I’m psyching myself up to read this entire trilogy before the shortlist announcement. I can’t guarantee it’ll happen, but I’m feeling determined.

 

I could go on, but I’ll link this Goodreads list of eligible titles here instead, for your perusal.

While I am hoping to have read some of the longlist already by the time it’s announced, I am also hoping to cross off a few TBR books, and pick up a couple titles I’ve never even seen before. The fact that I am hoping for one or two titles that aren’t on my radar at all already makes assembling an ideal longlist impossible, but it seems almost rude not to gather some proper guesses at this point! And so, my list of 16 potential Women’s Prize titles, a mixture of predictions and wishes:

  • Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
  • Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
  • 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak
  • The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
  • Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
  • The Farm by Joanne Ramos
  • Long Bright River by Liz Moore
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
  • The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
  • Inland by Tea Obreht
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • Supper Club by Lara Williams
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

 

Am I missing anything major? Am I looking at anything that’s not actually eligible? Is my hopeful list extremely different than yours?  Let me know!

 

The Literary Elephant

 

 

40 thoughts on “Women’s Prize 2020: Longlist Predictions, Wishes”

  1. I walked into my library today and saw Ducks, Newburyport sitting prominently at the front of the display. IT’S HUGE. I picked it up, hoping it would be light because it is paperback. IT’S HEAVY. Good gravy, I’m amazed that so many of my blogger friends read it simply because Ducks, Newburyport is about as long as a Victorian classic!

    I haven’t read Winterson’s newest book yet, but I always love her work and inventiveness. Hilary Mantel seems to win prizes left and right, so I’d imagine she’s going to go far.

    I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’d love to see more prizes for books that have yet to win a prize. Oftentimes these prizes kick start a writer’s longevity because they have so much attention on them, and the money makes a big difference.

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    1. Ducks IS huge and heavy! I think it proves the worthiness of its length, but it’s definitely intimidating. I’m glad people are picking it up, but I hope even more will!

      I loved Frankissstein, highly recommend. And Mantel does seem to be an obvious choice! I probably should’ve started reading her trilogy months ago.

      I agree, and it’s so much more pleasing when a new author wins over those already established. The Women’s Prize is usually pretty good about including some small press books and authors I’ve never heard of, so I’m really hoping to see more of that this year. There are just so many acclaimed authors coming out with new (and apparently impressive) work this year that it would seem like a deliberate exclusion for none of them to feature, even though the sense I have of the Women’s Prize is that they do want to acknowledge women who aren’t being acknowledged elsewhere. This is why I’m wondering if the longlist might be longer than usual this year, in an attempt to cover all bases. I do hope the shortlist will focus on newer talent though! I’m all for prize money (and attention) going to authors who really need it.

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      1. I didn’t know Atwood was embarrassed about her win, but it makes sense given she’s already super famous, is in high demand, and she shared it with a smaller writer who could have used the attention. I can’t even remember who the other author was because I keep thinking about the split with Atwood.

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      2. Bernardine Evaristo! The first black woman to win the Booker! For her excellent book Girl, Woman, Other. The fact that her win should’ve been a very monumental moment in prize history is a big part of the reason people were so upset she had to share the recognition with Atwood. I watched the live video of the winner announcement and was able to see Atwood’s reaction that way; her public quotes have been very gracious and polite, but in those first moments after the announcement it really seemed like she did NOT want to be in that spotlight. She kept trying to turn the attention back onto Evaristo when she was asked how she felt about winning, etc. It will definitely be interesting to see whether she’ll be competing again or not. She’s still one of my favorite authors, but I’ll certainly have more respect for her if she bows out of this one.

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      3. The super awkward thing is Atwood didn’t know they would, for the first time ever, split the prize between two writes, and one of them would be the first black woman ever to win, meaning she comes off looking self-important and perhaps a little racist, even though she had nothing to do with it.

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      4. Yes, I definitely hold the judges to account for the situation much moreso than Atwood! I would not have minded her place on the longlist at all if the judges hadn’t tried to do a weird thing and honor her career instead of her current book with the win. But it wasn’t actually the first time the prize was split, just the first time since the prize set a rule against it! The judges asked to split the 2019 prize and were specifically told No, and went ahead and did it anyway. So frustrating! (This was such a “You had one job!” situation.)

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      5. A two-way tie on a panel of five judges is just incomprehensible to me! It was such a strange prize year all around. At least it can only improve from here, I hope!

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    1. Ah, Supper Club has been on my “need to read SOON” list since December and I can’t believe I haven’t gotten around to it yet! I’m glad you found it so worthwhile, I’m still very much looking forward to reading it!

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  2. I want to read The Farm, but I dunno, I’m just not very into literary fiction right now. Everything is so doom and gloom… Having not read it, I will still be shocked if Trust Exercise isn’t on the long list. Everyone was raving about it!

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    1. I really liked The Farm, but it definitely focuses more on ideas than characters or plot, so I would recommend waiting to pick it up until you’re in the mood for that sort of book! It had Handmaid’s Tale vibes for me. It can be a bit bleak, but I think Ramos does a great job of exploring the issue without choosing sides or suggesting that it’s a hopeless cause.
      And I’m really rooting for Trust Exercise! It seems like a sort of divisive book but it is so well-written. It definitely deserves a spot!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an excellent post! We have quite a lot of crossover in our feelings/hopes/predictions for this year’s prize! The eligible titles I feel most invested in and would love to see make the list are The Mercies and The Confessions of Frannie Langton. It will be very interesting to see if Atwood is there or not. I still can’t help but wonder if she’ll have asked her publisher to hold off on submitting on her behalf after the Booker debacle… Only time will tell! 🙂

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    1. Thank you! 🙂 I’m glad we have some hopes/predictions in common!

