Women’s Prize 2019 Shortlist Review & Winner Prediction

Alright friends, it’s almost that time of year… the 2019 Women’s Prize winner will be announced on June 5, which is a week from today, so it’s time for my shortlist review.

Round up of my Women’s Prize coverage thus far:

Shortlist ranked from what I’d least to most like to see win:

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6. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Does it deserve to win?  No.  This is a hard-hitting yet woefully underdeveloped book whose impact is neutered by its unwieldy pace and execution. It has some great ideas and occasional moments of brilliance, but I’d solidly rank it in last place on this list while evaluating what each of these books is trying to achieve, and whether or not they succeed.
Will it win?  Probably not, and I blame the Oprah sticker.  How commercial is too commercial to win a literary prize?  I’d guess that this level of commercial is where the line is drawn. But who knows.

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5. Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Does it deserve to win?  No.  This is one of those books that I really enjoyed and appreciated while I was reading it, but, I’ll be honest: it’s ended up being one of the most forgettable things I’ve read all year.
Will it win?  No. I just don’t think this book makes enough of an impact.

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4. Circe by Madeline Miller

Does it deserve to win?  Who knows.  If you ask me, no; if you ask most other people who’ve read it, yes.  This book fell short for me but I understand its merits.
Will it win?  It certainly might. It’s an undeniable feminist achievement, and Miller would be the first author to win the Women’s Prize twice, which would be noteworthy.

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3. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Does it deserve to win?  Good question. This is an incredibly short book, and while it achieves a lot in its short word count it also leaves the reader wanting a bit more.
Will it win?  I think it has a very good chance.  It’s stylish, topical, and more ‘fresh’ than any of the other frontrunners on this list: An American Marriage has Oprah, Milkman has the Booker, Circe has worldwide bestselling acclaim, My Sister has room to make a splash right here.

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2. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Does it deserve to win? See, this is tricky. Where I thinks this excels as a Greek mythology retelling, it arguably fails as a feminist retelling, which, no, isn’t a Women’s Prize winner requirement, but it’s hard not to judge women-centric Greek myth retellings through an explicitly feminist lens when you have a prize specifically for books by women.  The bottom line here is Achilles: while I understood and respected the inclusion of his POV and its necessity to the story Barker was telling, many, many readers have taken issue with the few chapters we see through his eyes, ultimately arguing ‘if this book is about reclaiming women’s voices, why are we hearing from a man at all.’  I think ‘reclaiming women’s voices’ is a bit of a simplification of what Barker was trying to achieve in this retelling, and a simplification of how deeply entwined Briseis’s story is with Achilles’s, but I do understand the criticism and I think it’s what may ultimately hinder this one from taking home the prize.
Will it win?  But, I do think it’s a possibility.  Pat Barker has had an illustrious career and won the Man Booker in the past, but has never won the Women’s Prize.

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1. Milkman by Anna Burns

Does it deserve to win?  Yes, yes, unequivocally, yes.  This is one of the strongest books to come out of 2018, one of the most daring and fiercely original books we’ve seen in years, and it deserves all of the accolades.
Will it win?  … I don’t know.  If it weren’t for its Booker win, this would be a no-brainer, but a book has never in the past won both the Booker and the Women’s Prize.  It would be a historic first, but would the Women’s Prize judges just feel like they’re piggybacking off its recent success?

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Winner prediction: My Sister, The Serial Killer. I think it’s a strong candidate that examines themes that the prize has always valued – the delicate line between upholding and subverting gender roles, primarily – and it’s arguably the most original choice on this not terribly original list.

Which book would you guys like to see win, and which do you think will take home the prize? Comment and let me know!

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Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist Reflections

I was hoping to finish the longlist and get this post up before the shortlist announcement, but that didn’t end up being in the cards, so here we are – hopefully better late than never?

Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist 2019, photographed by Sam Hol
Photo from Women’s Prize website.

