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The new books by female authors to add to your reading list

The longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023 is here and these are the books we have our eyes on.

Written by Beth Williams
Published 08.03.2023

Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh 

Elodie is the baker’s wife. Plain, unremarkable, ignored, she burns with a secret hunger to be extraordinary. One day a charismatic new couple appear in town and Elodie quickly falls under their spell. All summer long she stalks them through the shining streets: inviting herself into their home, listening to their coded conversations, longing to possess them.

Meanwhile, beneath the tranquil surface of daily life, strange things are happening. Six horses are found dead in a sun-drenched field. Widows see their husbands walking spectral up the moonlit river. A teenage boy throws himself into the bonfire at the midsummer feast. A dark intoxication is spreading through the town, and when Elodie finally understands her role in it, it will be too late to stop.

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Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

Fleeing her husband’s explosive temper, Miriam North has brought her two daughters, Joan and Mya, back to Memphis, to the home her father built in the ’40s.

Joan was only a child the last time she visited Memphis. She doesn’t remember much, but when the front door opens, she does remember her cousin, Derek. As Joan learns more about her family’s past, she discovers she’s not the only North woman to have experienced great hurt. But she also sees their resilience and courage, how these extraordinary women fry green tomatoes and braid hair and sing all the while.

Memphis has changed since Joan’s grandparents lived there. Streets once filled with the beat of protest and blues now echo with gunfire. But Joan still looks for the beauty in this city, in its people – and she realises that to make a future for herself, she must find her own song to sing.

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Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Medusa is the sole mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her Gorgon sisters, she begins to realise that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt. And her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.

When the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. The power cannot be controlled: Medusa can look at nothing without destroying it. She is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness.

Until Perseus embarks upon a quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon…

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The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

For Geeta, life as a widow is more peaceful than life as a wife…

Until the other women in her village decide they want to be widows, too.

Geeta is believed to have killed her vanished husband – a rumour she hasn’t bothered trying to correct, because a reputation like that can keep a single woman safe in rural India. But when she’s approached for help in ridding another wife of her abusive drunk of a husband, her reluctant agreement sets in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of all the women in the village.

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The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Winter, 1561. Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara, is taken on an unexpected visit to a country villa by her husband, Alfonso. As they sit down to dinner it occurs to Lucrezia that Alfonso has a sinister purpose in bringing her here. He intends to kill her.

Lucrezia is 16 years old, and has led a sheltered life locked away inside Florence’s grandest palazzo. Here, in this remote villa, she is entirely at the mercy of her increasingly erratic husband.

What is Lucrezia to do with this sudden knowledge? What chance does she have against Alfonso, ruler of a province, and a trained soldier? How can she ensure her survival.

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Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris 

Sarajevo, spring 1992. Each night, nationalist gangs erect barricades, splitting the diverse city into ethnic enclaves; each morning, the residents – whether Muslim, Croat or Serb – push the makeshift barriers aside.

Zora, an artist and teacher, is focused on her family, her students, her studio in the old town. But when violence finally spills over, she sees that she must send her husband and elderly mother to safety with her daughter in England. Reluctant to believe that hostilities will last more than a handful of weeks, she stays behind. As the city falls under siege and everything they loved is laid to waste, black ashes floating over the rooftops, Zora and her friends are forced to rebuild themselves, over and over.

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