Tag Archives: women’s prize longlist prediction

Review: Queenie

Today marked the FINAL WEEK in the lead-up to the Women’s Prize shortlist announcement! It was also my birthday, which was very low-key, relaxing, and Women’s Prize focused this year, thanks to this whole lockdown thing. Any day full of books is a good day though, so before I turn in I’m here to talk about another title from the longlist: Candice Carty-Williams’s Queenie.

queenieIn the novel, Queenie is a young woman of Jamaican descent living in London. Her boyfriend of three years has just requested a “break,” so Queenie is temporarily moving out of their shared apartment. At the same time, she’s received some shocking news from her gynecologist that she’s keeping to herself. Amid this upheaval, while the boyfriend refuses to answer her calls or texts, Queenie begins having meaningless sex with men who treat her like trash, which also contributes to trouble at work and with her friends. Everything seems to fall apart at once, and the constant casual (and not so casual) racism Queenie faces drags her down to an all-time low. Can she pick up the pieces?

“I just wanted my old life back. I wanted my boyfriend, and I wanted to not be fucking up at work, I wanted to feel good about myself. I was so far from that, so far from being who I was, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself from self-destructing.”

Queenie is a pacey read driven by compelling first-person narration and packed with modern day-to-day dramas. It’s essentially a coming-of-age story; Queenie is in her mid-twenties just trying to figure life out, in a way that’s very relatable as a fellow mid-twenties woman who’s not entirely sure where her life is heading. Though Queenie’s quest for “normalcy” and a happy ending may be familiar, she is also a very specific character with plenty to share about the female Jamaican British experience. Or at least, one example of it. This aspect I could not relate to, though the level of detail with which things are explained suggests that the book was written with a much wider audience than Jamaican British women in mind, and I did close the book feeling as though I’d gained a bit of perspective.

Queenie as a character is easy to love, despite her questionable choices. It’s clear she’s a good person, a mostly positive, optimistic person, even though she’s hit a rough patch and lost her stride. She reaches out. She tries. She doesn’t apologize for who she is or try to become someone she’s not. She’s not great at explaining or even examining her feelings, so it’s possible some readers will feel disconnected from her, though I think her emotions are usually clear enough through her actions, and it does serve the plot for her to untangle her feelings later on. Carty-Williams has crafted a complex, dynamic character in Queenie, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective.

Point of view aside, the writing is plain but adequate; I found myself marking passages for their quotability rather than because I found the style inspiring or noteworthy. Despite the excellent characterization in Queenie, the rest of the book’s cast is rather one-dimensional. There is not a lot of technical skill on display; this is clearly a contemporary book rather than a literary one, by which I mean the words are well-chosen and serve their purpose, but achieve nothing beneath the story’s surface or through the structure of the narration.

Both plot and commentary are transparent. There’s no nuance to Queenie’s choices in the course of this story, no doubt for either her or the reader that she’s making bad choices because the things she won’t talk about are bothering her at a very deep level. These unaddressed things will, of course, be revealed throughout the course of the novel, and it is not difficult to guess what they will turn out the be- the narration has a tendency to conspicuously skip over details that will later become important, leaving a gaping hole where that information should be, a telltale question mark left dangling as the story moves on until it’s ready to address these gaps. Even the commentary on racism is obvious; someone says something laughably ignorant, another character explains why it is Bad. Even lingo is dissected in-text, whole Urban Dictionary entries appearing in dialogue/text messages. There’s no chance of missing anything, though this also means there’s little need to look deeper than the blunt top layer of text. It’s all right there up front.