If you missed my shortlist reaction post (spoiler alert: I’m not happy) you can check that out here.  But if you’d like to hear some more in depth thoughts on the longlist, read on…

So I finally finished reading the longlist this week, and here’s my star rating breakdown for the entire list, with links to my reviews:

★★★★★ (6)

Milkman
Ghost Wall
The Pisces
Normal People
The Silence of the Girls
Freshwater

★★★★☆ (2)

My Sister the Serial Killer
Ordinary People

★★★☆☆ (4)

Lost Children Archive
Bottled Goods
Circe
An American Marriage

★★☆☆☆ (4)

Remembered
Swan Song
Praise Song for the Butterflies
Number One Chinese Restaurant

Average star rating: 3.63 

This really was a list of halves for me: half of the list I really enjoyed, half I felt strongly ‘meh’ about.  Half I read before the longlist announcement, half I read after.  And I think that’s why I’m feeling largely underwhelmed: not only was the half of the list that I read before the longlist announcement far superior in mind (you can see that breakdown here), but even though I enjoyed so many of these books individually, a solid half of the list felt a bit like a waste of my time.  And naturally I didn’t expect to love everything, that’s just statistically impossible, but I did hope to find a few gems that I wouldn’t have picked up in a hundred years if it weren’t for reading this list.

Because that’s the thing – the books I expected to like, I ended up liking (with a couple of exceptions – looking at you, Remembered).  The books I expected to dislike, I ended up disliking.  Nothing really challenged me or took me outside my comfort zone only to reward me for my efforts, which tends to be my favorite kind of bookish discovery while reading prize lists.  So I think that’s ultimately what I feel like I’m missing; that one book that made this self-imposed project worth the effort.  Because all of those books in my 5 star category I had already read before this list was announced.

So, I don’t know.  Am I disappointed that I read the longlist?  Not particularly, especially as I had a very fun Women’s Prize group chat that gave me some interesting discussion fodder as well as a place to air my grievances when it was taking me 2 months to get through Swan Song.  But was I hoping to get something more from this whole endeavor?  Sadly, yes.

But the other thing I wanted to talk about was the actual content of the longlist.  As a lot of people have pointed out, one of the noteworthy things about this list is how many of the books have a ‘partner,’ so let’s run through that:

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Circe & The Silence of the Girls: very literal Greek mythology retellings that take a traditionally male dominated story and reframe it through a feminist lens.

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Circe & The Silence of the Girls & Swan Song: feminist retellings in a broader sense, reclaiming women’s voices.

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Milkman & Bottled Goods: women under surveillance living under strict governmental regimes.

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Remembered & Praise Song for the Butterflies: slavery and rape in historical fiction that are underscored by a note of resilience.

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An American Marriage & Ordinary People & Normal People: relationships crumbling under the strain of contemporary life and the inability to communicate with one’s partner.

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The Pisces & Freshwater: incisive commentary on womanhood and a revitalization of their respective genres (romance and bildungsroman) by introducing a theme of magic.

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Lost Children Archive & Ghost Wall: children and parents, the relationship between the individual and society, commentary on how the past has shaped the present.

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Ghost Wall & My Sister, The Serial Killer: short and punchy novellas with commentary on gender roles.

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Number One Chinese Restaurant & Remembered: family sagas.

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Circe, The Silence of the Girls, Freshwater, Remembered, Praise Song for the Butterflies, An American Marriage: Books about Big Issues: rape, slavery, immigration, incarceration, etc.

The reason I’m bringing up the content and all the overlap is because I’m always curious about what exactly goes into the decision to put a book on a longlist: how much are these books being evaluated in isolation, and how much are they being judged collectively?  Because it seems significant that with a few exceptions, these books only have one lone thematic partner: was Washington Black left off because they felt they’d already ticked the slavery box; was Everything Under left off because they felt they couldn’t have three watery magical realism books?  Was Severance left off because futuristic zombie dystopia would have been too much of an oddball compared to the rest?

After reading all of these books, I’m left with the impression that this year’s longlist feels a bit too curated.  I feel like the judges had certain salient themes in mind that they wanted to see represented on the list, and weren’t willing to stretch too far outside those parameters.  Of course, this could all be coincidental, maybe the judges truly believe that these 16 books are the ‘best’ books by women published in the last year.  I just… find that doubtful.

I think the bottom line is that when I saw the shortlist, I saw a few daring choices on there – Freshwater, The Pisces, Bottled Goods – and erroneously concluded that it was going to be a daring list, which I think is partially why I’m disappointed that it ended up feeling so safe.  ‘Safe’ is a word I kept coming back to while talking about the shortlist, but after finally finishing the longlist, it seems relevant here too.

So that’s it from me – please do let me know your thoughts on the longlist, shortlist, or any and all things Women’s Prize.  I’ll post my winner prediction closer to the winner announcement!

Women’s Prize 2019 Shortlist Reaction

Well… it’s here.

