The Women’s Prize for Fiction winner will be announced tonight! I can’t believe it’s been almost five months since the shortlist has been announced, it seems like a lifetime ago. Two seasons have gone by and I am already reading some books I think have a chance of making it to the longlist for next year.
This year was an incredibly disappointing one for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, remarkably by some brilliant titles that did not make it to the longlist, and the inclusion of others that failed to impress. It’s especially disappointing to me, personally, that the only Latinx book added to the mix had such a lower quality than others that it made me ask myself whether it was there just to be “diverse”, much like what happened with Number 1 Chinese Restaurant last year (which I really liked! It was just not WP material in my opinion). Truly a missed opportunity for diversity, especially on the shortlist.
For a short recap, here are the six shortlisted books, announced all the way back in April 21:
- Review: A Thousand Ships, by Natalie Haynes
- Review: Weather, by Jenny Offill
- Review: The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
- Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
- Rant-Review of Dominicana by Angie Cruz incl. in a Wrap Up Post
- eARC Review: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
My preferred order for winning is:
- Girl, Woman, Other
- The Mirror and the Light
- A Thousand Ships
This is not ordered by books I loved the most, but rather by what they would bring to the table as a winner of the prize which is, after all, to celebrate women’s writing, creativity, talent and unique experiences. I think GWO brings something new, fresh and relevant and deserves to win, even though I enjoyed The Mirror and the Light more. And although both Weather and Hamnet left me wanting something different out of them (I wanted more from Weather and less from Hamnet… way less), both of them do something interesting, whereas A Thousand Ships, which I loved, brings absolutely nothing new, especially to this prize, which has seen far too many Greek retellings. Finally, I was disappointed with Dominicana in a way that I just cannot hope for it to win, even if it’s a story that could have touched my heart and done so much by bringing to life the struggles of an immigrant woman and touch on identity, language, agency and so on.
I did not read the entire longlist, but here are the reviews on those I did read:
- Mini-Review: Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson
- Review: How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee
- Review: Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams
- Review: Actress, by Anne Enright
- Review: Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
I also wrote a few posts related to this prize, including a conspiracy theories post and one about the alternative WP longlist a few brilliant bloggers and I put together!
- Conspiracy Theories about the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020
- Women’s Prize for Fiction SQUAD Presents: Book Bloggers Take Over the 2020 Longlist
- Thoughts on the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 Longlist
Basically, this blog is 70% reading and reviewing Women’s Prize longlisted or potentially longlisted or should’ve-been-longlisted books and then raving/ranting/creating conspiracy theories about it. The other 30% is me yelling about Latin American literature and Sapphics. We have a grand old time here and my followers always get high-quality educational content (ha!).
[Edit] Thoughts on the Winner: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The result is out!
Hamnet has won the prize, rather predictably! Okay I didn’t predict it, but most bloggers I follow did, and honestly I am quite disappointed. This is a gorgeous book, written masterfully (although overdone, in my opinion) and with a theme that resonates with a lot of readers right now. The reasons why I am disappointed at the result has nothing to do with Maggie O’Farrell’s talent, in fact I quite enjoyed some parts of the book, despite all my complaining about it, and it’s technically among the best ones of the list for sure.
My main issue with it winning is who I think should’ve won instead:
- The Mirror and the Light would’ve brought to the forefront a powerful, unique and incredibly executed historical fiction that explores the final years of Cromwell’s life and is an interesting, complicated take on several characters that have been otherwise cartoonishly overrepresented in the genre.
- Ducks, Newburyport (yes!! I’m bringing this up again) was mysteriously ignored by the prize, despite being a challenging book that had people laughing, crying and holding their breath in expectation. It remains one of the best books I’ll read all my life, with a perfect execution of a very difficult writing style.
- My Dark Vanessa would’ve brought an insightful, sensitive, complicated look into what it’s like to be groomed by your teacher and struggle with who you are if what you lived for so, so long is not in fact the love story you’ve been telling yourself. A painful but so relevant and so well portrayed read, it’s truly unforgettable.
- How We Disappeared is a historical fiction for people who don’t like historical fiction: a mystery and a fresh, necessary look into the victims of WWII that we don’t talk enough about, the women who were used as “comfort women” by Japanese troupes.
- And finally, Girl, Woman, Other was my champion and continues to be, first because it would be an incredible statement to have it win the WP after it had to share the Booker win with Atwood and thus being “the other writer who won the Booker” in several articles, when she was not overlooked altogether. But also this book is such a vibrant look into the lives of twelve people, focused on Black women and so full of heartbreak but also joy.
I am surely missing on several other fantastic, groundbreaking reads, but those were on the top of my head. I am not upset that the win will make people read Hamnet – I think it is quite good and most people will like it. I am however upset at all the books people will NOT pick up instead, all the missed opportunities for showing what women’s writings can do, how unique they can be and to tell the stories of women who have been forgotten or silenced.
Still, I am happy for the author, and just rather freshly upset about GWO not winning, so please take my comments with a grain of salt, I am sure this post would have a milder tone if I’d written it in a couple days, but I wanted to have it done today! I am glad for some of the books I read for the longlist, and I am excited already for the one for next year. At least we have conversations about these books (some of which I’d not have heard about otherwise), and I feel that more and more people are following the WP from early on, and it’s exciting to see people get involved, discuss books and cheer for favorites. Here’s to a more interesting list next year, but also for celebrating women’s books!