Women’s Prize 2021: Longlist Predictions


After last year’s disappointing longlist, I’m not going to commit myself to reading all or even most of the books longlisted for the Women’s Prize this year. However, I’m excited by the judging panel, which includes two writers I think will be exceptionally interesting judges – Bernardine Evaristo and Nesrine Malik – so if the Prize manage to pull a really good longlist out of the bag, I’m also not averse to changing my mind.

As ever, these predictions will lean towards books I wish would get longlisted rather than books I think will get longlisted – I’m not trying to get the maximum number correct. Books are eligible for the Prize if they were, or will be, first published in the UK between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. The Prize will announce the longlist on the 10th March, and it will consist of sixteen books.

My wishlist:

  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. I’m about a third of the way through this at the moment, and I love the complex portrayal of the first-person narrator, Gifty, and the intersection between her doctoral work as a neuroscientist and her family’s Pentecostal religious beliefs.
  • Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley. I loved Mozley’s debut, Elmetand she spoke so interestingly about this novel at an event I went to last year.
  • Little Gods by Meng Jin. I know this has been out in the US for ages, but I think its delayed UK publication date makes it eligible. A fascinating character study of theoretical physicist Su Lan; I reviewed it here.
  • Outlawed by Anna North. From what I’ve heard, this feminist Western is maybe a bit silly for the Prize, but I loved North’s The Life and Death of Sophie Stark so much that I have to include her newest novel.
  • The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes. On my TBR list for this year – I’m fascinated by the idea of a novel set in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash in Ireland after the collapse of the ‘Celtic Tiger’.
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel. This beautiful and haunting novel very much deserves to be here in its own right, but it would also allow the Prize to make up for longlisting but not shortlisting Station Eleven back in 2015!
  • White Ivy by Susie Yang. This is also probably too light for the Prize, but it sounds like a lot of fun, judging by Fatma’s review.
  • Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan. I’ve been meaning to try more of Fagan’s work for ages after reading The Sunlight Pilgrimsand I love the blurb for this: ‘The devil’s daughter rows to Edinburgh in a coffin, to work as maid for the Minister of Culture, a man who lives a dual life. But the real reason she’s there is to bear him and his barren wife a child, the consequences of which curse the tenement building that is their home for a hundred years. As we travel through the nine floors of the building and the next eight decades, the residents’ lives entwine over the ages and in unpredictable ways.’
  • The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. This totally immersive historical novel about the 1918 flu deserves to be here not because it’s ‘timely’ but because it’s just really good.
  • Kololo Hill by Neema Shah. This debut about the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972 didn’t blow me away, but it has enough going for it to get longlisted.
  • The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. After winning the Costa, it’s a toss-up as to whether the Prize will want in on the action with this one or think it’s had enough exposure already. I love the idea of a Caribbean-set mermaid story.
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Every year, I want the Prize to shortlist more science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction; every year, it does not. This might be in with more of a chance because (a) it’s Susanna Clarke and (b) it sounds odd enough not to be pigeonholed by genre.
  • The Yield by Tara June Winch. This is on my TBR; it’s a multigenerational tale of the Wiradjuri people of Australia.
  • Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth. Probably not literary enough for the Prize, but I thought this thriller was so insightful on our attitudes to adolescence.
  • We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan. I’m not especially drawn to this for whatever reason, but it sounds good, and it might be an interesting counterpoint to Kololo Hill, as part of it is set in Uganda in the same period.
  • Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham: ‘Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife and their father gambles away their home.’ I love books about sisters, so this sounds up my street.

What would you like to see longlisted for the Prize? Have I missed anything out? (I know there are a couple of shoo-ins that I deliberately haven’t mentioned, because this is my wishlist!)


25 thoughts on “Women’s Prize 2021: Longlist Predictions

  1. I like your long list too and hope some of these make it onto the list.

    I’m still waiting for my copy of Transcendant Kingdom to arrive (8 days to go) so looking forward to reading that and also The First Woman by Jennifer Nansbuga Makumbi who I hope makes it on the list, after her excellent debut Kintu was neglected in 2018/2019.
    I’m not really sure what’s eligible, I just hope to see a variety of voices and stories and independent publishers being represented, rather than the all too familiar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always hope that they’ll shortlist something that I haven’t heard of before and nobody else has predicted, like Bottled Goods in 2019!

      I had a look at The First Woman but I already had two Ugandan titles on my list so omitted it for that reason. However, I’ve not read anything by Makumbi, so would be keen to try her writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • She’s a brilliant writer and a favourite for me, because she pulls so strongly from her cultural storytelling tradition and issues. Her novel Kintu was my Outstanding Read of 2018 and The First Woman is certainly right up there. Fingers crossed it makes the list

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh you and Rebecca both posting your lists today is a treat, yay. I think I have 6 overlapping with you and 7 with her (though my list was very much predictions rather than wishlist so we do have rather different metrics working).

    Little Gods would be a really exciting choice. I’d also LOVE to see Luckenbooth and Hot Stew on there to give me an excuse to read them both.

    And re: your note on The Wild Laughter, have you read The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan? I can’t remember how you feel about Ryan but it’s a post-Celtic Tiger novel that I thought was incredibly brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

        • Haha I have made it my life’s mission to convert as many people to read Tana French as possible! Technically (most of) her books have a running order, but they also work perfectly well as stand-alones. And they’re all set in Ireland 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            • Exciting!! I sometimes warn people off starting with In the Woods because its structure makes certain readers very angry (want to avoid spoilers, but read the Goodreads reviews afterwards if you’re curious!) I don’t think this will be a problem for you but if it is, none of her other books share the same issue, so don’t let it put you off!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Hopefully I can read it soon too, I’m happy to use Reading Ireland Month as an excuse.

                Noted! I’ve heard there’s something… weird(?) about In the Woods but don’t know much more than that. Ready and willing to give her a second chance if need be!

                Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Women’s Prize 2021: Predictions & Eligible Titles | Bookish Beck

  4. Ooh, what an exciting list! I’m trying to give myself as little room as possible for disappointment this year by not looking too closely at what’s eligible beforehand and getting attached… But it’s still so fun to see these round-ups of hopefuls! I’ve only read a couple of these so far but there are quite a few more from my TBR that I’m very much looking forward to and would be thrilled for the extra nudge to finally pick up. I’m particularly rooting for Piranesi even though I haven’t read it yet- I’d love to see more genre fiction up for the WP. I hadn’t heard of Luckenbooth at all, but it sounds fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

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