Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist Reaction

By popular demand (*I asked on Twitter and a grand total of two people said they were interested in this), here are my reactions to the Women’s Prize longlist!

The list was announced last night and in case you missed it, you can check it out here.

I did pretty terribly with my predictions, I only got 4/16.  But, I am actually pleased with how the list turned out!

I’ve read half (!) the list already, and weirdly enough, I actually enjoyed all 8 of the books I’ve already read.  My least favorite of this group is Circe, which I liked but didn’t love, but I still gave it 3 stars.  The rest of these I gave either 4 or 5 stars.  So, let’s run through these:

  • I am THRILLED to see The Pisces getting some long overdue recognition.  I may or may not have screamed YES!!!! when I saw this.
  • Obviously Milkman was my top book of 2018, so even though it already (rightfully!) won the Booker, I’m excited to see it here.  I probably won’t be rooting for it to win even though it’s my favorite, as I think any of these other books could use the publicity a bit more (except maybe Circe and Normal People).  But it really is a spectacular book and it fully earned its spot here as far as I’m concerned.
  • Ghost Wall is just a phenomenal piece of literature that deserves all of the accolades.
  • The Silence of the Girls is the best Iliad retelling I’ve read, and I have read many.  I thought it was snubbed from the Booker so I’m excited to see it here.
  • Like I mentioned, Circe wasn’t my favorite, though I do think it’s objectively a very good book and I absolutely understand the acclaim.  I’m not upset to see it here.  This book doesn’t inspire a huge reaction in me either way.
  • I think My Sister, The Serial Killer is an underestimated tour de force of a novel, which is a fun romp on the surface but has a lot of hidden depths, so I’m excited to see it recognized here.
  • I know we’re all tired of Normal People, but it’s just as good as everyone says.
  • Freshwater I adored but I was initially confused about this one, as Akwaeke Emezi is non-binary and has been very outspoken about this on Twitter.  There have already been a couple of articles about this (x, x), but the important thing is that Emezi was consulted and gave their blessing about being included on this list.  I do think there’s an important conversation to be had about allowing non-binary writers into this space, as the prize was initially created to give a platform to works that were being overshadowed by male authors, which certainly applies to non-binary writers as well female writers.  In which case, maybe it’s time to reconsider the name ‘Women’s Prize’…?

As for the rest, since I’ve already read 8 I may as well read the whole list, right?  The only one of these that was already on my TBR was An American Marriage, which has been out for a million years in the US – I feel like the last American who hasn’t read this yet.  I’d heard of some of the others – I wasn’t convinced that Lost Children Archive, Ordinary People, or Swan Song were my kind of books, and Number One Chinese Restaurant has an alarmingly low Goodreads rating (3.11!!) so I’m a little nervous about that… but I’m willing to try them all.

The three I hadn’t heard of are Bottled Goods, Remembered, and Praise Song for the Butterflies, which I’m interested in in that order.

I put library holds on An American Marriage, Number One Chinese Restaurant, Lost Children Archive, and Praise Song for the Butterflies, so that only leaves 4 I need to get my hands on by June.  I’m up for the challenge.

A few quick notes about snubs, before I wrap this up: I’m gutted that My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Severance didn’t make the list, I thought both had a very good chance.  While I personally wasn’t a huge fan of Washington Black I’m really surprised not to see that one on there as well.  Of books I haven’t read, the ones whose omissions surprise me the most are probably Women Talking by Miriam Toews, Motherhood by Sheila Heti, and Transcription by Kate Atkinson.  But, oh well!  If the 8 I’ve read are any indication, this is shaping up to be an incredibly solid list.

And!  I stand corrected, regarding a statement I made in my predictions post.  There is not a SINGLE WWII novel on this list.

Here’s the full longlist with links to each on Book Depository:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Milkman by Anna Burns
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lilian Li
Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Praise Songs for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden
Circe by Madeline Miller
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Normal People by Sally Rooney

What are your thoughts about the Women’s Prize longlist?  Which have you already read and which are you planning on reading?  Any books that you really wanted to see on the list that didn’t make it?  Let’s chat in the comments!

42 thoughts on “Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist Reaction

  1. I am so glad you decided to write a reaction post!
    I am a bit scared that nobody seems to be all that interested in Praise Song for the Butterflies because I thought my lukewarm reaction was down to it being outside my wheelhouse (but also, damn it has a really unfortunate blurb).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh, I’d forgotten about Washington Black, but yes I’m surprised not to see that too. Let me hold a little brief for Number One Chinese Restaurant; it’s not my favourite on this list but I was impressed with it, particularly the way it deals with second-generation immigrants (e.g. the pressures brought to bear upon children of immigrant parents) and Li’s understanding of love that blossoms late in life. Ordinary People is also good – two middle-class black families in London as the parents struggle to come to terms with the fact that their marriages have changed them irrevocably.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was so convinced Washington Black would be on the list I didn’t even QUESTION IT!

      Actually thank you for the Chinese Restaurant pitch – I saw the low rating and a handful of DNFs from friends on Goodreads and was filled with ennui but now I have a bit of hope! I don’t need it to blow me away but I hope I see something in it that the judges did. I’m not sure why I wasn’t particularly drawn to Ordinary People but I keep hearing great things so I’m not as worried about that one!


  3. I’ve only read three of these: Circe, Milkman and An American Marriage. Of those three Milkman is my favorite by far. I also really want to read Normal People and The Pisces. I hadn’t heard of Bottled Goods before, but it sounds like my kind of thing! I don’t usually keep up with literary prizes, but maybe picking up a few of these will be a good way to explore beyond my comfort zone. Lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh how was An American Marriage? That’s the next one I’m going to pick up! I’m really looking forward to seeing which ones you end up reading! Milkman is still my fave but I’m thinking I may switch to #teamGhostWall for this prize since Milkman already has the Booker win… but I’m excited to read the rest!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly, I was a little disappointed with it. It started out strong, but I didn’t love the direction it went in and it wasn’t that memorable for me. I hope you’ll enjoy it more than I did!

