Women’s Prize 2020 Longlist Predictions

In case you missed it, I recently spent way too long on this post in which I compiled every longlist in the history of the Women’s Prize.  So just in case it wasn’t clear from that alone: I love this prize, a lot.  And I have been working on my predictions list probably for the last six months (sadly not an exaggeration).  So, here we go!

I’m going to start with a wishlist of sorts – only 8 books – that I will explain in the paragraph down below, then I will move on to my predictions.

Wishlist

My wishlist falls into 2 categories: books I’ve read that I think deserve to make the list, and books I haven’t read, that I’m desperate to read, and I hope to see them on the longlist so I finally have an excuse to read them.  Some of these will show up on my predictions list below; some will not.

Have read/adored:

The Fire Starters by Jan Carson
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
The Body Lies by Jo Baker

Have yet to read:

Bunny by Mona Awad
Supper Club by Lara Williams
Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride
The Island Child by Molly Aitken

Now let’s move on to the main event.

I told Hannah I would not look at her list until I posted my own, but I cheated and peaked at it and I loved that she included whether the author had been longlisted in the past and whether she personally wanted to see the books longlisted, so I am stealing that format.

Longlist prediction

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Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

This National Book Award winner has been incredibly Marmite, which I have to say I’m intrigued by.  While I personally know quite a few people who hated it, the widespread literary praise it’s received can’t be ignored, which I think makes it a solid contender.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Honestly, it would not be my first, second, or third choice.

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

This historical mystery about a maid accused of murder was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award, and I’ve seen so much other praise for it, especially in the UK.  I think it’s a solid contender.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No – debut.

Would I be happy to see it?  Yes!  I’d love to read this.

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The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

I don’t know too much about this, but I keep seeing it crop up in ‘2020 debuts to look out for’ lists.  I think it’s a Nigerian coming of age tale about a young girl advocating for her education – seems very Women’s Prize to me.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No – debut.

Would I be happy to see it?  Sure!

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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

This co-Booker winner is a bit of an obvious choice.  It’s received so much praise, and I think the general mood about it is indignation that it was not the sole Booker winner.  (That also explains my omission of The Testaments from my own predictions – while there are hardly American Dirt levels of ill-will toward it, I do think on the whole people are a bit tired of it, and I have to wonder if Atwood herself may have asked that it not be submitted to the Women’s Prize.  She seemed a bit embarrassed by the Booker co-win, honestly.)

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes.

Would I be happy to see it?  YES.  It is a crime that I haven’t read this book.

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The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel

I think it’s fair to assume that this one is going to show up on just about every prize list this year.  I haven’t actually read Mantel yet, but I’ve heard so many good things about her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which The Mirror & The Light will be concluding.  Both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies made the Women’s Prize shortlist in years past, and – notably – both won the Booker.  I think this one is a pretty safe prediction.

Has the author been longlisted before?  Shortlisted 3 times and longlisted 1 time beyond that.

Would I be happy to see it?  It’s inevitable but no.  I really, really, really want to read the Wolf Hall trilogy, but I also want to read the entire longlist and the thought of reading a whole trilogy on top of 16 books stresses me out.  I should have read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies this month to prepare.

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Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride

I also think this one is a safe prediction, and if it doesn’t make the longlist, I think it will be because the word count fell short.  It seems to be borderline, so it’s hard to predict without knowing the exact word count, but I’m going out on a limb and throwing it on here.  McBride’s debut A Girl is a Half-formed Thing won, and her sophomore novel The Lesser Bohemians was also longlisted.  I’ve heard excellent things about this one too.

Has the author been longlisted before?  1 time winner, 1 time longlister beyond that.

Would I be happy to see it?  YES.  I am DYING to read this.

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The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

Another one I don’t know too much about – Italian invasion of Ethiopia, I think?  This made its way onto my predictions list when I felt I was lacking those ‘epic length historical fiction’ picks.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Not really.

