Yesterday the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist was announced for 2021. Last year’s winner, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farell was my book of the year. It wasn’t everyone’s book of the year though judging by its exclusion from the Booker prize! Here is the line up for this year, titles and publisher’s blurb. The only one I have read so far is Piranesi by Susanna Clarke so it is the only one I can vouch for as a worthy winner!
Photo: This year’s judging panel chaired by Bernardine Evaristo.
This year’s shortlist includes two British authors, two American, one Barbadian, and one Ghanaian/ American author. The six books have been selected by the Chair of judges Bernardine Evaristo and her judging panel: podcaster, author and journalist, Elizabeth Day; TV and radio presenter, journalist and writer, Vick Hope; print columnist and writer, Nesrine Malik; and news presenter and broadcaster, Sarah-Jane Mee.
Transcendent Kingdom (Viking Press)
Hardback (04 Mar 2021)
As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two – and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away.
Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life, she turns to science for answers. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty soon learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach farther than she ever thought. Tracing her family’s story through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.
Transcendent Kingdom is a searing story story of love, loss and redemption, and the myriad ways we try to rebuild our lives from the rubble of our collective pasts.
The Vanishing Half (Little Brown)
Hardback (11 Jun 2020)
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?
Piranesi (Bloomsbury UK)
Hardback (15 Sep 2020)
In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.
Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?
Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.
Unsettled Ground (Penguin Books)
Hardback (25 Mar 2021)
Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Their rented cottage is simultaneously their armour against the world and their sanctuary. Inside its walls they make music, in its garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.
But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. At risk of losing everything, Jeanie and her brother must fight to survive in an increasingly dangerous world as their mother’s secrets unfold, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake. This is a thrilling novel of resilience and hope, of love and survival, that explores with dazzling emotional power how the truths closest to us are often hardest to see.
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House (Tinder Press)
Hardback (21 Jan 2021)
The powerful, intense story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive.
No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury UK)
Hardback (16 Feb 2021)
A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal’. Are we in hell? the people of the portal ask themselves. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die? Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: ‘Something has gone wrong,’ and ‘How soon can you get here?’ As real life and its stakes collide with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary. Irreverent and sincere, poignant and delightfully profane, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection from one of the most original voices of our time.