Women’s Prize 2018 Shortlist Reaction

The shortlist for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced today, and we have the following:

I didn’t post my shortlist prediction on my blog, but on Twitter I guessed the following: Sight, When I Hit You, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Elmet, Home Fire, and Sing, Unburied, Sing, so I got 4/6!  I’m really gutted that Elmet didn’t make the cut – I think it’s an extraordinary novel that deserves the recognition.

Of the shortlist, I’ve read 3 so far: Sight, Home Fire, and Sing, Unburied, Sing.  My thoughts can be summed up briefly:

Sight: An incredibly ambitious novel that I wanted to love more than I ultimately did.  I love all things introspective, but this at times got a bit solipsistic for my tastes.  Full review to come later today, hopefully.

Home Fire: A brilliant retelling of Antigone that amplifies themes present in the original play, and repurposes them for a host of Muslim characters living in the UK in the present day.  I really enjoyed this.  And got into a 10-hour argument about it on Goodreads yesterday.  Full review here.

Sing, Unburied, Sing: I wanted to love this, not least of all because Jesmyn Ward is a professor at my alma mater.  But I did not.  Though I agree with all of this novel’s messages, I felt that they were presented in an extremely heavy-handed way which didn’t leave much room for the reader to engage intellectually or emotionally.  Full review here.

The only other longlisted book that I’ve read which I haven’t mentioned here is See What I Have Done, and I am overjoyed to see that it didn’t make the shortlist, to say the least.

Of the shortlisted books I haven’t read, I’m most looking forward to When I Hit You.  I’ve heard nothing but good things.  I ordered it last week so it should arrive any day now.  I’m sort of on the fence about reading The Idiot and The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock – I hadn’t initially been planning on reading either of them, but since I’ll soon have read the majority of the shortlist, I almost feel like I might as well…

I know it’s too soon to predict a winner as I haven’t even read the full shortlist, but my impression right now is that it’s 50/50 between Sight and When I Hit You.

What do you guys think of the shortlist?  How many of these have you read?  Who do you think is going to win?  Comment and let me know!

21 thoughts on “Women’s Prize 2018 Shortlist Reaction

    • Oh, intriguing! Upon further reflection I realized I’ve based my guess of Sight or When I Hit You off what I’ve seen getting the most buzz lately – but, of course Home Fire hasn’t been talked about so much recently when everyone already read and reviewed it back when the Man Booker longlist was announced. But I do get the rationale behind that prediction. It wouldn’t be my first choice but I guess it would be a solid winner.

      Out of curiosity, do you think the fact that last year’s winner was such a commercial and topical book will work against it?

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  1. I haven’t read any of the shortlist, I’m embarrassed to say… Based on things I’ve heard, I’m also surprised that Elmet isn’t there (not that I’ve read it yet either, though I do own a copy and hope to pick it up soon).

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  2. You and I have very similar feelings for See What I Have Done. I definitely urge you to read The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. The writing is flawless.

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    • I was so shocked when I saw See What I Have Done on the longlist. Ugh. At least we’re finally done with it.

      That’s the second time today that someone’s told me how gorgeous the writing is in The Mermaid, I may have to go for it!

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  3. Do let me know when you start When I Hit You – because it has been calling out to me ever since it was shortlisted this morning and I am already reading so many books at once that I might as well start another. And I would love to hear your thoughts on this obviously.

    I am genuinely quite happy with the shortlist; which really surprised me given my lukewarm reaction to the longlist. I do think I will try and read most of next year’s longlist. I am considering doing a “only read women”-year in 2019 anyways… I just need to plan ahead and request no arcs for the months of March and April.

    PS: I am SO glad neither Manhattan Beach nor See What I Have Done made the shortlist. Because uff, did I struggle with both.

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    • I’ll probably start When I Hit You the second it arrives, so it’s only a question of when that’ll be, but I’m hoping any day now! I’ve heard nothing but amazing things.