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In case you missed it, the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 shortlist:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Milkman by Anna Burns
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Circe by Madeline Miller

My friend Chelsea was visiting this weekend, which naturally meant she was subjected to a lot of my last minute excitement about the Women’s Prize in the hours leading up to the shortlist announcement. At one point she asked me what my nightmare shortlist would look like, and I had to think about that one for a minute, but since I only really didn’t get on with three of the books (Chinese Restaurant, Swan Song, and Praise Song) I erroneously declared that unless all three of those made it, I’d probably be happy with anything.

Well, none of those three made it, and I am livid. In fact, two of my absolute favorites (Milkman and The Silence of the Girls) made it, and I am livid.  My average star rating for these six books is 4 stars, and I hate this shortlist.

Because it’s not about these six titles on their own; for the most part these are good, competent, entertaining books – it’s about the shortlist as a whole.  And the impression I’m getting from this list is that the judges aren’t particularly interested in daring, innovative fiction; they care more about marketability and crowd-pleasing.

And here’s where I have to clarify that I’m not saying this out of literary snobbery; I’m not suggesting that the most accessible titles can’t also be great, enjoyable books. But the aim of the Women’s Prize is ostensibly to award ‘the best’ novel written by a woman in the past year. And no, true objectivity is never going to be possible, and we could have a whole conversation about that.  In fact, I think this is the reason why I’m rarely incensed by longlists, even ones that don’t inspire me; taking a list of 200+ eligible books and whittling it down to the ten or fifteen ‘best’ is such a fool’s errand that I’m always more interested in seeing the judges work with the list them come up with than I am about lamenting notable exclusions.  In fact, my general excitement about this particular longlist is well-documented here.  Yes, there are exceptions, but I think that for the most part, the judges came up with a remarkably solid group of sixteen books.  It’s what they did with that list that I’m trying to wrap my head around.

I remain unconvinced that the sheer amount of breadth and depth navigated in Ghost Wall, Freshwater, The Pisces, Normal People, and Lost Children Archive is reflected in any of the titles that made the shortlist, with the one exception of Milkman, the impact of whose inclusion is neutered through no fault of its own, but because it already won the 2018 Man Booker Prize. 

I also remain unconvinced that the bold, nuanced, elegant, thoughtful explorations of a number of relevant themes in any of the aforementioned books are worth sacrificing for the sake of two Greek myth retellings and two depictions of crumbling marriages.  Because that’s the elephant in the room with this shortlist: the baffling repetition.  Circe and The Silence of the Girls both attempt to reclaim the voice of an overlooked woman from Greek mythology, retreading their familiar stories through a feminist lens.  An American Marriage and Ordinary People both tell the stories of ill-fated married couples navigating racial injustice and patriarchal oppression, trying and failing to save their relationships that are crumbling due to both internal and external factors.  In both cases, the two books accomplish the same thing.  Which is why I don’t understand how the judges can pit them against each other and not evaluate their strengths and weaknesses against one another in a way that isn’t afforded with the more apples and oranges pairs on this longlist (how do you compare the sprawling, satirical romp that is Swan Song to the brief and magical Bottled Goods?)  But with these four books, the judges had the advantage of their inherent structural similarities to allow them to compare and contrast.  Ordinary People is better than An American Marriage The Silence of the Girls is better than Circe.  That’s just my opinion, of course, and I know many people disagree.  But if I were on that panel, I would have made my case for the former of each pair advancing and not the latter.

But the aim of this post isn’t really to whine about my faves being excluded, though that’s naturally going to be a part of it, but it more comes down to a question that Elle raised in her incensed and eloquent reaction post.  What exactly is the point of any of this?  As we’ve established, ‘the best’ book by a woman is a somewhat unattainable ideal, but shouldn’t the judges at least try to strive for that?  We don’t need a panel of judges to choose the most sellable, most widely appealing book; we have Goodreads and Oprah and the New York Times for that.  I want a panel of judges to show me a shortlist of books published this year that each has done what no other book has managed to do, and the inclusion of two sets of eerily similar titles undermines that entirely.

Anyway, you all know how much I love Milkman – it was my book of the year in 2018 – but because of its Man Booker win, there were four titles that I would have preferred to have won the Women’s Prize for the increased exposure: The Pisces, Freshwater, Normal People, or, in my opinion, the most baffling exclusion and my own personal winner, Ghost Wall.

But I guess at this point I’m back to rooting for Milkman.

