Women's Prize for Fiction longlist announced

Sophie Wilson discusses the longlist released for the 25th year of the Women's Prize for Fiction

Sophie Wilson
23rd March 2020
image: instagram @womensprize
As the 25thyear of the Women’s Prize for Fiction has arrived, it is time to view the longlist for the 2020 competition. Above is this year's esteemed judging panel.

The first of the sixteen titles that have been nominated is a book that has been ever present in the eye of the public: Girl, Woman, Other. Written by Bernadine Evaristo, this book has already won the 2019 Booker Prize. It follows the lives of twelve characters, most of whom are black. Their stories do not contribute to one over-arching story line, but rather it looks at how they negotiate their separate worlds. Their lives inevitably intertwine, but so do their encounters with issues like feminism, politics and relationships.

Hillary Mantel is also not unaccustomed to publicity from her literature. With works like Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies, she has already received acclaimed success. For this year's Women's Prize for fiction, her novel The Mirror and the Light has been nominated. This book focuses on the four years between 1536 and 1540, and explores the dissolution of monasteries, a northern uprising and the politics surrounding Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves. Her work in the field of historical fiction has grown in volume with this novel, yet another book to be nominated for presitigous literary awards.

With a variety of settings and plots involved, the longlist seems to cover a diverse range of narratives

The other books cover a variety of themes and areas of exploration: in Girl, Edna O’Brien portrays a young girl who has been abducted in Nigeria. It follows a story of incarceration, horror and hunger in the lives of those touched by the bureaucracy. Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone explores the impact of teenage pregnancy on a family, Jenny Offill’s Weather explores climate anxiety, and Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet imagines life in the family of Shakespeare when his own son died at the age of 11.

With a variety of settings and plots involved, the longlist seems to cover a diverse range of narratives. Ann Patchett has written a novel about siblings thrown out of their childhood home by their stepmother; Candice Carty-Williams has told the story of a young black woman who is struggling with relationships and work in London; Haynes’ book is about the Trojan war from the perspective of the women involved, and Dominicana is about a Domincan girl navigating a move to New York.

The authors tackle harrowing topics, with Lee’s novel, How We Disappeared, telling the story of a grandmother who looks back on her time in a Japanese military rape camp in 1942. The same is true in Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had, and Goldie’s Nightingale Point, which talks about a London tower block that goes up in flames. Anappara’s novel about why children have died in an unnamed Indian city, Akner’s Fleishman is in Trouble, and Enright’s Actress finish the list.

With so many books having been chosen at shortlist worthy, then which will be the next book that you pick up? The shortlist will be announced on the 22nd April, so have a read for yourself and choose your winner.

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