” ‘All that Black Lives Matter nonsense,’ scoffed an older man I recognized from the review supplement. ‘All lives matter. […] What about the lives of Latinos, of Asians, the lives of- I’m white, does my life not matter?’ he continued. / ‘I’m not…suggesting that the lives of other ethnic groups do not matter,’ I explained, gobsmacked that I had to explain. ‘I don’t think that any part of Black Lives Matter even hints that other lives are disposable?’ / ‘Well, when you put the lives of some and not all on a pedestal, what else are you doing?’ / ‘It’s not putting black lives on a pedestal, I don’t even know what that means,’ I said, my heart beating fast. ‘It’s saying that black lives, at this point, and historically, do not, and have not mattered, and that they should!’ “

Black Lives Matter is, of course, an important topic, as are the other examples of racism and defense against it that appear throughout the book, but I can’t help but feel lectured when these are laid out so blatantly (as in the example above), which is not a preferable reading experience. It pulls the reader out of the fiction layer of the story, rather than working together with it (at least it does for me). I’m certainly no expert on racism or intersectional feminism, both of which I think Queenie is attempting to address, but my personal taste tends toward subtlety over bluntness; I certainly think there’s an audience for this book and I don’t hesitate to recommend it despite the lukewarm temperature of this review, but because of its blunt-edged approach it just wasn’t a perfect fit for me.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be fitting of the 2020 Women’s Prize longlist if we didn’t acknowledge that this is also- to no one’s surprise- a book about motherhood. This becomes apparent through Queenie’s relationship with her mother, her grandmother, her aunt, and her own thoughts on pregnancy. All of these mother figures have their own particular commendations and flaws, as Carty-Williams- like the rest of this year’s longlist authors- unpick the question of what a “good” mother looks like.

“Do you think I sleep, with all of you to worry about? I don’t think I’ve put my head on the pillow and slept a full night since 1950.”

All in all, a solid offering that I am glad to have read and don’t mind seeing on this year’s longlist, though I wasn’t quite as impressed as I’d hoped to be. I’ve saved some of my highest-hopes titles for last, so the competition is getting to be somewhat fiercer at this point. (Finally!) I’ll have at least one more positive review coming before the end of the week!

My reaction: 3 out of 5 stars. I’m undecided between a 3 and 4 actually, this might change by the time my longlist wrap-up comes up next week. Though the book didn’t do quite as much as I’d hoped it would, I did still have a good time reading it and expect I’ll remember it fondly. I wouldn’t count out reading more of Carty-Wiliams at this point, and I wouldn’t be broken-hearted to see this one make the shortlist, though I think there are stronger contenders I’ll root for ahead of this one.

Have you read Queenie? What did you think?


The Literary Elephant

Review: Hamnet

We’re in the final stretch with the Women’s Prize longlist! Today’s update is my review of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, a historical fiction novel I absolutely adored.

hamnetIn the novel, William Shakespeare and his wife, who is here referred to as Agnes, have three children- two girls, and a boy, Hamnet, the latter of whom dies of the plague at age eleven, in 1596. Hamnet and his sister Judith, who also falls sick, are twins.

“How were they to know that Hamnet was the pin holding them together? That without him they would all fragment and fall apart, like a cup shattered on the floor?”

The book is divided into two parts, the first alternating between the family’s past and the 24 hours leading up to Hamnet’s death, and the second part comprised of one long chapter following the family beyond Hamnet’s death. O’Farrell shares in a note at the beginning of the text both the age at which Hamnet dies, and the fact of his father writing a play titled after him four years later, and thus the story’s major events are not treated as shocking plot twists but instead as the basis for an emotional journey in the lives of one historic family. The dual timelines in the first half of the book help the reader balance the foreboding of this impending event with happier times- William and Agnes meeting for the first time, their marriage, the births of their children. It’s a fairly simple, very effective, structure.

The reason I loved this book was, plain and simple, for the writing. I’ve not read any of O’Farrell’s work before, and though I’ve heard plenty of praise, I was not prepared for how swept away I would be by her style. It is, admittedly, a bit elaborate and overly involved, with lots of imagery and descriptions that aren’t strictly necessary to the plot, so surely this will come down to reader preference. Usually even I prefer sparser prose, but there’s a beautiful sense of rhythm to Hamnet‘s sentences that I found incredibly immersive. Reader be warned though, that this could potentially be a difficult read in our current global state, with the incurable “black death” plague being a main feature.

” ‘He wears the mask because he thinks it will protect him,’ she says. / ‘From the pestilence?’ / His mother nods. / ‘And will it?’ / Her mother purses her lips, then shakes her head. ‘I don’t think so. Not coming into the house, however, refusing to see or examine the patient, might,’ she mutters.”