What do you guys think of the shortlist?  I know I just tore it apart, but if you love it, please don’t be afraid to tell me!  Literary prizes are hardly life and death, much as I may forget that at times.  I’ve seen a few positive reaction posts that I’ve loved – it’ll take more than one shitty shortlist to kill my enthusiasm for this prize.

Man Booker International 2019 Longlist Reaction

This isn’t going to be as comprehensive of a reaction post as the one I wrote up for the Women’s Prize – while I love following the Man Booker International from a distance, I’m not quite as on top of reading translated fiction as I’d like to be.  So it wasn’t a huge surprise to see that I’d read zero of the thirteen longlisted titles this year when the list was announced last night.  I’d love to change that, but since I’m already reading the Women’s Prize longlist I doubt I’ll be picking any of these books up immediately.  But maybe in a couple of months I can jump on this bandwagon!  I just wanted to give a quick summary of my reactions:

So, I’d already heard of three of the longlisted books: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, and Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli, translated from the French by Sam Taylor.

I own a copy of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (how great is that title) and that book sounds ridiculously up my alley, so even though I still haven’t read Tokarczuk’s International Booker winning Flights, I definitely want to pick this one up soon.  I think I’m going to pass on Mouthful of Birds – I still haven’t read Fever Dream which sounds much more to my taste, and I keep hearing very mixed things about Mouthful of Birds… I’m just not convinced that I would appreciate it.  I haven’t read anything by Mingarelli either but I do own a copy of his novel A Meal in Winter, and I also want to pick up Four Soldiers at some point.

I added these four to my TBR after going through the longlist:

  • Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen: I was getting major Chinese Milkman vibes from this book’s Goodreads summary, and while I’m sure that’s off base, anything described as darkly comedic that explores women’s lives under surveillance is something I need in my life.
  • Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright: I wasn’t initially sold on this one but this excellent post from Books and Bao made me reconsider – I think this could be striking.
  • At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong, translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell: I tend to enjoy Korean lit and while I haven’t liked the one book I’ve read translated by Sora Kim-Russell (I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin), I’m inclined to blame that more on the book’s content than the translation.
  • The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg, translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner: I’m vaguely interested in Valerie Solanas though I don’t know much about her – I’m not sure how much this fictionalization will rely on research and how much will be invented, but I think this could be fascinating.

So that leaves everything else.  At a glance none of these books appeals to me, but with a couple I’m definitely willing to be swayed if I start to see some overwhelmingly positive reviews.  Because none of these really falls into a ‘no way in hell am I touching that’ category.  I think they all sound fairly interesting, just some more-so than others.

I didn’t make a predictions post for this prize, but the titles I’m most surprised to not see here are Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants by Matthias Enard (I have a copy of this one so I was really hoping I could use this as an excuse to pick it up!), Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, Codex 1962 by Sjón, and Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami.  Haven’t read any of them so I have no clue what’s good and what isn’t, but they’ve all been getting a lot of attention.  I’m also sad not to see Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata which I think is a quiet little powerhouse of a novel, but I do understand its omission.

Here’s the full longlist with links to Book Depository if you want to read full summaries:

Jokha Alharthi (Arabic / Omani), Marilyn Booth, Celestial Bodies (Sandstone Press Ltd)
Can Xue (Chinese / Chinese), Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, Love in the New Millennium (Yale University Press)
Annie Ernaux (French / French), Alison L. Strayer, The Years (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Hwang Sok-yong (Korean / Korean), Sora Kim-Russell, At Dusk (Scribe, UK)
Mazen Maarouf (Arabic / Icelandic and Palestinian), Jonathan Wright, Jokes For The Gunmen (Granta, Portobello Books)
Hubert Mingarelli (French / French), Sam Taylor, Four Soldiers (Granta, Portobello Books)
Marion Poschmann (German / German), Jen Calleja, The Pine Islands (Profile Books, Serpent’s Tail)
Samanta Schweblin (Spanish / Argentine and Italian), Megan McDowell, Mouthful Of Birds (Oneworld)
Sara Stridsberg (Swedish / Swedish), Deborah Bragan-Turner, The Faculty Of Dreams (Quercus, MacLehose Press)
Olga Tokarczuk (Polish / Polish), Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Spanish / Colombian), Anne McLean, The Shape Of The Ruins (Quercus, MacLehose Press)
Tommy Wieringa (Dutch / Dutch), Sam Garrett, The Death Of Murat Idrissi (Scribe, UK)
Alia Trabucco Zeran (Spanish / Chilean and Italian), Sophie Hughes, The Remainder (And Other St)

So, needless to say I will not be reading this longlist as my heart belongs to the Women’s Prize (I hate that they overlap!), and this will probably be the only Man Booker International post I’ll make this year.  But I am so looking forward to following everyone else’s coverage and reviews!

