Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019

The Women’s Prize for Fiction is an incredibly prestigious annual award that goes to women authors. The award was conceived around 1991-1992, when the founders realised that 10 percent of novelists shortlisted for the 1992 Booker Prize had been women whereas no female author had been on the shortlist for 1991. Since then the prize underwent many name changes as its sponsors changed but its reputation grew.

It has received some criticism for being a sexist prize as only women authors are allowed to participate but their defence is that they do it to allow women a platform and to promote diversity in literature. In fact, this year they have long listed an author who does not identify as male or female.

In February 2019, the prize was recognised as a registered charity. Kate Mosse, Co-Founder of the Prize, said, “The Women’s Prize for Fiction was founded both to celebrate and to honour the best fiction writing by women, and to fund a range of educational, charitable and philanthropic initiatives to benefit readers. We’re passionate about putting exceptional quality literature from all over the world into the hands of male and female readers of all ages; and to invest, support and engage with readers in order to more widely promote and foster writing of excellence. This new charitable status will enable us to do more, and be even more ambitious,” according to a statement on their website.

The long list for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced recently on 4th March. The short-list will be announced on 29th April. Here are the 16 books which have been long-listed for the coveted prize:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of
The Iliad written from the point of view of Briseis, Princess of Troy, Apollo’s Priestess and Achilles concubine. Many other stories are woven in it, and it shows the price innocent women pay during war.

Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton

Remembered is a heart wrenching book set in 1910 Philadelphia. The book is about a slave, who has lost most of her family to cruel times and the way she tells her story will decide her future.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Filled with sharp satire and dark humour, this book is about a girl who has often helped her sister clean up the ‘mess’ after she murders her boyfriends. However things get complicated when her sister starts dating someone she’s been in love with for a long time.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

The Pisces is a love story. The protagonist is a woman who is a love addict and after a particularly rough phase of life, agrees to dog-sit for her sister in Los Angeles. There she falls in love with a mysterious swimmer only to find out later that he was never human.

Milkman by Anna Burns
This book won the 2018 Man Booker Prize and has lots of positive reviews. It’s the story of an illicit affair in an unnamed small town that brings out the small mind-set of small towns and how gossip can be damning and inaction deadly.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel is about a young Nigerian girl called Ada who had separate selves within her mind. We read from the perspectives of all her different selves and the book is a captivating exploration of a splintered mind.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Set in South London in 2008, around Obama’s historic election for becoming the American President, the book follows the stories of regular people going through their lives with ups and downs. It perfectly captures life in that period while exploring parenthood, loss, love friendship and ageing.

Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott

Swan Song tells the story of Truman Capote, the well-known writer and actor and the women he called his Swans. It’s a wittily written reimagining of the old times and the incidents of the time.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This book has been on Oprah’s book Club, Barack Obama’s recommended list and has been positively reviewed by many sources. The book follows an African-American family who is split apart after the husband is wrongfully imprisoned for murder.

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li
This is an insightful novel that follows the lives of all those involved with a Chinese restaurant in America across generations. The story is about changing times, family and ageing.

Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn
Set in communist Romania in the 1970s, this book mixes magic and politics as a woman tries to save her marriage by taking help from her aunt who is a communist leader who believes in the power of old folk customs.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Lost Children Archive highlights the plight of children who were separated from their parents while trying to cross the Mexican-American border while telling the story of an American family on a road trip.

Praise Songs for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden
This harrowing story highlights the cruelty of ritual servitude in West Africa through the story a girl who has to endure it. Abeo Kata lived a pleasant life till one day her parents leave her in a religious shrine, to atone for the crimes of their ancestors through her sacrifice.


Circe

by Madeline Miller
This book tells the story of Circe, the sorceress from the Odyssey who turned Odysseus and his men into pigs. This book tells the story of her birth, her power and how the fear her power invoked made her what she was in the Odyssey.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
This book brings old Briton myths to modern life and makes us question how far humans have really come. The story is about an anthropology course where participants must live like the ancient Britons around the time of the Iron Age. However when they try to build a spirit wall they gain a connection to something beyond what they expected.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
This book is a love story that highlights how love changes people through two complete opposites growing up as they leave school and take on life.

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