The time has finally come. In just a few hours we will learn the winner of this years Women’s Prize for Fiction. It’s been a longer wait than normal, what with the event being delayed, like so many other things, due to the pandemic.
But the announcement is almost upon us and with that I think it’s time to round up my thoughts about the shortlist. Which is my favourite? Did any disappoint me? And what book do I think is going to be this years winner?
Firstly, for full thoughts on each of the books (that I read) here are links to their full reviews:
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Weather by Jenny Offill
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
As you can see, despite the extra time we had to read this years shortlist, I still didn’t get to The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. That isn’t because I don’t plan on reading this book, it’s just taken a while for me to get my copy from the library. I’m number 3 on the waiting list now though so not long to wait!
My Thoughts On This Years Shortlist
I have quite polarizing thoughts on the books on this years shortlist. Of the five that I’ve read I found two new favourites, two that I just very nearly DNFed and one that I kind of want to give another try sometime in the future.
I did however notice similarities between the five that I read so I can see why each of them made this years shortlist. They all give voices to female characters who, in history/real life, probably felt like they didn’t have one.
We have a young Dominican bride who’s immigrated to America. A chorus of black woman in Girl, Woman, Other. The wife of a world famous poet and playwrite in Hamnet. The female perspective of the Trojan war in A Thousand Ships. And a modern day wife/mother who has growing concerns about the world in Weather.
I’ll start with the negatives. Two books I struggled with. I feel like they were written in quite experimental ways that just didn’t work for me and I really struggled to get through both of them. Those were Weather by Jenny Offill and Dominicana by Angie Cruz.
I wasn’t too disappointed about Weather because I guiltily went into that with low expectations anyway. But I had high hopes for Dominicana just because I find the experience of an American immigrant to be so intriguing. But I just felt this book had nothing new to offer.
I’d like to give A Thousand Ships another try some day. I really felt like I just kind of missed the point of it because the entire time I was thinking ‘I wish I’d read The Iliad before reading this. Not because it’s necessary to read that first, but because I’ve wanted to for a while and I felt I’d have more of an understanding if I knew more about the Greek myths.
So far, not much luck. But from this shortlist I’ve also found two new favourites and obviously I’ll be routing for one of these to win.
I’m sure you’ve guessed by now but these are Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo and Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Both vastly different stories, but they just spoke to my soul and I could feel myself falling in love as I read them.
Hamnet is, putting it simply, a historical fiction about Shakespeares wife and children. It’s poetically written and so atmospheric it transports you to Stratford in the 16th century. It captivated me, and it’s not often I use that word for a book so you know I’m telling the truth.
Girl, Woman, Other is set in modern London and follows a group of black women, losely connected to one another, and each chapter follows a different story. This book is so powerful as it gives a platform for the people in society who are often left out. In the unique way it’s told, we come to learn about 12 black women, each with their own, individual story.
My Winner Prediction
Trying to predict a winner when I technically haven’t read the whole shortlist is going to be a little tricky but I have read Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies so I feel like I can still give it my best shot.
I’ll start with what I want to win. Out of what I read obviously I’m routing for Girl, Woman, Other & Hamnet. Of these two, I think Hamnet has pushed ahead as my favourite (although it is fresher in my mind as I read GWO last year) so I’m wishing for Hamnet to win.
But what would I bet on? This takes a bit more thought because I have to consider what the judges think of the books.
Just based on my personal opinion, I would be a it underwhelmed if Weather or Dominicana won.
I think A Thousand Ships could have a chance. Like I said I didn’t give it much of a chance myself, but it’s premise is pretty powerful and it’s been a while since a Greek myth retelling won the prize.
Hamnet is the book on this list which is freshest in my mind that I loved. It’s just such a beautifully told story, but I wonder if the fact it’s historical fiction might put it in disfavour with the judges.
I think it would make waves if The Mirror and the Light won. It would definitely get people talking about the prize seeing as the previous two novels in this trilogy made the shortlist but didn’t win. For that reason I think this could possibly grab the prize.
Girl, Woman, Other co-won the Booker prize last year (should’ve won outright but lets not go into that now). This, I think, has a big chance of winning and I think if I were to put money on a book, it would be on this one. It’s just so currently significant and it’s popularity has grown despite being put in the shadow of The Testaments. I would cheer if this won.
What do you think? Is your favourite book on the shortlist the one you think will win?