        Maybe I’ll pick up Ghost Wall as well, I think it’s time I read some Sarah Moss. Everyone raves about her.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve heard such mixed things about An American Marriage so this will be interesting.

        Ghost Wall was my first Sarah Moss and it was the PERFECT place to start, I hope you love it!


  4. I’m very excited to follow your reviews as you make your way through the list!

    As I said last night, I’m surprised by a few absences, not at all surprised by a few big names, and generally happy with the selection. Though it pretty much rules me out of managing the whole list, it’s actually pretty nice that there are some lesser known books/small presses featured, rather than all the ‘obvious’ choices.

    I’ve read Ghost Wall (SO happy it’s longlisted), and Milkman, and I already wanted to read Normal People and My Sister the Serial Killer anyway. A couple of others have piqued my interest too, so we’ll see how many I end up reading 🙈📚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed! The half of the list that I’ve read + An American Marriage were all rather obvious, so even though none of the others were on my TBR I’m excited to hopefully discover some hidden gems I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise!

      I’m SO HAPPY about Ghost Wall!! Right now I think it’s the one I’m rooting for to win, which may very well change, but we are starting out STRONG!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Obviously it means next to nothing given that I’ve read 2, but I’d be so happy if Ghost Wall went on to win. It’s such a deceptively complex and brilliant book; somehow both of its time and yet utterly timeless. It also strikes a perfect balance between literary nuance and gripping readability, which should hopefully give it broad appeal as a potential winner.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Who among us hasn’t had strong feelings about which book should win a prize even though they’ve hardly read any of the books nominated 💁‍♀️

        But, YES! Ghost Wall is phenomenal for all the reasons you listed. If I finish the rest of the list in time I may even re-read this one, it was THAT GOOD.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for acknowledging my request with this post 😂 I really loved reading your thoughts and I am so excited to see you read and review the rest of the list. Side note: I love the cover of Remembered?? I haven’t heard of that one before!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m just giving the people what they want really 💁🏻‍♀️

      I hadn’t heard of Remembered either! I love the color scheme with the title and background 👌


  6. Thanks, I can’t recall if I was one of those two people on Twitter, but I *was* actually looking for your reaction.

    Very interesting re. Akwake Emezi, thanks for the links. I’d forgot that their pronouns are “their” etc and I’m glad they were consulted, but it does bring up (not for the first time, I’m sure) the validity/need for a “women’s” prize at all… I find with the recognition of more gender identities, when we say “women” we often mean “not cis men” but that doesn’t have a nice ring 🙂

    I’m also disappointed not to see MYRR although maybe I am a little glad, so I’m not subjected to any more dumb opinions (e.g. opinions different from mine, which is that it’s brilliant).

    And no Canadians, what gives? Even though I wasn’t super excited about the usually suspects, Edugyan etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh you were NOT one of the 2! 3 whole fans, I’ll try not to let it go to my head.

      Regarding Emezi I completely agree. It’s making me pause and reflect on the terminology we’re using while talking about this. Because ‘they shouldn’t be included, they’re not a WOMAN!!!’ is the most inane argument on earth, but then maybe ‘Women’s Prize’ is no longer the best term to use when what we really mean, as you say, is not cis men. But, you’re right, that isn’t catchy! I just worry ‘Women’s Prize’ may make other non-binary authors (I know Emezi is fine with it) feel unwelcome…? Also did those articles I linked to feel ridiculously un-focused to you or was that just me? I felt like they couldn’t figure out what their argument was. I just want the panel to make a clear-cut statement promoting non-binary authors!

      Oh god, right?! People who don’t get that book hurt my soul. It’s insanely brilliant. #justiceforMoshfegh

      They did so well with diversity this year but yes, no Canadians! That’s a bummer, though I’m glad we’ve officially seen the back of WB. What would you have put on there from Canada?


  7. I was so surprised about Number One Chinese Restaurant- I remember not applying for this in NG when it came out because it was so low rated. I’m curious to see what you think of it! This post is great! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • That one came as a huge surprise to me too!! I was tempted to pick it up when it came out but I kept seeing lukewarm reviews, and then I kind of forgot about it. But I’m admittedly curious to see how it goes!


  8. It’s so interesting to read through reaction posts! This years longlist looks really good and I wish I had the time to read them all! The ones I’m most intrigued by are: My Sister, The Serial Killer, Normal People and Ghost Wall. Will probably read them now that I’m even more excited for them. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah thank you! They’re such fun to write! I do adore the Women’s Prize and I think this is such an exciting collection of books. I’d highly recommend all three of those! My Sister the Serial Killer and Ghost Wall are such tiny little books too, it’s hard to resist. I hope you enjoy them all!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Now that I’ve read 13 out of the 12 books on the list and my faves are Bottled Goods, Milkman and Ghost Wall. I thought the Pisces was fantastic !

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re beating me by 3, but so far we have similar faves! I haven’t read Bottled Goods yet but Milkman, Ghost Wall, and The Pisces are my top three at the moment. I loved your review of The Pisces, I agree that that poor book is very misunderstood.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The problem is with The Pisces is that too many critics and booktubers (the majority I have quite a low opinion of) are focusing on the sex bits when that’s not really what the book is about)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not to mention the totally inane “Lucy is too unlikable” argument that most negative reviews seem to focus on… I wasn’t aware that we were reading books to find fictional best friends!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s so banal. It’s like when critics say that Holden Caufield is snarky or that a book is depressing – that’s the point!

        Liked by 1 person

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