Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021: Final Thoughts

I’ve now finished reading the ten titles from the Women’s Prize longlist that I wanted to read, including all six titles on the shortlist – so I’m going to post my round-up.

Overall, I think this was a stronger year for the Prize than 2019 or 2020, if not quite reaching the heights of 2018. Notably, all six shortlisted titles, even the ones I did not personally get on with, are distinguished by the quality and originality of their writing, which has not always been the case in previous years. Happily, this means that there’s no title on the shortlist that would totally outrage me if it won, which has definitely not been the case in previous years.

My overall ranking of the ten titles I’ve read is as follows, with quotes from my reviews. Shortlisted titles are starred (*).

  • *Transcendent Kingdom‘wise and thoughtful… thematically resonant… technically brilliant’
  • Consent‘I thought this novel was fantastic, but I’m struggling to say why’
  • Detransition, Baby‘so clever and so interesting… [though] it feels rather hastily put together’
  • *Piranesi: ‘it didn’t enchant me quite as much as I expected… vivid and troubling’
  • *The Vanishing Half: a strong second novel that takes Bennett’s highly readable writing to the next level’
  • Exciting Times: really cleverly handled… although I didn’t quite fall for Exciting Times, I definitely admired it’
  • *How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House: ‘great potential depth… [but] its ending is arguably too neat’
  • Small Pleasures‘a lot to love… and a little that made me uncomfortable’
  • *No-One Is Talking About This: I guess I wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t just seeing things that weren’t there’
  • *Unsettled Ground: a powerful writer inexplicably deciding to concern themselves with an incredibly dull story’

Looking back at my original post on the shortlist, this means that reading three extra shortlisted titles hasn’t actually changed my top six at all – and I’m only really glad to have read one of them (How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House). This, to me, confirms that my approach of only reading the longlisted titles that actually appealed to me this year was the right one.

The winner of the Women’s Prize 2021 will be announced on 8th September.

Who do I want to win? And who do I think will win? This year, it’s the same book:


I know a lot of people are betting on The Vanishing Half, but I’m holding out hope that a judging panel that seems so interested in prose, structural experimentation and originality will do the right thing and give the Prize to Transcendent Kingdom, which stands head and shoulders above the rest of the shortlist.

Who do you want to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021? And who do you think will win?


13 thoughts on “Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021: Final Thoughts

  1. I also keep my fingers crossed for Transcendent Kingdom! I read only 3 books from the shortlist (Transcendent Kingdom, The Vanishing Half, and How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House), so my choice is based on personal preference, not knowing how the other 3 books are like.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It feels like so long since the shortlist was announced that my enthusiasm and anticipation for the WP have really waned, which is a shame. The Wainwright Prizes and Booker shortlist are also revealed within that same week. I would love for Transcendent Kingdom to win as I marginally prefer it to The Vanishing Half and think Gyasi’s work on the whole deserves more prize attention. I’m glad your strategy of only reading the ones that appealed (+ the rest of the shortlist? e.g. Fuller) worked out for you. I am definitely done with reading prize-nominated books that hold no interest for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I want Transcendent Kingdom to win, too (not that I’ve read it!) even though I loved The Vanishing Half! And good strategy, I’m glad it worked for you. I can never face half the books on any long or shortlist so well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022: Final Thoughts | Laura Tisdall

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