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Long Bright River by Liz Moore

One thing that struck me when I was scrolling through past longlisters was just how many crime novels have been longlisted in the past.  I feel like the Women’s Prize has been moving away from mysteries and thrillers in recent years, but the fact that Paula Hawkins is on the judging panel this year gives me an inkling that we might see at least one literary thriller on the list.  Long Bright River seems the obvious choice for a lot of reasons – Moore is a versatile author who’s written literary fiction in the past, this novel tackles Serious Issues (the opioid crisis, namely), and it was blurbed by – you guessed it! – Paula Hawkins.  It was a great, solid, well-written thriller that I would not mind seeing on the list, even if my personal choice for a thriller would be The Body Lies, if we can just have one.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Sure, I think it’s deserving.

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Inland by Téa Obreht

Obreht won the Women’s Prize for her brilliant novel The Tiger’s Wife back in 2011, and her follow-up Inland had been a long time coming.  It sounds incredibly different, other than both of them being historical fiction, but Obreht is such a strong writer I would not be surprised to see this on there.

Has the author been longlisted before?  Winner!

Would I be happy to see it?  Not really.  I loved The Tiger’s Wife but the summary of this one does not appeal.

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Girl by Edna O’Brien

O’Brien is such a prolific and esteemed author I was a bit shocked to see that she’s only been longlisted once in the past, but I still feel confident that her newest novel, Girl, is going to make the list this year.  Set in Nigeria, this follows the girls who are kidnapped by the Boko Haram.  It sounds harrowing, but I also think it will spark some conversations about #ownvoices in literary fiction should it get longlisted.

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes.

Would I be happy to see it?  Torn.  I desperately want to read more Edna O’Brien (I’ve only read one short story, but it was brilliant), but I’m not convinced this is the best place to start for me.

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Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Her upcoming novel inspired by Shakespeare and his son is quite a departure for Maggie O’Farrell – I don’t think she’s written historical fiction before?  It’s been getting quite a bit of buzz and I would not at all be surprised to see it longlisted.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No, surprisingly!

Would I be happy to see it?  Yes!!!

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Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

This literary-mystery hybrid set in a remote Russian peninsula is such a brilliant depiction of a culture and community that is so often neglected by western literary fiction.  I think it’s a brilliant depiction of a rural community torn apart by tragedy and also by racism against its indigenous population – I would be delighted to see it longlisted.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No – debut.

Would I be happy to see it?  YES YES YES.

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Another literary thriller of sorts, this one explores the long-lasting psychological damage on a young woman by the teacher she had been involved with in high school.  This has been on my TBR for so long that I’ll be a little gutted if it doesn’t make the list, but I do intend to read it soon either way.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No – debut.

Would I be happy to see it?  God yes!

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Bina by Anakana Schofield

Requite Canadian pick!  I honestly don’t know a whole lot about this other than that people have been raving about it and that it was blurbed by Eimear McBride and Rachel Cusk.  Seems like a safe bet.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  No strong feelings either way.

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Supper Club by Lara Williams

Williams’ sophomore novel is about a secret society of women who meet after dark to feast.  I don’t know anything more and I don’t need to.  I just desperately want to read this.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Absolutely!

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Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

Winterson’s novel is a sort of playful retelling of Frankenstein that ticks so many feminist boxes that I will be incredibly surprised if it’s not longlisted.

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes, twice.

Would I be happy to see it?  It wouldn’t be my top choice for the Booker crossover (team Levy!!!), but I did enjoy it, so sure.


There you have it.  If you’ve done your own Women’s Prize longlist predictions, please link me!  Otherwise, comment and let me know what you expect to see on the list!


Other longlist predictions on my radar:

41 thoughts on “Women’s Prize 2020 Longlist Predictions

  1. I also really want to read Trust Exercise; it’s been on my list since it was announced but I keep seeing worse and worse reviews for it lmao!!!