What are everyone’s Man Booker International plans?  Any titles you’re looking forward to reading, or have read already?  Which books were you hoping to see longlisted?  Let’s chat!

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!

Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist Predictions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Women’s Prize longlist time!  Well, almost.  Since we’re a week away, I wanted to share some of my predictions for what we might see on the longlist this year.  I had a hard time narrowing this list down, before ultimately deciding that I shouldn’t have to; I’m including somewhere around 30 books in here, and while they obviously can’t all be longlisted, and while I’m sure I’m missing a ton of other great possibilities that will inevitably end up on the list, I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the following books there.  So, let’s get into it.  All summaries are from Goodreads.  And a list of my ”official” predictions can be found at the bottom of this post, if you just want the short version.

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Summary: “In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever.  Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.”

Why I think it has a chance: Atkinson was shortlisted before for Life After Life, plus there seems to be an unofficial ‘one WWII book per literary prize longlist’ quota that needs to be filled.
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The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Summary: “The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.”

Why I think it has a chance: This newest offering from Booker-winning author Pat Barker is suffused with incisive commentary on a woman’s place in war throughout history, with echoes of the #MeToo movement thrown in.

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My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Summary: “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 “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 a doctor at the hospital 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…”

Why I think it has a chance: It’s an impressive debut from a promising new voice in Nigerian lit, and it’s an interesting subversion of traditional gendered power dynamics.

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The Pisces by Melissa Broder

Summary: “Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and Jamie break up. After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic dog and trying to learn to care for herself. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube atop Venice Beach, but Lucy can find no peace from her misery and anxiety—not in her love addiction group therapy meetings, not in frequent Tinder meetups, not in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection, not in ruminating on the ancient Greeks. Yet everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer one night while sitting alone on the beach rocks.”

Why I think it has a chance: Because no other book in recent memory has allowed a female character to be as flawed as Melissa Broder’s ingeniously crafted protagonist.

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Milkman by Anna Burns

Summary: “In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, 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.”

Why I think it has a chance: This experimental, lyrical look at the Troubles through the eyes of a young woman is crackling with a feminist undercurrent that can’t be denied.  Burns also, obviously, won the Man Booker for Milkman, and was previously shortlisted for the Women’s Prize with her novel No Bones.

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XX by Angela Chadwick

Summary: “Ovum-to-Ovum technology offers a breakthrough for reproductive rights but also has fierce opposition. When it is leaked that Rosie is one of only two women to become pregnant from the treatment, her relationship with Jules is put under a microscope. Who close to them leaked the news?”

Why I think it has a chance: That summary speaks for itself.  I think any book about reproductive rights can easily earn itself a ticket to the Women’s Prize longlist.

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Kudos by Rachel Cusk

Summary: “A woman writer visits a Europe in flux, where questions of personal and political identity are rising to the surface and the trauma of change is opening up new possibilities of loss and renewal. Within the rituals of literary culture, Faye finds the human story in disarray amid differing attitudes toward the public performance of the creative persona. She begins to identify among the people she meets a tension between truth and representation, a fissure that accrues great dramatic force as Kudos reaches a profound and beautiful climax.”

Why I think it has a chance: Cusk was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize twice, and the second time it was for the first book in the trilogy that Kudos concludes.  She also received a spot on the 2018 Goldsmiths shortlist for Kudos.  Personally, for VERY selfish reasons I hope that we don’t see Kudos on the longlist – reading up to 16 books for a literary prize is bad enough, but I haven’t even read the first two books in this trilogy.

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Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Summary: “Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.  When his master’s eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or “Titch,” is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.  He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Titch abandons everything to save him.”

Why I think it has a chance: It was shortlisted for the Booker and it won the Giller, and Edugyan was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize in 2012 for Half-Blood Blues.  And I believe this is the only Canadian offering I’m including in this predictions post.  EDIT: no it’s not!  My bad!  Thanks Laura!

