Thoughts on the Women’s Prize longlist so far

In two weeks time we will already know the shortlist for the Women’s Prize 2020, as it will be announced on Wednesday 22nd April. I thought I would have a quick catch-up before then, recapping all the books I’ve read on the longlist so far, my thoughts on the list in general, and whether any of my read books will make the shortlist.

So far I have read 6 books on the longlist. These are:

  •  Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams – review
  •  Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – review
  •  Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – review
  •  Girl by Edna O’Brien – review
  •  The Most Fun I Ever Had by Claire Lombardo – review
  •  The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel – review 

Also, I am currently reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee. Whilst I’m not confident I will have finished the pair of them by the 22nd, I hope to have read a decent chunk of both of them.

This year has pleasantly surprised me. Out of all of the nominees I’ve read, including the two I’m still working on, there hasn’t been a book I didn’t enjoy. There were issues with some of the titles, yes, but none ever tempted me to DNF it or throw it against the wall like previous years (looking at you, First Love). Even with the weakest book in that list, it had some merit and aspects that I could admire. Of course, there are still 8 books that I haven’t read yet so perhaps the dud is still waiting to be discovered, but at the moment this is shaping up to be a good longlist.

Even though I have only read 6, I have noticed some themes cropping up amongst the nominees. There seems to be an interest in familial dynamics, whether that spans generations (Red at the Bone, The Most Fun We Ever Had) or focuses on a marriage (Most Fun… again and Fleishman is in Trouble). Out of all the ones mentioned, I think Red at the Bone was the most successful in its aim. Also, from what I’ve read Girl, Woman, Other may also fall into this category, as the first three women contain a mother-daughter dynamic. But it is far too early for me to say.

Equally, another topic that keeps cropping up is violence against women or women during wartime. This is prevalent in Girl and How We Disappeared, the first revolving around a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram and the second dealing with a teenager taken by the Japanese during the Second World War. Whilst I haven’t read very much of Lee’s novel, I thought Girl was a shocking but powerful depiction of violence, so it will be interesting to compare. Another book that might fall into that category is A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes, which tells the Trojan War from the female characters’ perspectives. I am interested to see how she deals with warfare.

I am also interested if the judges take into account the similarities between the books. Last year the judges seemed to pick shortlistees which mirrored each other in plot or theme; The Silence of the Girls and Circe; Ordinary People and eventual winner An American Marriage. I’m curious if this year’s judges will do something similar with their shortlist, or if they will do something completely different. But certainly the parallels between the books seems too apparent to ignore.

So, what books do I think stand a chance of being on the shortlist? I’ve ranked my six read nominees again, this time from most likely to least likely to make the cut:

  • Red at the Bone
  • The Mirror & the Light
  •  Girl
  • Fleishman is in Trouble
  •  The Most Fun We Ever Had
  •  Queenie

I will be surprised if Red at the Bone, The Mirror & the Light, and Girl, Woman, Other do not make the shortlist. The amount of critical acclaim and hype surrounding these books is absurd, so I think people will be shocked if they don’t show up. They seem like the obvious choices for the shortlist. The controversy surrounding Girl I think means its chances have been hampered, and it is unlikely it will make the shortlist. O’Brien is a highly respected and well-liked author though, so maybe she could overcome the criticism. I’m equally unsure of both Fleishman and Most Fun. Red at the Bone dealt with family relationships a lot better than either of them, but as I mentioned, last year’s judges put both Greek retellings on the shortlist. So perhaps this year’s might sneak one or both of these novels in.

Now, I like Queenie. If the list had been my favourite nominees so far, it would have come second behind Red at the Bone. But I can’t see it making the shortlist. I think other books deal with heavier subject matters, in more creative and thought-provoking ways. The writing styles of, say, Woodson and Evaristo are a lot stronger, and are perhaps more experimental in terms of structure. I would be happy to see Queenie make the shortlist, but I do doubt it.

So that is my thoughts on the Women’s Prize 2020 so far. I know the winner will now be announced on 9th September, so I will probably do my thoughts on the shortlist closer to the date. I might also wrap up my thoughts on the longlist as a whole and attempt to choose a winner (I’ve not been right for the past two years so this will be fun!) In the meantime, let me know what your thoughts on the longlist are. Do you have a favourite already? Who do you think will make the shortlist? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!




One thought on “Thoughts on the Women’s Prize longlist so far

  1. Great post, I loved reading your thoughts, and especially your predictions for the shortlist! I have also been thinking about last years pairs on the shortlist and wondering how this year will compare. There do seem to be a lot of books about marriage, motherhood, and family, so it seems likely there will be some thematic overlap no matter what. I also like your point about women in war- I knew Girl and How We Disappeared had some similarities but hadn’t thought about A Thousand Ships being comparable thematically as well! Much to think about. I am still planning to read a few more of the books before putting all of my thoughts together, but I do think Red at the bone, The Mirror and the Light, and Girl Woman Other will rank among my top predictions for the shortlist as well. I’m glad you’re enjoying the longlist overall and finding each of the books you’re reading worth the while! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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