Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 Shortlist Reaction – Bland & Boring??

For those who didn’t know, I’ve been making my way through the Women’s Prize Longlist for 2019, together with Rachel, Callum, Sarah, Hannah and Steph! I’ve finished by now 9 and half books, having left some that I expect to be new favorites for last! Today we got the much awaited shortlist, and if you didn’t see it yet, here are the ones that made it:

It’s been a shock to everyone not seeing Ghost Wall & Normal People make the shortlist. I haven’t read those two yet, but from the blurb I’ve been hearing, they were such favorites. That The Pisces didn’t make it isn’t entirely a surprise, but a huge disappointment! This was such a strange, daring book and I hoped it would win the Women’s Prize. The Pisces spoke to me in such a deep level and brought to surfice all kinds of uncomfortable feelings, plus it was quirky and unique and quite brilliant. I’m saddened that the list is immediately less ambitious and original by the simple fact that The Pisces didn’t make it.

From the books that did make it to the shortlist, I’ve read 4 and half of them, so with only The Silence of the Girls and half of Milkman missing, I think I have a solid opinion on the selection and… I’m really disappointed! Individually, those books are great, but together they make for such a boring picture. We’ve got two retellings of Greek mythology giving a voice to women, two books about black couples struggling with marriage, racism and society, plus Milkman, which is an unconventional book not too easy to read or like, but which has won so much praise and the Man Booker’s Prize plus a bunch of nominations, so it’s not a surprise at all to see it there. The only book I was actually pleased to see and that brings some personality to the shortlist is My Sister, the Serial Killer.

I loved Circe so, so much and deeply appreciated what An American Marriage did to my poor little heart by breaking it into pieces. But I don’t think these books bring originality to the table, especially considering that Madeline Miller already won a prize for Song of Achilles.

Honestly, this list felt like the judges got together and compromised a lot on the books that would make the list, meaning that the ones that are easy to read & easy to like made it, whereas more controversial choices didn’t (much like the Oscar Best Movie effect).

The books that made it to the shortlist are all amazing, and each one of them I would have been happy to see added but to a DIFFERENT group, where they would bring something with them, instead of diluting the list into a palatable one. I’m sad to see that a lot of people will add the shortlisted books to their TBR and never pick up The Pisces (especially with such a low rating on Goodreads), miss out on the controversy that was Number 1 Chinese Restaurant or be challenged by Bottled Goods. I will still finish reading the longlist and then write a final thoughts post before the winner is announced, but as it is for now:

1) I think An American Marriage will win.
2) I hope My Sister, The Serial Killer wins. If that cannot be had, then Milkman is fine.

How about you? What did you think?

At least it makes for interesting discussion. Here is what other people said and I loved:

Elle @ Elle Thinks has an amazing post about it: Women’s Prize Shortlist, 2019: WTF?

Rachel @ Pace, Amore, Libri also spoke very eloquently about the issue: Women’s Prize 2019 Shortlist Reaction

And Callum has a great thread about the topic, too:

8 thoughts on “Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 Shortlist Reaction – Bland & Boring??

  1. I have to agree with your thoughts. Normal People and Ghost Wall were my favourites and I thought they were guaranteed to make the list. I also thought there was no way both Greek retellings would make the list. Seems like an odd choice!

    I have read four of the books so I will definitely read Milkman and Ordinary People before the winner announced. I’m undecided in which one I would want to win!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kristin! I just finished Milkman and I’m quite impressed with it – I hope you like it! Ordinary People has been getting mixed reviews… I thought it was good, but not great. Have you read An American Marriage?


  2. This list is SO Oscar-y, you’re exactly right. I get the impression that the judges’ main aim with this list was to choose the most crowd-pleasing titles, which I don’t object to out of literary snobbery, but the aim of the Women’s Prize is to choose the BEST book published by a woman this year, and yes ‘best’ is subjective but to shun Ghost Wall and Normal People and Freshwater and The Pisces and still say this list includes ‘the best’ is just a joke.


  3. ‘Individually, those books are great, but together they make for such a boring picture.’ – This is spot on! It feels like they picked the safest, most inoffensive options, without any consideration as to how they would come together to form an overall shortlist. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You make a great point, that these books are worthwhile individually but not very strong altogether. I have to agree that I liked the shortlisted books and would have been fine with any of them being included here, but somehow all of them together just isn’t exciting in any way. I’m happy for My Sister the Serial Killer, but so sad for other favorites that were overlooked.


  5. Pingback: May 2019 Wrap-Up – Sarah Ames-Foley

  6. Pingback: Reaction to 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner & Thoughts on the Longlist | Naty's Bookshelf

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