    I would LOVE to see Frannie Langton on the list, and honestly I think it’s likely, it’s such a great book!

    Re: The Shadow King, for some reason I thought that was YA?? Or maybe I saw some reviews saying it reads like YA.

    Question for you about the Women’s Prize: I know you’ve talked a little bit about how even the inclusion of crime novels/thrillers is a tiny bit unusual, so I get that traditionally it’s lit fiction that gets picked, but are there actually genre restrictions?

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG it actually surprises me that you want to read Trust Exercise! I can’t decide if I’ll read it if it’s not longlisted – I love the premise but I keep hearing not so favorable things. Emily did love it though.

      Ohh interesting, I don’t think The Shadow King is YA (I don’t think WW Norton does YA, does it?) but I suppose I could be wrong! Yeah maybe it reads like YA?

      There are no genre restrictions! The full eligibility rules are here if you’re into this kind of thing (personally I find this fascinating, lmao) https://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020-WPF-Terms-and-Conditions.pdf

      Though it does make you wonder about the exclusion of hard SF and high fantasy from EVERY SINGLE LONGLIST EVER if indeed ‘all genres are encouraged.’

      Like

      • Re: Trust Exercise, tbh I think my brain has expectations that will NOT be met. From the summary I’m getting a ~manipulative charismatic teacher who gets way too close to his students~ vibe but I have a very logical feeling that ain’t it lmao. We’ll see!

        omg those rules are FASCINATING! I had NO IDEA publishers had to contribute so much overhead for books that end up on the list!!! So that basically means books published by small presses would rarely end up on the list, huh?

        And yes, it definitely makes me wonder why no hard SF or high fantasy have ever made it on there, not even onto a longlist!! It’s so interesting, because it seems like the judges every year are made up of different authors, so it baffles me that none of these authors have put forth any SFF titles to be considered…and having followed the Prize for the last couple of years (thanks to you lmao) I can see it’s not like they only ever nominate super inaccessible books of super high literary merit – Eleanor Oliphant was nominated and that’s basically women’s fiction! They’ve also gone for dystopias and magical realism, so it’s really interesting that only hard SF and high fantasy seem to be excluded!

        Do you know much about like, the politics of nominating the books? I know the board of the Women’s Prize chooses the authors who will decide the longlist/shortlist/winner, but do those authors then have free rein, or does the board have to approve all of their decisions?

        Liked by 1 person

      • YES, SO, the indie press issue is HUGE in literary prizes and why Galley Beggar (the UK indie publisher of Ducks, Newburyport) (rightfully) threw a fit when it came out that the Booker judges had basically given the award to Atwood as a career retrospective. Because indie pubs rarely have the budget to submit to literary prizes, and because you’re able to submit more entries the more you’ve been longlisted in the past, it’s just this self-perpetuating cycle where indie pubs get fucked over. And then it comes out that the book you spent thousands of dollars submitting and campaigning for never really stood a chance because the author wasn’t Margaret Atwood? Ugh.

        And yes there’s almost always a ‘bookclub book’ on the list (and the bookclub book WON last year), so you’re absolutely correct that ~high literary prestige~ is not the only angle through which they’re judging. Tbh if you felt like combing through the longlist history and seeing if any SFF have made it in the past, I’d be very interested in that (none jumped out at me but it’s not really my wheelhouse).

        Right, so the panel assigns the judges and the judges pick the books – that’s basically all I know! Good question about whether the board needs to approve their decisions, I’m not sure but I’ll see what I can find out?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so excited! I have been periodically refreshing your blog since last Tuesday.
    We have quite a lot of overlap this year! Maybe this means we’re actually close to guessing the correct titles? Or we’re both completely wrong and none of the books we think are definites will make it. Not much longer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really tried to make this post happen before my vacation but I just couldn’t do it!

      I’m SO EXCITED. And I am perfectly happy to be wrong about everything if Carson and Levy are there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh, The Body Lies is a great shout.