      My library hold on The Mercies should be coming in any day, and I’m so excited for it! I haven’t read Frannie Langton yet either, but I’ve heard nothing but praise and am very much looking forward to picking it up. I’d be happy to see them both on the list!

      And I’m so curious to see what happens with The Testaments. I don’t think anything would surprise me at this point, though I definitely have a preference… I suspect that you’re right but it is hard to tell. Soon we will know!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so glad you decided to post your predictions! Mine will go up in a few hours and god, I cannot wait for next week! We have five books in common but you list a few that I have been super close to adding. This year there seem to be so many books that should be “obvious” choices which made this incredibly hard for me.
    I have been wondering about the word count – because quite a few of the books that seem like obvious choices might be straddling the line (Strange Hotel and Weather most notably). But I would obviously LOVE to see a few shorter books on the longlist because otherwise this will be a hopeless endeavor for me.

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    1. Thanks, and I’m heading over to your post imminently! I am so excited to see the final list, predictions are carrying me through these last few days. 🙂
      I agree that there are a lot of choices that seem obvious this year, it’s so hard to guess how many of them will appear! I really wonder whether this will be the year we return to a 20-book longlist.

      I am also hoping at least ONE of those shorter books will make the cut. I didn’t include them in my actual list because I was also unsure of the word count, but I’d be happy to see the Offill and/or McBride! It would definitely help balance the list, with at least two very long novels as strong possibilities. I am very uncertain about finishing the Mantel in time if it is included.

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      1. I have said it again, but a 20 book longlist might actually kill me. I have been reading so little litfic that even 16 books will surely be a stretch for me.
        Short books are so important!

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      2. I completely agree. If I haven’t read many of the longlisters beforehand this year I will already need to increase my reading speed to keep up. Short books would be a life saver!

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    1. That’s exactly my hope as well! Bottled Goods wasn’t a favorite for me either but I was very glad the women’s prize introduced me to it. I would love a surprise or two this year also!

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    1. I can see why you might have got this impression but it is definitely NOT YA – don’t give it to any young people you might know otherwise there might be some rather angry parents on your case haha

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      1. Lol, thanks for clarifying! I was pretty sure it was adult, but as I haven’t read it yet I appreciate the input from someone who has!

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    2. Thanks! 🙂 I’m very much looking forward to the announcement as well, and I do hope it’ll be a small enough list that it’s reasonable to read all the books!

      I’m pretty sure Queenie is adult contemporary. I think the MC is a mid-twenties POC in London. (Upon second thought, maybe if Girl Woman Other is a shoo-in I should’ve gone with my other contemporary guess instead, which is Such a Fun Age. I have a feeling it’ll be one of these two!)

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  5. I’m reading Ducks, Newburyport now and it’s so good so I kind of hope that wins or is at least shortlisted. I could see Supper Club as a good contender, especially if accessibility is a factor. There’s lots on here that I want to read but haven’t yet but Hilary Mantel’s work isn’t included so good luck with that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I’m so happy to hear you’re reading and enjoying Ducks!! I really hope it goes far with the Women’s Prize. And I’m glad to hear Supper Club seems like a solid choice from someone who’s read it-it’s always harder to judge when I haven’t picked it up yet, but I’m really looking forward to reading that one.
      And thanks for the luck- if Mantel does get longlisted I’ll definitely need it!

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  6. I love your blog and I am also looking forward to seeing the long list – I’m pretty sure we’ll see titles we’ve seen around for awhile but I hope that they bring highlights on other less famous ones !

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    1. Thanks so much! 🙂 I am so impatient for longlist day to arrive. And I agree with your assessment- there are too many big titles up for nomination this year to imagine a list without some familiar names, but I am also hoping for some unheard-of books to make the cut! Not long now to wait.

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  7. Ooooh I love this post and the way you structured it! Tragically The Glass Hotel is not eligible – it has an April pub date in the UK, sadly. It had better be there in 2021 though. ALSO TRAGICALLY Kandasamy is not a past winner, though she SHOULD HAVE WON for When I Hit You and I will never not be bitter about it.

    Bunny was also on my ‘I want to see it so I have an excuse to read it’ list – I haven’t seen a ton of people talk about it on their predictions lists but who knows, my fingers are still crossed. It sounds brilliant. I also fear the inevitable with Mantel, sigh. Anyway, I’m so excited!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      And oops, those were both dumb mistakes! I noticed that The Glass Castle was on both the 2020 list and the 2021 list of eligible books, and forgot to go back and double check the pub date. And Kandesamy I added last minute, thinking I’d forgotten her! I shall edit my post. It is a shame When I Hit You didn’t win, although I did really like Home Fire as well.

      I would love to see Bunny longlisted. It doesn’t appear to be a popular choice, but it does seem like it should have a fair shot! Either way I cannot wait to see what makes the cut. Heading over to your prediction post imminently as well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries – I indeed wish both of your errors had been reality!

        Ugh, I guess we’ll have to read Bunny in our own time! It does seem a bit unpopular but it sounds SO good.

        Liked by 1 person

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