Aside from the prose, pros and cons are mixed. I liked the way O’Farrell leaves Shakespeare unnamed through the entire novel, giving his family a rare chance at the forefront, although the attempt to sideline him even partially is rather undermined by the fact that one of the book’s main purposes seems to be displaying the grief that leads Shakespeare to write one of his best-known plays. However, if the intent of the novel is indeed to explore the reasoning behind Shakespeare’s writing of Hamlet, I think the narration does not explore the connections between the play and the circumstances of Hamnet’s death closely enough for it to succeed in that regard. There are threads pointing in every direction, enough so that it is actually a bit unclear where exactly O’Farrell is trying to lead the reader.

Despite being the most prominent character, Agnes is not quite isolated enough in the narration for this to feel like her story, and nor is Hamnet given enough personality for it to feel like his, however central his role. Rather, this book is a wider examination of family, (which should come as no surprise to anyone reading along with the 2020 longlist at this point). Like many of this year’s longlisted books, Hamnet asks the reader to reconsider what we expect good parents to look like by presenting unique and imperfect people who, despite appearances, are trying their best with what they’ve been given. We see Agnes, an unconventional woman with a penchant for nature and an abusive stepmother; she’s a strong woman who won’t change her personality despite the ridicule she (and thus her family) faces from her community. Shakespeare, though flawed, for his part does at least value his wife and her eccentricities. His love for her and for their children provides a counterweight to his long and frequent absences from the family home. Other members of the family are present on the page, though given less depth. Even though the approach, as with many of the other longlisted books I’ve read, lacks nuance, it does at least make for an engaging story.

“They cannot both live: he sees this and she sees this. There is not enough life, enough air, enough blood for both of them. Perhaps there never was.”

But the book isn’t entirely a thematic dud. Emotion is very much at the story’s center, and I think the book excels as an examination of love and grief. The unchronological structure serves as a reminder of the ways in which the two emotions can be delicately linked, and likewise can bind the people who experience them together. The narration traverses both the delights and devastations of marriage and family life, braiding them all into one all-encompassing strand. I felt everything.

The best part: you do not need to have read Hamlet to enjoy/appreciate this novel. I’ve actually read very few Shakespeare plays thus far, and that list does not include Hamlet. I have since ordered a copy though, because O’Farrell left me curious.

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I would’ve preferred this book to present a bit more commentary or takeaway beneath the surface, but can’t deny that I loved every moment of the read regardless. Though I’m not sure whether this title will appear on my shortlist wishlist (I wanted it to accomplish a bit more than emotion) I am confident it will feature at or near the top of my longlist favorites list. This may have been my first O’Farrell book, but it certainly won’t be my last!


The Literary Elephant

Review: A Thousand Ships

You guessed it: another Women’s Prize longlist review. Natalie Haynes’s A Thousand Ships is the last book that I finished reading, so this is me caught up on reviews! And I did mostly like this one!

athousandshipsIn the novel, Greek muse Calliope brings the voices of women together to retell the story of the Trojan War from exclusively female perspectives. This includes everything from the origins of the war (the gods’ decisions to meddle with the order of things on earth, a squabble over a golden apple, and Helen leaving her husband to sail to Troy), to the aftermath (the fates of the conquered Trojans, husband warriors returning to their wives in Greece, and much-awaited vengeance), as well as everything in between.

“When the war was ended, the men lost their lives. But the women lost everything else. And victory had made the Greeks no kinder.”

The book is divided into 40-some chapters, each told from the perspective of a different woman connected to the Trojan War in some way. These vignettes are not presented in chronological order, but rather flow between related characters, plot points, or themes. I actually found this quite effective; it’s easy enough to keep track of the overall timeline at least in broad strokes- before, during, and after the war, and this structuring method also keeps the focus on the characters rather than the already-familiar plot. Most of the characters are given only one chapter each, just enough space to explain their roles. The language is also reminiscent of what can be found in the epic poetry already associated with these myths- it reads a bit like a translation from original Greek, which lends a sense of atmosphere and history.