      I’m happy with the shortlist too! Conflicting feelings about Sight aside, it’s an incredible achievement and I would have been shocked and appalled had it not been shortlisted. Home Fire I obviously love, When I Hit You I’m excited about, and it seems like The Idiot and The Mermaid are both incredibly well crafted novels. The only one I’m really not excited to see is Sing, Unburied, Sing, the more time that passes the less I like that book. I wish I could give Elmet its spot.

      A year of all women writers is such an amazing idea. I already read about 80% women so it doesn’t seem like it would be terribly challenging to do, but the one thing that would hold me back from doing that is the Man Booker… But if you decide to do it I will love to watch your progress. And I’ll definitely join you in doing the full longlist next year! No ARCs for us that month.

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      • It seems easy enough to only read women – but I think in execution I might prove to b difficult (there are some male authors I adore). I do think it would be an interesting experiment. I am nearly completely certain I will attempt it next year. Last year I read so very few books on the Man Booker longlist I might as well have not attempted it at all.

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      • Same here, even though I mostly read women there are a couple of male authors I’d be sad to part with for a year. Ugh I know, I did terribly with the Man Booker longlist last year. I’m hoping to do a bit better this year, and then maybe by next year reading the entire longlist will be in the cards.

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      • I am toying with the idea to give myself like a 2-book exception rule. But. I have 8 months to plan still so I thiink it should work.
        And the Booker books will have to wait until 2020 then.

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      • I think you should go for it! It would be a very cool thing to have done.

        That’s true, it’s not like the Man Booker books are going anywhere. I guess I have bookish FOMO where I feel pressure to read new releases at the same time as everyone else.

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  4. I haven’t read any of the shortlisted books, but I do own copies of The Idiot and Home Fire. Your review really rekindled my excitement for the latter, though I’m considering rereading Antigone before I dive into it. I’m gutted Elmet didn’t make it too, it’s definitley one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

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    • I just reread Antigone after finishing Home Fire, I couldn’t help myself. It was an excellent decision. I hope you like Home Fire!

      Ugh, #justiceforElmet. I guess I’d taken for granted that it was going to be on the shortlist because it had been shortlisted for the Man Booker, even though that’s obviously not how that works. I’m really not a fan of Sing, Unburied, and I wish I could replace it with Elmet 😦

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  5. I stumbled upon The Mermaid & Mrs. Hancock the other day and it didn’t really pique my interest, but if you end up liking it I might have to check it out! I’ve been wanting to read The Idiot for a while, since I’ve heard good things about it. How come you weren’t interested in it? It kinda sounds like your type of book!

    I also just realized When I Hit You is on my TBR and I had totally forgotten about it! It sounds AMAZING hopefully it lives up to expectations.

    I never usually pay attention to any awards besides the Hugos and even those I only pay cursory attention to, but I a lot of the books shortlisted here are super interesting and I think it’s awesome that you’re paying such close attention to these awards!

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    • I audibly groaned while adding The Mermaid on Goodreads today when I saw it shelved as magical realism BUT everyone says the writing is gorgeous so I feel like I Must Give It A Try.

      Re: The Idiot I was never staunchly against the idea of reading it but it wasn’t at the forefront of my TBR for a couple of reasons – I’ve never read The Idiot by Dostoyevsky, and I know this isn’t a retelling of that or anything but when you title your debut novel after a famous piece of classic literature you’re probably at least alluding to it somehow, however vaguely, and I felt like some of that would go over my head. I’ve also heard it’s kind of pretentious in a way that alienates the reader? Like I’ve seen just enough criticism to make me hesitant, and if it were ANY shorter it definitely would have been on the TBR already, but at around 500 pages I am Afraid. But I’ll probably go ahead and try it anyway, yolo.

      I’m having a lot of fun following this award!!! I usually don’t pay this close attention, but I’d already read 3 of the longlisted books and so many others I’d already been planning on reading soon, and it’s a popular award among a lot of the booktubers I watch so it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor! It’s honestly so much fun, I think I’ll plan better for next year so I can read the whole longlist.

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