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?