Though I did enjoy the read from start to finish, I had a few specific hang-ups. The largest is that while A Thousand Ships aims to be a Trojan War story focused on women, I did ultimately find it to be the same male-focused tale, simply told from different mouths. In the book’s list of key characters, nearly as many men feature as do women. Though the women’s deaths and sufferings are highlighted, most of their tales still revolve around the famous men. These women tell of their husbands, their sons, their owners (in the case that they’ve been captured as slaves), etc. It would of course be unrealistic to expect that none of these women’s stories would include men at all, but I did wish the women would have been given a bit more space to stand firm on their own.

The clearest example of the male focus can be seen in Penelope, who recounts all of Odysseus’s trials on his ten year journey home (through letters addressed to him, nonetheless!); her exasperation and annoyance with him for leaving her alone so long is the only sense in which her own voice shines through what is essentially her husband’s story, though she is given more chapters than any other character.

“Who but you [Odysseus] would assume that the gods had nothing better to do than assist you with whatever impossible scheme you had embroiled yourself in? And who but you would be right?”

There’s also Helen, who is uniformly hated by the rest of the book’s women, which perhaps isn’t out of the question given her role in their suffering, but should have been explored more fully so as not to come across as victim- or slut-shaming. I actually thought her dialogue in response to the accusations against her was very interesting and went some way toward pointing out the complexities of her character and situation, but it is sparse and more coverage was needed. Helen is not given a perspective chapter.

In the end I think Haynes’s biggest mistake was not using these women’s perspectives to add anything new to the Trojan War narrative. I think a little creative license with events and motives (perhaps even to pad the story if not to change canon material) might have saved the book from continuing to place men at the center of this tale. As it is, A Thousand Ships may be a fair alternative to reading Homer, but anyone with working knowledge of Greek mythology is unlikely to find anything truly revelatory in these pages. It’s a wonderfully woven recap that relative newcomers to Greek mythology (and veterans who just never tire of hearing the same tales over and over) may appreciate, but as someone who’s read The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Silence of the Girls, Circe, and The Song of Achilles all in the last two or three years, I found Haynes’s take a readable and adept account that brings absolutely nothing novel to an old story. Calliope (the muse) certainly tries to steer this narrative in a new direction, but being spoon fed the book’s feminist intents through a clear author mouthpiece does not have the same effect that more powerful female narratives would have provided.

“She isn’t a footnote, she’s a person. And she- all the Trojan women- should be memorialized as much as any other person. Their Greek counterparts too. War is not a sport, to be decided in a quick bout on a strip of contested land. It is a web which stretches out to the furthest parts of the world, drawing everyone into itself.”

Where A Thousand Ships shines, in my opinion is it’s ability to demonstrate the far reaches of a devastating event such as war. Haynes is able to convey that the effects of a conflict like this spread far wider than the number of dead and injured, altering entire communities, including the victors. She acknowledges on the page some of the female horrors of ancient Greece that Homer doesn’t- the way women are appropriated as slaves and even as wives, against their will, the psychological affects of seeing their families and community members killed, their almost complete lack of agency. It is also a story that reminds the reader that there is more to every story than the winner’s tale of triumph.

“In any war, the victors may be destroyed as completely as the vanquished. They still have their lives, but they have given up everything else in order to keep them. They sacrifice what they do not realize they have until they have lost it. And so the man who can win the war can only rarely survive the peace.”

For the right reader this will be a fantastic experience. It’s not a story that requires prior knowledge, though part of the pleasure for me was recognizing familiar faces. If this book had been published before Miller’s and Barker’s recent retellings, if I had read it when I was first learning Greek mythology, I could have loved this book. It’s a perfectly fine narrative that could have stood a few changes but ultimately does nothing wrong. I just came to it at the wrong time in my reading life, and I suspect that most who’ve read the two Greek retellings on last year’s Women’s Prize longlist will end up feeling the same.

My reaction: 3 out of 5 stars.  I have absolutely nothing against Haynes or this book, but hope not to see it shortlisted. I’m not in a hurry to search out more of this author’s work, but I wouldn’t consider it out of the question based on this experience.