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When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

Summary: “If you had to pick five people to sum up your life, who would they be? If you were to raise a glass to each of them, what would you say? And what would you learn about yourself, when all is said and done?  This is the story of Maurice Hannigan, who, over the course of a Saturday night in June, orders five different drinks at the Rainford House Hotel. With each he toasts a person vital to him: his doomed older brother, his troubled sister-in-law, his daughter of fifteen minutes, his son far off in America, and his late, lamented wife. And through these people, the ones who left him behind, he tells the story of his own life, with all its regrets and feuds, loves and triumphs.”

Why I think it has a chance: This is being hailed as the next great Irish novel, and the Women’s Prize has traditionally been kind to Irish lit.

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All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison

Summary: “Fourteen-year-old Edie Mather lives with her family at Wych Farm, where the shadow of the Great War still hangs over a community impoverished by the Great Depression. Glamorous outsider Constance FitzAllen arrives from London, determined to make a record of fading rural traditions and beliefs, and to persuade Edie’s family to return to the old ways rather than embrace modernity. She brings with her new political and social ideas – some far more dangerous than others.  For Edie, who has just finished school and must soon decide what to do with her life, Connie appears to be a godsend. But there is more to the older woman than meets the eye. As harvest time approaches and the pressures mount on the entire Mather family, Edie must decide whose version of reality to trust, and how best to save herself from disaster.”

Why I think it has a chance: I believe Harrison has been longlisted in the past for this award, but I don’t know, this one is just a gut feeling.

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The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

Summary: “15th century Oakham, in Somerset; a tiny village cut off by a big river with no bridge. When a man is swept away by the river in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found: accident, suicide or murder? The village priest, John Reve, is privy to many secrets in his role as confessor. But will he be able to unravel what happened to the victim, Thomas Newman, the wealthiest, most capable and industrious man in the village? And what will happen if he can’t?”

Why I think it has a chance: You know, I’m not positive that it does, I feel like the hype around this one has fizzled out.  But still, for some reason I think it’s a decent contender.

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Motherhood by Sheila Heti

Summary: “In her late thirties, when her friends are asking when they will become mothers, the narrator of Heti’s intimate and urgent novel considers whether she will do so at all. In a narrative spanning several years, casting among the influence of her peers, partner, and her duties to her forbearers, she struggles to make a wise and moral choice. After seeking guidance from philosophy, her body, mysticism, and chance, she discovers her answer much closer to home.”

Why I think it has a chance: I think any book called ‘Motherhood’ automatically has to be considered.

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Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt

Summary: “A provocative, exuberant novel about time, memory, desire, and the imagination from the internationally bestselling and prizewinning author of The Blazing WorldMemories of the Futuretells the story of a young Midwestern woman’s first year in New York City in the late 1970s and her obsession with her mysterious neighbor, Lucy Brite.”

Why I think it has a chance: Hustvedt is too prolific and accomplished an author not to have her work considered here.

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Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

Summary: “Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.  A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.”

Why I think it has a chance: This is a gorgeous literary debut that takes a Greek myth and flips it on its head – totally inventive and immersive and lyrical.  Plus, Booker shortlisted.

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Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Summary: “Willa Knox has always prided herself on being the embodiment of responsibility for her family. Which is why it’s so unnerving that she’s arrived at middle age with nothing to show for her hard work and dedication but a stack of unpaid bills and an inherited brick home in Vineland, New Jersey, that is literally falling apart. The magazine where she worked has folded, and the college where her husband had tenure has closed. The dilapidated house is also home to her ailing and cantankerous Greek father-in-law and her two grown children: her stubborn, free-spirited daughter, Tig, and her dutiful debt-ridden, ivy educated son, Zeke, who has arrived with his unplanned baby in the wake of a life-shattering development.”

Why I think it has a chance: Another author so accomplished we can hardly do to overlook her 2018 effort – I’ve heard mixed things about this book but the critics who love it love it passionately enough that I think it stands a chance.

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The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

Summary: “It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.”

Why I think it has a chance: This book is filled to the brim with commentary on social issues that effect women of different walks of life, but ultimately in the way women are let down by the American justice system.  Another one that was shortlisted for the Booker.

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Crudo by Olivia Laing

Summary: “Kathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart. Fast-paced and frantic, Crudo unfolds in real time from the full-throttle perspective of a commitment-phobic artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker.”

Why I think it has a chance: (I’ve had to check about 100 different times that this is eligible – I feel like this book came out a hundred years ago.  2018 was a very long year indeed.)  Anyway, this is one of those ‘books of the moment’ that has received rave reviews – I think it stands a very good chance.