    As ever, I feel more strongly about what I want to not see on the list than what I do want to see… I have little interest in reading either Frannie Langton or The Girl With the Louding Voice, so hoping not to see either of those – especially the former as my book group have just voted not to read it, so I can’t even double up!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I really want to know whether the new McBride is eligible or not 👀 I’m also shocked that O’Farrell has never been listed before??

    I’d love to see Frannie Langton make the cut, and I loved The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave as well. They’re the eligible titles I probably feel the most personal investment in (of the ones I’ve read, anyway).

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Lots of really great contenders this year! I personally don’t try to think too much about my own predictions because I know I’ll end up being disappointed, but this is a great list!!! I’d love to see DISAPPEARING EARTH get some more attention, and I agree that TRUST EXERCISE isn’t a huge must for me–I’d be fine either way with that one. So excited to see the list… one more day!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The good news is that I am TERRIBLE at predictions lists, so I don’t set much stake in them, I just find it fun to look back and see how wrong I was! And the one I’m most invested in (The Fire Starters) didn’t even make my predictions list so I would trade all of my predictions to be wrong about that!

      YESSS fingers crossed for Disappearing Earth!!! God I’m so excited!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is an excellent list, and I love how much thought you put into it. Some of those I hadn’t really heard about (Bina) and I guess I’m in the minority who’ll be excited if Mirror and Light make it to the list because I would love a good excuse to buy it ASAP. Terribly excited for tomorrow! Crossing fingers that Levy makes it!!

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  7. I would love to see Jan Carson on the list -that book was astonishing. I’ve just read Supper Club and enjoyed it but thought it could have been tighter. I am currently reading Bina and it is as wonderful as I anticipated!

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  8. So fun to see your predictions! I can definitely see Supper Club as a contender and I’m holding out hope for Ducks, Newburyport as I’m reading it right now and loving it. Personally, I don’t see Strange Hotel being more than long listed, mostly because it is short and to me felt like it needed to be read with McBride’s other work to be fully understood. I haven’t read Bina so I’m trying to think of other possible Canadian picks and I think Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin would be a good choice.

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    • I selfishly am hoping NOT to see Ducks solely because of the length, which is incredibly unfair because I’ve heard SO MANY brilliant things about it! I’m sure I’ll love it if/when I do pick it up, but god, that page count…

      Ooh I forgot all about Dual Citizens – good call! I haven’t read it but I’ve heard good things.

      I’m so excited!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure you’re relieved! It looks like I’ve only read one on the longlist (The Dutch House) so I’m a bit disappointed that Ducks didn’t make it. I’d guess its length worked against it for the judges too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve read 0 of the longlisted books so you have a head start! And I think the length definitely must have factored in. I was looking through the rules and eligibility requirements and it said something about awarding the best and ‘most accessible’ book – which Ducks certainly is not! (Though I’d argue that Mantel isn’t either…)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ducks is a lot more accessible than I initially thought but it is definitely daunting and lots of readers simply won’t ever pick it up because of the size and format. I’ll look forward to seeing what you make of the longlist!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent list! There are so many here that I’d love to see listed, and I think we have… nine predicted titles in common? I didn’t include Disappearing Earth in my list because I hadn’t read it yet and didn’t know how wonderful it was, but now that I have finished it I am much more invested in its inclusion! I also think Bina is a particularly good choice, I forgot to include an alternative Canadian title after hoping The Testaments would be out! (I so hope The Testaments will be out.) And I love your entire wishlist and would love to see more of those make the cut as well. Aah, I can’t wait! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      • I absolutely did love it! I was a little worried about it being a mystery that wasn’t really mystery-focused, but the connections between the characters and the broad response among the community to the girls’ disappearance really worked so well for me.

        Me too! I’m glad we didn’t end up with Atwood, but how odd they didn’t choose someone else!

        Like

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