The Literary Elephant

Review: Red at the Bone

And so begins my 2020 Women’s Prize longlist journey! I’m getting a late start and suddenly have plenty of titles to choose from, so I went with one of the shortest books on the list to pick up some momentum, and one I thought I had a good chance of enjoying. Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone proved a great place to start!

redattheboneIn the novel, Melody has just turned sixteen and her family is hosting a coming-of-age ceremony in her honor. It’s a long-standing tradition, but Melody’s mother’s party was canceled as a result of her teen pregnancy, so this is the first ceremony of its kind in two generations. As her parents and grandparents attend this party, they reflect on Melody’s life, on their own pasts, and the ways their relationships have evolved to lead them all to this point. Later, we see what becomes of each of them after the party.

This is not a character study so much as a family study. Each member has a unique experience within this frame, but they all play a role in shaping each other. Woodson gives the reader a glimpse not quite at a collection of individuals, but at two approaches to motherhood and the daughters they raise; at two approaches to fatherhood and the challenges they face; at the actions of children and parents and their far-reaching consequences. In the end, though Melody helps hold the generations of her family together, this is not, in the end, Melody’s story. If any character stands more in the spotlight and sends more ripples through the lives of her family I would argue that it’s actually Melody’s mother at the heart of this novel, though even she is only one piece of the larger puzzle. Through her though, we see perhaps the most interesting facet of the novel: an exploration of what makes a good or bad parent, and how confining societal expectations can be, especially for young women.

“Was that cruel? To be the child’s mother but even at nineteen have this gut sense she’d done all she could for her? She had given her life. Nursed the child all through junior and senior years of high school- running home at lunchtime to stuff food into her own mouth and her boob into the baby’s. Each of them staring at the other in wide-eyed amazement, as though to say, How the hell did you get here? and Are you going to stay?

Red at the Bone is light on plot. The book opens on Melody preparing for her ceremony, and the reader is given a lot of key information right away. We learn that this party is a family (and cultural) tradition, that her mother missed her turn, and why. We learn how Melody feels about her family members and the party. After all of these indicators are offered in the book’s earliest pages, most of the following chapters are told retrospectively, in vignette-like flashbacks to the choices that have led these characters to gather at Melody’s ceremony and behave in the ways that they do. Stories told from the past like this often fail to hold my attention, as knowing where the characters are headed takes a considerable amount of the tension and emotion out of following their journey. Through most of the book, Red at the Bone was no exception to this rule, though it offers some commentary on race and class, identity and societal expectations to hold the reader’s attention.

At first the retrospective structure and thus the book’s failure to surprise had me worried that this story wouldn’t deliver the emotional impact I look for in family sagas. But there’s a shift about halfway through, an exploration of sexual identity I hadn’t been expecting that slides elusive motivations into place. The narrative also eventually moves past Melody’s party to touch on the eventful months and years that follow, and in these moments I thought Red at the Bone really shone. Melody’s party was something the family had been able to prepare for, had been headed toward for sixteen years; but the events that follow it catch the characters off guard, giving them more of a chance to act and react, and demonstrating the ways in which all those years of history have come together. It shifts to a tale of tragedy and perseverance, and of inheritance.

“She felt red at the bone- like there was something inside of her undone and bleeding.”

Ultimately I wish the first half had been stronger and I’m not sure this book will leave any long-term impact for me, but it’s such a quick and easy read and in the end I did have a good time with it. I’m not particularly rooting for or against this one making the shortlist, but I’m glad it’s spot on this year’s longlist gave me a reason to pick it up.

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. It took me a little while to warm up to this one, and through most of the read I expected to settle on a 3-star rating. But in the end I enjoyed reading about each of these characters and seeing where their lives took them. It made me think not just about what struggles people face individually, but at how each of our experiences and actions also inform the lives of others. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good family story, and this one delivered.

Update: I am bumping my rating down to 3 stars. I still think this is a solid read and deserving of its place on the Women’s Prize longlist this year, but I am finding it more forgettable and less impressive in what it accomplishes, over time. While the amount of thematic exploration packed into so few pages is still my favorite aspect of the book, I do think about 50 more pages for further development of the content introduced at the end would have greatly benefited the book overall.


The Literary Elephant


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:

37506228  Far Field  46301955

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:


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