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Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li

Summary: “Written in the months after the author lost a child to suicide and composed as a story cycle, this conversation between mother and child unfolds in a timeless world. Deeply intimate, poignant, and moving, these conversations portray the love and complexity in a relationship across generations, even as they capture the pain of sadness, longing, and loss.”

Why I think it has a chance: I’ve been seeing this one everywhere and it seems like it’s going to be brilliant.

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Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Summary: “A mother and father set out with their kids from New York to Arizona. In their used Volvo–and with their ten-year-old son trying out his new Polaroid camera–the family is heading for the Apacheria: the region the Apaches once called home, and where the ghosts of Geronimo and Cochise might still linger. The father, a sound documentarist, hopes to gather an “inventory of echoes” from this historic, mythic place. The mother, a radio journalist, becomes consumed by the news she hears on the car radio, about the thousands of children trying to reach America but getting stranded at the southern border, held in detention centers, or being sent back to their homelands, to an unknown fate.  But as the family drives farther west–through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas–we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, unforgettable adventure–both in the harsh desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations.”

Why I think it has a chance: Luiselli has been a formidable name in international and Mexican lit, so I’m sure this novel written in English will be a strong contender.

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Severance by Ling Ma

Summary: “Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.  So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies halt operations. The subways squeak to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.  Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?”

Why I think it has a chance: I’ve never read a more incisive take-down of capitalism in a novel than in Ling Ma’s offbeat zombie satire, which bends genres and offers something wholly unique and captivating.

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The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Summary: “King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has lain the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.  But when their father, the only man they’ve ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day three strange men wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men?”

Why I think it has a chance: Feminist dystopias are in vogue at the moment, and though that isn’t how I would personally categorize The Water Cure, that is how it’s being marketed.  Another Booker longlister.

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The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Summary: “In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.”

Why I think it has a chance: I think this is one of the most likely contenders from American lit this year – this book has been everywhere.

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Circe by Madeline Miller

Summary: “In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.  Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.”

Why I think it has a chance: This was one of the most talked about books of 2018, and Miller previously won the Women’s Prize for her debut The Song of Achilles.

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My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Summary: “A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?”

Why I think it has a chance: Through its offbeat subject matter and narrative innovation, My Year of Rest and Relaxation gets to the heart of so many issues that characterize young female life.

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Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Summary: “For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.”

Why I think it has a chance: Sarah Moss has been a prolific author for years, though an oft-overlooked one, especially here in America.  With her incredibly accomplished and incisive Ghost Wall, everyone seems to finally be taking notice.

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The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

Summary: “When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.”

Why I think it has a chance: A premise that could have been sappy and saccharine was spun on its head by Sigrid Nunez’s accomplished writing – plus, it earned itself the National Book Award win for fiction.

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Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Summary: “Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (and, according to Wikipedia, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. In fact, the world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend, Gretel Kercheval–a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.”

Why I think it has a chance: Another prolific author whose newest novel has been getting plenty of buzz in anticipation of its March release.

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Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Summary: “The Santiago family lives in a gated community in Bogotá, safe from the political upheaval terrorizing the country. Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to this protective bubble, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside the neighborhood walls, where the godlike drug lord Pablo Escobar continues to elude authorities and capture the attention of the nation.”

Why I think it has a chance: As far as historical fiction goes, I think this is one of the more likely contenders – it seems to blend historical and literary fiction, and has gotten plenty of favorable reviews.

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Normal People by Sally Rooney

Summary: “Connell and Marianne both grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. But they both get places to study at university in Dublin, and a connection that has grown between them despite the social tangle of school lasts long into the following years.”

Why I think it has a chance: Rooney’s sophomore novel is the literary sensation of the moment.  I would be very, very surprised not to see this longlisted.

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All the Lives We Never Lived by Anurandha Roy

Summary: “Freedom of a different kind is in the air across India. The fight against British rule is reaching a critical turn. The Nazis have come to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, two strangers arrive in Gayatri’s town, opening up to her the vision of other possible lives.  What took Myshkin’s mother from India to Dutch-held Bali in the 1930s, ripping a knife through his comfortingly familiar universe? Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, Myshkin comes to understand the connections between the anguish at home and a war-torn universe overtaken by patriotism.”

Why I think it has a chance: I keep forgetting about this novel, but then I keep seeing it crop up again.  I just have a feeling it might make it.

