As usual, I will be following the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year: the longlist will be announced on 3rd March and the shortlist on 22nd April.
This year, there’s a bit of a twist in the tale, as the Prize is also celebrating its 25-year anniversary and so has set up a #ReadingWomen challenge, inviting readers to read the 24 previous winners of the prize and planning to crown an overall winner in the autumn. This is not the first time the Prize has done something like this – Andrea Levy’s Small Island and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of A Yellow Sun won the ‘Best of the Best’ of the first and second decades of winners respectively in 2015 – but the fact that they’re pitting all the previous winners against each other makes this set-up a bit more satisfying.
Therefore, this year I’ll be aiming to read the majority of the Women’s Prize 2020 longlist and the five previous winners that I haven’t yet read, though I’ll definitely be prioritising the longlist.
The five previous winners that I haven’t read are Helen Dunmore’s A Spell of Winter (1996), Anne Michaels’ Fugitive Pieces (1997), Kate Grenville’s The Idea of Perfection (2001), Valerie Martin’s Property (2003) and Rose Tremain’s The Road Home (2008). There are reasons for this. I don’t rate Dunmore and Tremain as adult fiction writers (I haven’t read Dunmore’s poetry, and I like some of her children’s fiction!), and I’m tired of novels about the Holocaust and slavery. However, I’ve been wanting to read the Grenville for ages… so I’m looking forward to that one.
Predictions for the 2020 Longlist
This feels like a difficult year for predictions. There are so many ‘big books’ that could dominate the list, but on the other hand, I imagine we’ll have at least one surprising omission, as presumably the Prize won’t want a list that is consumed by books that have already had a lot of coverage and/or are by very well-known authors. At least, I hope so.
As ever, then, this is a mix of a prediction list and a wishlist, from a ‘best possible world’ where the Prize follows its usual parameters and preferences but picks as many as possible of the books I like or am interested in. (I have obviously included books (*) that I haven’t yet read.)
- Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.
- Inland by Tea Obreht.
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.
- The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.*
- Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara.
- Akin by Emma Donoghue.
- Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann.*
- Far Field by Madhuri Vijay.*
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.*
- Dominicana by Angie Cruz.*
- Trust Exercise by Susan Choi.*
- Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson.*
- The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste.*
- Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid.*
- The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld.*
- The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson.
Do you have any predictions for the Prize?
Have I highlighted any books that aren’t actually eligible in 2020 (this usually happens at least once in my predictions)?
And is it even remotely possible that we may not have to think about The Testaments again?