Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020: Reading Plans and Predictions

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. 

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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.

Previous Winners

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?

34 thoughts on “Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020: Reading Plans and Predictions

  1. Terrific list! I would be especially delighted to see Dominicana make the longlist. As usual, I will probably read the longlisted books that happen to appeal to me, plus I have more previous winners to catch up on than you do. I’ll be interested to see how you get on with the ones you were resisting!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can barely even begin to think about longlist predictions, but as far as your as-yet-unread winners go: A Spell of Winter is definitely my favourite Dunmore novel (that I’ve read so far), very different indeed to Exposure and to her other historical romantic dramas. The Idea of Perfection is heartrendingly wonderful – I have a lot of time for it. The Road Home starts off well but gets sentimental rapidly, although if you can overlook that and the improbability of plot points, you might get on with it. Fugitive Pieces is, in my un-humble opinion, dire: a portentous faux-poetic “meditation” on trauma that reaches for universality and ends up with nothing. (If you’re in the mood for a bad review, my longer comments on it are here: https://ellethinks.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/fugitive-pieces-by-anne-michaels/) And… haven’t read Property. But really really want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the third recommendation I’ve had for A Spell of Winter from bloggers I trust, so I’m feeling better about it – indeed, I have tended to read Dunmore’s adult historicals (The Siege, House of Orphans) and found them lacking.

      I’m actually halfway through Fugitive Pieces. Your review is brilliant and entirely sums up my feelings about the book. It’s actually made me wonder if it was easier to get away with this kind of faux-profundity in 1997, or maybe I am just better nowadays at avoiding books that employ it. (I was 10 in 1997 so not a big reader of literary fiction at the time!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do have a sneaky feeling that standards may have changed (won’t say they’re now higher, but definitely different – authors still seem to get away with annoying stylistic things, but they’re not the same ones). Perhaps a certain pre-9/11 lack of cynicism also contributed? (Just spitballing here.) Delighted you found the review enjoyable – it was great fun to write!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I don’t think it’s that standards have got better, but a different set of annoying tropes have come into fashion – I can’t see this winning the Women’s Prize today, but I can see something that is too simplistic and minimalistic (eg My Sister the Serial Killer) managing it!

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  3. Great post! I’ll definitely be following the prize again this year too, and there’s some crossover in our predictions. It’s interesting re: The Testaments… I wonder if Atwood may even have told her publisher not to submit it for consideration after the whole Booker debacle. Either way, it would certainly be nice to see a few smaller titles and presses in the mix rather than just the big players!

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  4. Great post! I love seeing longlist predictions, though I have such a hard time making them myself. I really liked A Spell of Winter but haven’t read the other four winners on your to-read list. Looking forward to your thoughts!

    I also really like your longlist choices; there are a couple I’m not familiar with but many that I’ve read or would be happy to read. Ducks, Frankissstein, Trust Exercise, and GWO are at the top of my wishlist. I see Callum’s already commented about Atwood perhaps removing herself from the running here after her Booker win, which is my thought as well. I didn’t love The Far Field but I wouldn’t mind seeing it listed.

    Did you like Inland? I had mixed feelings about The Tiger’s Wife but suspect I might like Obreht’s new title more… I’d be happy to see that one longlisted for an extra push to pick it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My predictions are never right, I just have fun looking at the eligible books 🙂 I’m sorry that you didn’t get on with The Far Field – I picked that solely on the basis of its blurb.

      I absolutely loved The Tiger’s Wife, but found Inland less brilliant – nevertheless, it’s still a very good book that I’d be happy to see longlisted. The two are very different, so you may very well like Inland better.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I feel the same! Perhaps this should be the year I put my own list together. 🙂

        I did really like the topic and sense of place in The Far Field, it was only the main character that bothered me. Even though it wasn’t a personal favorite I’m not rooting against it.

        And thanks for the Inland insight, I’ll be curious to to see what I think of it it!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great list! I find this year so very difficult to predict (although I only correctly guessed two last year, so maybe every year is difficult to predict). So far I have not seen a single list with a really significant overlap to mine – so I cannot wait to see what ultimately makes the list.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I have read so few literary fiction novels this last year (basically since I read last year’s Women’s Prize list) that I genuinely do not have very many opinions on books I would rather not see. Although the reviews I have seen of Saltwater make me hesitant to ever pick that up.

        Liked by 1 person

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  7. Oooh really interesting predictions! A TON of the ones I didn’t include made my original list before I had to cut it down. Fingers crossed for The Bass Rock in particular, I’d love the push to read that. And I’m so excited for you to have read all the winners! You’re so close!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like following this prize even if I don’t get many of the books read. You seem to have a good list here.
    I get excited when Canadians make the list, so I’m going to say I would really love to see The Difference by Marina Endicott make it! (You never know, right?)

    Liked by 1 person

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