Read the Women’s Prize for Fiction long-list
One of the most prestigious awards in the literary calendar has announced its 16-strong long-list – read them all here
By Becky Hardy
The Women’s Prize for Fiction is one of the most prestigious and highly-anticipated events in the literary calendar. Founded as a riposte to 1991’s all-male Booker Prize shortlist, it has underpinned a renaissance in literary fiction written by women since 1996 and remains one of the country’s elite literary awards.
Now, 2021’s long-list has been officially announced. Reflecting the incredible diversity of women’s fiction writing in English – ranging from accounts of female emancipation to Barbadian folktales, black comedies to wickedly sardonic takes on mother-daughter relationships (hello there, Mother’s Day!), there’s some really special stories to discover here.
So check them out below – and let us know your own shortlist before these books are whittled down on 28th April for the Women’s Prize for Fiction’s official shortlist.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at 16, it’s not just their daily lives that are different as adults, it’s everything – right down to their racial identities.
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
In December 1955, the Sunday Pictorial launched a Christmas appeal to find women who believed they had experienced a virgin birth. Most who came forward were ruled out, but there was one case which several doctors failed to reach a consensus. Clare Chambers heard about it on the radio and made it the basis for this fictional account – a tender story about belief, credulity and happiness.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Weaving a rich gothic atmosphere, the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell mines a darkly fantastical vision with a tale of a very singular house and its mysterious inhabitants.
The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
When Hannah is invited into the First Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider’s web – during the course of the journey, the two women agree to murder each other’s husbands. After all, they are strangers on a train, who could possibly connect them?
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents’ money, it’s called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she’s not sure what to call it, but it involves: a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children; money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections. Exciting times ahead!
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Devastatingly acute and bitingly funny, Doshi’s forensic account of a toxic mother-daughter relationship skewers themes of betrayal, regret and memory in incisive prose.
Because of You by Dawn French
Boasting Dawn French’s unique brand of unfailing wit and emotional warmth, Because of You is a funny, uplifting tale of mothers and daughters and the family bonds that make us who we are.
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
A portrait of rural poverty in the 21st century, Unsettled Ground introduces us to two middle-aged sisters whose carefully cultivated existence on the fringes of society begins to unravel following the death of their mother.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
The much-anticipated second novel from the award-winning author of Homegoing, Transcendent Kingdom charts the experiences of a Ghanaian immigrant family in modern America.
How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
A powerful, intense story of three marriages on a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the sacrifices some women have to make to survive.
Luster by Raven Leilani
Audacious and provocative, Leilani’s firecracker of a debut charts Edie’s awkward slalom through modern life: from dead-end hook ups and crushed ambitions to a romantic liaison that has disaster written all over it.
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
We’re used to reading Patricia Lockwood’s poetry, so her debut novel has been a hilarious, heartfelt revelation. In it she tells the story of a woman who’s fame from social media has meant she can travel around the world meeting her fans, only for two texts from her mother to suddenly shatter her seemingly-perfect life.
Consent by Annabel Lyon
A moving, mysterious and heartbreaking novel centred around two sets of sisters whose lives are braided together when tragedy changes them forever, Consent delves into the complexities of familial duty and how love can become entangled with guilt, resentment and regret.
Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
Dissecting a marriage with rich psychological insight, Nothing But Blue Sky finds a bereaved husband questioning the truth about the woman he thought he knew inside out.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Navigating the complicated waters of family-making and motherhood in the 21st century, this exciting and very funny debut follows the lives of three trans and cis women living in New York.
Summer by Ali Smith
The unmissable finale to Ali Smith’s dazzling literary tour de force, the Seasonal quartet concludes with Summer: a story about people on the brink of change and family who think they’re strangers. Insightful, entertaining and utterly brilliant.