Six ‘Wonderfully Diverse’ Novels Make Women’s Prize Shortlist | Books


Six countries are represented on the shortlist for this year’s Women’s Fiction Prize, with Meg Mason and Elif Shafak among those vying for the £30,000 prize. The New Zealander and the Turkish-British author face two Americans, an American-Canadian and a Trinidadian first novelist.

The annual prize aims to recognize “original, exceptional and ambitious fiction written in English by women around the world”, and this year’s jury chair, Mary Ann Sieghart, welcomed the “wonderful diversity” of the restricted list. be. But there were no box-ticking exercises at the judging meetings, she pointed out: “Those are the books we liked the most. It really is as simple as that.”

The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini (Myriad)

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich (Corsair)

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (Weidenfeld)

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (Viking)

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday)

Quick guide

The list of finalists for the 2022 Women’s Fiction Prize


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All six novels offer an “escape” from the various global crises we’ve been experiencing recently, Sieghart said – only one shortlisted title, Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence, mentions the coronavirus pandemic. That’s not to say the books don’t deal with serious matters: the best-selling book Sorrow and Bliss deals with the impact of mental illness. But at the same time, Mason’s novel is “hilarious and funny,” Sieghart said. Reading it was “a great outing, considering what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

The settings range from Cyprus to Antarctica, while the six shortlisted novels are also of varying narrative styles. Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees includes sections told by a tree, while in The Book of Form and Void, by writer and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki, every object speaks.

Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle, which weaves together the stories of a fictional aviator who goes missing in 1950 and the Hollywood actor who plays her in a film more than half a century later, was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize Last year. But each author is new to the Women’s Prize shortlist – and only Shafak has already been shortlisted.

Alongside prolific novelists like Erdrich, whose mystery bookstore The Sentence is her 23rd novel for adults, Trinidadian comedian and writer Lisa Allen-Agostini makes the list with her debut novel. The bread that the devil kneads, written in Trinidadian patois, is about a woman who is abused by her partner. “You might think [the dialect] would be a little off-putting,” Sieghart said. “And yet, around page five, you’re so engrossed that you hardly notice it anymore.”

Sieghart went on to praise Allen-Agostini’s “funny” and “very human” book, noting how international reading “really broadens our horizons.”

“I wouldn’t have known what it was like to live with an abusive partner while running a toy store in Trinidad if I hadn’t read [The Bread the Devil Knead]. And The Sentence is written from the perspective of a Native American woman; ditto,” she added. “I learned so much from reading these books.”

The six-person lineup was whittled down from a long list of 16 by Sieghart and fellow judges, journalist Lorraine Candy, novelist and podcaster Dorothy Koomson, memoirist and critic Anita Sethi and writer and host Pandora Sykes .

Sieghart admitted it was difficult for the judges to choose their favorites from an “extremely good” long list, but said the decisions were made “very amicably”, and she highly recommends all of the books in the series. restricted list. “I would especially encourage men to read them,” she said, alluding to the fact that men are far less likely to read books by female authors than women are to read books by male authors.

The prize was launched in 1996, after many people objected that the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist did not include any women’s books. The winner will be announced June 15, joining past recipients including Susanna Clarke, Eimear McBride, Kamila Shamsie and Zadie Smith.


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