Reaction Post: Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 Longlist (I Did Kind Of Jinx It)

Hello readers!

Yay, we have a longlist for the Women’s Prize this year! I am already a day late with my reaction post, but yesterday I was too busy raging/raving to actually write anything, so today it is. Needless to say, my predictions were off, as is traditional in this blog. I got 3 books right! Considering I only put 9 on my predictions, that’s not too bad.

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From: https://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/features/features/news/revealing-the-2021-longlist

Two I have read already:

Luster by Raven Leilani is a messy woman trope kind of book – the writing is sharp and brilliant at times, but the plot left me a bit underwhelmed in the end. It tells the story of young Black woman who gets involved with a white man in an open marriage, and gets entangled with his family – his white wife and Black daughter, to whom she starts to become a role model. You can read my review here. Oh, and I predicted this one!

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan was a gem of a book and I’m happy to see it listed. It tells the story of a young Irish woman living in Hong Kong who is in a relationship with a British man but gets involved with a Chinese lawyer. You can read my review here.

Five I will definitely read:

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is a mysterious, fantastical story involving a labyrinth – I don’t know much more than that and neither do I want to, as I’ve heard it’s best to get into it blind. I will definitely be reading this and I’m glad it made the longlist! Another one that I predicted.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is another one I’m happy to see on this list (also I predicted it)! It tells the story of two twin sisters who lead very different paths in life: one chooses to pass for white to make her life easier, and the other embraces her Blackness. This seems like it will be a fascinating read and I look so much forward to it!

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters this just sounds so good and vibrant, I look forward to picking it up! It’s the story of a trans woman whose girlfriend decides to detransition, and the two of them end up entangled in a complicated relationship with a third person.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller was on my radar already, so I’m glad for a good excuse to get a copy of this. I enjoyed but did not love Bitter Orange, so I’m a bit cautious about this one. It tells the story of two twin, middle aged siblings who find themselves alone for the first time in their lives, after their mother dies, and must confront the outside world alone. They’d lived a pretty isolated life up to now, and learning to enter society will be very difficult, maybe dangerous.

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood seems like a mix of genres – part fantasy, part contemporary, it explores social media, love, human connection. This could be excellent or too weird for me, so I’m excited to see where I stand with it.

And the other nine I will (probably) not read:

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi is one I will not pick up at least for now but might change my mind about. It tells the story of a young woman who studies neuroscience and starts missing the faith she had in childhood. I’m just not very drawn to the synopsis, but depending on what the reviews say, I might actually pick it up.

Because of You by Dawn French is about mothers and… I don’t know what else to say? The synopsis did not enlighten me much and honestly I’m not very interested.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi was shortlisted for the Booker prize, but from the reviews I’ve read I don’t think this will be for me. It tells the story of a mother-and-daughter relationship, where the daughter has to take care of her mother, although she never got taken care of by her. Maybe I’ll actually pick this up, but it’s not very likely.

Consent by Annabel Lyon is about two sets of sisters (one is pair of twin sisters- why are there so many twins in this list?? Are twins’-relationships the new Greek-retelling for the Women’s Prize?), there’s some revenge plot and honestly I am not sure how they are all connected. If the reviews are really good I might pick this up, but it didn’t catch my attention a whole lot.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones is a debut by a Caribbean author, which is so exciting in a list so white as this one. It tells the story of a series of events that is triggered by a burglary gone wrong in Barbados, and it seems like it will touch on the interesting topic of ex-pats living on paradisiacal islands but ruining the lives of the locals. The more I think about this book, the more interesting it sounds and I might just change my mind and pick it up!

Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon, hum, I read the synopsis and immediately forgot it. Something about marriage. This just does not stand out to me much – but also I haven’t seen any reviews for it, so maybe it’s excellent? This gives me Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff vibes (which I loved), but somehow I’m not quite drawn to it.

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers is about a woman who claims to have given birth while still a virgin and the journalist who goes to investigate the story and ends up entangled with the woman and her family.

Summer by Ali Smith is the last book of the Season quartet, a collection of books about Brexit, this time focusing on a family. I enjoyed Autumn, although I was not very charmed by it, and have since decided not to pick up the rest of the series, so I will not be reading this one. I’m surprised to see it in this list – I thought Ali Smith was not entering her books for prizes anymore.

The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig is a thriller about two woman who have not met before and decide to murder each other’s husbands, because why not. I was initially drawn to this (I love thrillers), but after realizing she has signed a letter to defend J. K. Rowling’s transphobia I lost interest in supporting her work. And frankly, after re-reading the synopsis again, I lost interest in the book itself, too.

Final Thoughts

  • Once again, the WP is incapable of coming up with a satisfyingly diverse list (so many white authors!), but at least this is a far more exciting list for me, personally, than last year’s. Although I’ve decided to read less than half of it, I’m keeping an open mind to the others (except The Golden Rule).
  • A few of these books are entirely forgettable to me simply because… a lot of them sound so similar. We have no less than 4 books about couples where a third person gets entangled, three about twins and three about mothers. At least no Greek retelling this year, yay? Also here’s me trying to start tea on Twitter:
  • I’m very excited that we have a trans woman author!
  • I’m very angry and disappointed that they’d put someone who has openly supported transphobia on the same list, though.
  • I’m surprised Sarah Moss, Emily St. John Mandel, Tara June Winch and Anne Tyler did not make the list.
  • Some books I wish had been longlisted: Summerwater by Sarah Moss, How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha, Nightshift by Kiare Ladner.

Other reaction posts for the longlist I loved reading:

11 thoughts on “Reaction Post: Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 Longlist (I Did Kind Of Jinx It)

  1. Thanks for the link! Completely agree with your commentary on the list as a whole, and it looks like we’re interested in similar titles to start off. (Although, I want to recommend considering giving Transcendent Kingdom a shot! The synopsis didn’t really excite me at first either, I picked it up just because I’d loved the author’s last book, but it really is a great science-y character study with a focus on the affects of depression and addiction and the writing is great. Totally fair if that’s not grabbing your interest, of course, I was just so pleasantly surprised by it.) And I’m happy to see Exciting Times was such a strong read for you, that’s one I’m aiming to pick up very soon! 🙂

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  2. Great post! As discussed, we have very similar thoughts 😂 I’m thrilled we have a trans woman on the list at last, but it stings to have them taint her achievement in the way they did 😔 There are lots I’m intrigued by, and I can’t wait to start seeing people’s reviews come in 📚👀

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  3. Thanks for the link! I agree with Emily that the synopsis does not sell Transcendent Kingdom very well – it’s excellent, but it’s a hard book to summarise. Only 2 of the 16 books on my wishlist made it to the actual longlist, so you have a much better hit rate than me!

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  4. Loved reading your thoughts on the longlist! I must admit I only had The Vanishing Half on my TBR list but I will definitely add a few more now. I’m definitely curious to see who will make it to the shortlist.

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