The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 shortlist will be announced tomorrow! This year, I followed the same strategy as last year and selected six titles from the Women’s Prize longlist that I actually wanted to read, plus the two I’d already read when the list was announced. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the list, so I then added three more titles, bringing the total number to eleven. This last-minute move was, I think, a mistake. Two of the three titles I added were my two least favourite of the eleven, and while the third, Sorrow and Bliss, was certainly worth reading, let’s face it – it’ll probably get shortlisted and then I would have read it anyway.
Here’s my ranking, with links to my reviews:
- The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
- Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
- Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
- Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey
- Careless by Kirsty Cape
- The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
- The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
- Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
- Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé
- The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
- The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini
This means that my ideal shortlist is:
This is a strange ideal shortlist to have, as I only really want four of the titles on it – The Sentence, Sorrow and Bliss, Build Your House Around My Body and Remote Sympathy – to actually get shortlisted. Nevertheless, I still feel I’ve had a better experience with the longlist than I did last year.
But what do I think will actually get shortlisted? I have a surprisingly good track record when it comes to Women’s Prize shortlist predictions: 5/6 in 2018, 3/6 in 2019, 5/6 in 2020, and 5/6 in 2021. I very much doubt I will do as well this year, as the judges seem to have a penchant for left-field choices. But I would guess:
- There are a couple of left-field picks on the list that are ranked low among readers and I suspect are a single judge’s choice, so they are unlikely to advance to the shortlist. I’d say Careless, Flamingo and The Exhibitionist fall into this category.
- There are also a number of relatively obscure books from independent publishers on the list: I think only one of these will advance to the shortlist, so that rules out Creatures of Passage and Salt Lick. Creatures of Passage also deals with child abuse and magical realism, two themes that are covered on the shortlist I’ve predicted.
- Following on from that, because I think the judges will limit the number of books that deal with child abuse or speculative/magical realist books on the list, I’d also rule out The Paper Palace, Build Your House and The Book of Form and Emptiness, although I think the latter is the most likely of all the books I’ve ruled out to actually make it to the list. I have only omitted it because its take on books and reading is very similar to The Sentence.
- Finally, I think Great Circle will miss out because it already made the Booker shortlist and these judges seem to want to do things their own way; and Opal & Nev because it isn’t literary enough.
What are your wishes and predictions for the shortlist?
EDIT 27/4/22: And the actual shortlist is…
I didn’t quite meet my previous records, but I’m pleased to have correctly predicted 4/6 of the shortlist (and to have suggested that Ozeki was likely to make it despite not being one of my official predictions!)
I’m not hugely excited about this shortlist but neither am I hugely disappointed. The only book I’d really like to have seen on the shortlist that isn’t there is Build Your House Around My Body; on the other hand, the only book that I really think doesn’t deserve its place on the list, of the five I’ve read, is The Bread The Devil Knead. I’m pleased to see my top two picks, The Sentence and Sorrow and Bliss, and while I had significant problems with both Great Circle and The Book of Form and Emptiness, both books have their own strengths as well.
Will I read the whole shortlist? The only book I haven’t read is Elif Shafak’s The Island of Missing Trees, so yes! I’m SO relieved not to have to tackle Flamingo, Salt Lick, The Exhibitionist or This One Sky Day.
What are your thoughts on the shortlist?