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The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Summary: “In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned. ”

Why I think it has a chance: Lyrical and, you guessed it, dreamy, this novel and its many comparisons to Station Eleven have rightfully earned it a fair amount of attention.

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Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Summary: “One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.”

Why I think it has a chance: I think the Women’s Prize likes novels that offer different cultural perspectives, and this literary look at a Mennonite community seems like a no-brainer for the longlist.

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Putney by Sofka Zinovieff

Summary: “A rising star in the London arts scene of the early 1970s, gifted composer Ralph Boyd is approached by renowned novelist Edmund Greenslay to score a stage adaptation of his most famous work. Welcomed into Greenslay’s sprawling bohemian house in Putney, an artistic and prosperous district in southwest London, the musical wunderkind is introduced to Edmund’s beautiful activist wife Ellie, his aloof son Theo, and his nine-year old daughter Daphne, who quickly becomes Ralph’s muse.”

Why I think it has a chance: This book and its uncomfortable subject matter earned itself a bit of attention, and literary prizes tend to love divisive books like this.


Because I have listed way too many books here, and am therefore cheating compared to Hannah who I believe is narrowing her list down to 16 (EDIT: read Hannah’s predictions here!), the following are my official predictions:

  1. Transcription by Kate Atkinson
  2. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  3. XX by Angela Chadwick
  4. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  5. When All Is Said by Anne Griffin
  6. Motherhood by Sheila Heti
  7. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
  8. Crudo by Olivia Laing
  9. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
  10. Severance by Ling Ma
  11. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
  12. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
  13. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
  14. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
  15. Normal People by Sally Rooney
  16. Women Talking by Miriam Toews

So, those are my predictions, but as for what I’m hoping for: I think Milkman fully deserves a spot, obviously, I would be THRILLED to see some love for The Pisces, and I’d similarly be excited for The Silence of the Girls, My Sister the Serial Killer, Severance, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ghost Wall, and The Friend.

As for my fears: I’d love to read the longlist, but I’m also expecting to have already read a handful of the books at the time it’s announced.  While I’m certainly hoping for a few I haven’t heard of, the prospect of having to read 16 books for this prize (18 for me if the Rachel Cusk is longlisted) is a little horrifying.  So, that’s my big fear: that I haven’t read any of them.  My other fears don’t revolve around specific books necessarily, though The Parentations by Kate Mayfield does scare me – please Women’s Prize gods spare me from 500 pages of magical realism.  And along the same lines as the Cusk, another fear is Ali Smith’s Winter – I love Ali Smith and I fully intend to read her seasonal quartet at some point, but I don’t want to have to cram in Autumn before Winter just to read it in time for this prize.  (I know you don’t technically have to read Autumn first but I am someone who needs to read books in order even if they’re only tangentially related.)

So, I think that’s everything.  What are your Women’s Prize longlist predictions, hopes, and fears?  Let’s chat!

Man Booker 2018 Winner – Anna Burns

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Huge congratulations to Anna Burns for winning the 2018 Man Booker with her subtly powerful novel Milkman, which will be published in the U.S. by Graywolf Press in December.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2018 Chair of judges, says: ‘None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life.

I couldn’t believe it – not only did I predict the winner which I think is a first-time occurrence for me, this is exactly the result I had wanted.  I do think that any of the other five would have been perfectly worthy winners – there isn’t a single one that would have made me angry had it won, even my least favorite Washington Black, which I do see the merit in even though I wasn’t crazy about it personally – but I wouldn’t have been excited by any result other than this one.  So, I had a 1 in 6 chance of my 2018 Man Booker journey concluding on a happy note, and I got it.  I’m so thrilled.  I thought Milkman was a quiet powerhouse of a novel, which comprehensively examines the reality of living as a young woman in a community divided by civil unrest, under the constant and pervasive threat of violence.  It’s funny and unsettling and intelligent, with one of the most unique voices I’ve read in anything recently, and I absolutely loved it.  Full review here.

Also, I said this before on Twitter, but I just want to reiterate that this was my first year reading the entire Man Booker longlist, and part of what made it such a fun experience were all the wonderful people I’ve met and the fantastic conversations I’ve had across social media about this year’s list.  So, if we’ve chatted at all about the Man Booker this year, I just wanted to say thank you for making this such a fun endeavor for me.

What did you think of Milkman, and which book did you want to win this year?  Comment and let me know!