Having read fourteen of the sixteen titles longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, I thought I’d have a go at putting together my dream shortlist before the actual one is announced on Monday. (This is with the caveat that I haven’t read Nicola Barker’s H(A)PPY or Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I obviously just hate books about happiness).
I had anticipated this being a difficult task, as my overall impression of the longlist was that it was very strong. However, when I looked at these fourteen titles again, I realised that for me, there are six that are way ahead of the rest. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy any of the other books on the list, but that these six emphatically stood out.
In no particular order, with links to my reviews:
- Sight by Jessie Greengrass. In some ways this is an awkward and disjointed novel, but I was blown away by Greengrass’s precise and brilliant meditations on pregnancy and early motherhood, as well as her writing on the grief of losing a parent when you are still a very young adult yourself.
- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Drawing on the tropes of Southern Gothic, this novel traces the deep-rooted history of racial violence in Mississippi through the manifestion of a series of ghosts. The final page or so is simply spectacular.
- Elmet by Fiona Mozley. An incredibly confident exploration of masculinity and patriarchy, and the deep emotional attachments we can feel to places as well as people. The narrator’s sister, Cathy, is a particularly memorable character.
- When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy. This account of an violent marriage moves far beyond familiar cliches in the way it picks apart and rewrites this single story, repositioning both the abused wife and her abusive husband.
- The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar. A fabulous, intricate historical novel with a light touch of speculative fiction. Although it has serious themes to tackle itself, it’s also refreshingly lighter in tone than these other five titles!
- Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. I was totally emotionally engaged by this retelling of Antigone, which deals with Parvaiz, a young British Muslim recruited by ISIS, his two sisters, Isma and Aneeka, and Eamonn, the son of Muslim Home Secretary Karamat who is staging a ‘crackdown’ on terrorism to enhance his own reputation. Best line: ‘For girls, becoming women was inevitability; for boys, becoming men was ambition.’
I don’t have an absolute favourite to win, but Mozley, Ward and Greengrass are all strong contenders for me, with Mozley perhaps edging slightly ahead of the other two.
I’ll update this post with my thoughts on the actual shortlist once it has been released. In the meantime, what are your wishes and predictions for the 2018 shortlist?
The actual shortlist is here!
As you can imagine, I’m pretty thrilled that it’s so close to my dream shortlist, though perplexed by the exclusion of Fiona Mozley’s Elmet, which appeared on all the predicted shortlists I’ve seen, and was my preferred winner. I enjoyed The Idiot and I think it’s an interesting and original book in a number of ways, but found it meandering and over-long. However, I’m excited to have read all of the six shortlisted titles, and will now be backing Sight or Sing, Unburied, Sing as the overall winner.
Who do you think should win the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018?