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.
- 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, Elmet, and 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 Pilgrims, and 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!)