Celebrating excellence, originality, and accessibility in women’s writing across the globe, the Women’s Prize for Fiction announced its shortlist for 2019 earlier today.
The shortlist for the UK-based prize this year includes previous Women’s Prize winner Madeline Miller, who won for The Song of Achilles in 2012, and nominee Anna Burns (nominated for No Bones in 2002), as well as debut author Oyinkan Braithwaite (My Sister, the Serial Killer).
The Chair for the Women’s Prize for Fiction judging panel, Professor Kate Williams, said: “It’s a fantastic shortlist; exciting, vibrant, adventurous. We fell totally in love with these books and the amazing worlds they created. These books are fiction at its best – brilliant, courageous, and utterly captivating.”
The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 will be announced on 5 June. In the meantime, check out the shortlist below!
Circe by Madeline Miller
“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist…“
Circe is the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and Perse, a beautiful naiad. Yet from the moment of her birth, she is an outsider in her father’s halls, where the laughter of gossiping gods resounds.
In Circe, Madeline Miller breathes life once more into the ancient world, with the story of an outcast who overcomes scorn and banishment to transform herself into a formidable witch. Unfolding on Circe’s wild, abundant island of Aiaia, where the hillsides are aromatic with herbs, this is a magical, intoxicating epic of family rivalry, power struggles, love and loss – and a celebration of female strength in a man’s world.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
A blackly comic novel about lies, love, Lagos, and how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water.
When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first.
Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the fit doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
The greatest war story in literature, retold by our greatest living storyteller on war – in the voice of the forgotten woman who lived through it.
Queen Briseis has been stolen from her conquered homeland and given as a concubine to a foreign warrior. The warrior is Achilles – famed hero, loathed enemy, ruthless butcher, darkly troubled spirit. Briseis’s fate is now indivisibly entwined with his. No one knows it yet, but there are just ten weeks to go until the Fall of Troy, the end of this long and bitter war. This is the start of The Iliad – the most famous war story ever told.
The next ten weeks will be a story of male power, male ego, male violence. But what of the women? The thousands of female slaves in the soldiers’ camp – in the laundry, at the loom, laying out the dead? Briseis is one of their number – and she will be our witness to history.
Milkman by Anna Burns
This beautiful and painful novel by Orange Prize shortlisted Anna Burns blends shades of early Edna O’Brien with Eimear McBride’s exquisite ability to capture voice.
Set in an un-named city but with an astonishing, breath-shorteningly palpable sense of time and place, Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. The story of inaction with enormous consequences and decisions that are never made, but for which people are judged and punished. Middle sister is our protagonist. She is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her nearly-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with milkman (which she herself for the life of her cannot work out how it came about). But when first brother-in-law, who of course had sniffed it out, told his wife, her first sister, to tell her mother to come and have a talk with her, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Two couples find themselves at a moment of reckoning. Melissa has a new baby and doesn’t want to let it change her. Damian has lost his father and intends not to let it get to him. Michael is still in love with Melissa but can’t quite get close enough to her to stay faithful. Stephanie just wants to live a normal, happy life on the commuter belt with Damian and their three children but his bereavement is getting in the way.
Set in London to an exhilarating soundtrack, Ordinary People is an intimate study of identity and parenthood, sex and grief, friendship and ageing, and the fragile architecture of love.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her centre. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward – with hope and pain – into the future.
You can find more information about the Women’s Prize for Fiction here.
About the Contributor
Olivia Fricot is the Editor of the Booktopian Blog. After finishing a soul-crushing law degree, Olivia decided that life was much better with one's nose in a book and quickly defected to the world of Austen and Woolf. You can usually find her reading (obviously), baking, writing questionable tweets, and completing a Master's degree in English literature. Just don't ask about her thesis. Olivia is on Twitter and Instagram @livfricot - follow at your own risk.
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