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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
And I’m frightened but this seems inevitable:
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