The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist presents some of the biggest books of 2020 in their shortlist, published this week.
The aim of the shortlist and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is to showcase “excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women in English from throughout the world”. Having already marked the occasion with a podcast that champions women’s literature and pushes it out to wider audiences, the panel shortlisted their books in advance of the winner being announced this autumn.
Speaking about the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist, Chair of Judges Martha Lane Fox said, “We are all living in challenging, sad and complex times so incredible stories can provide hop, a moment of escape and a point of connection now more than ever.
"Choosing the shortlist was tough – we went slowly and carefully and passions ran high – just as you would want in such a process. But we are all so proud of these books – all readers will find solace if they pick one up.”
On the judging panel alongside Martha is writer and activist Scarlett Curtis, writer and activist, Melanie Eusebe, co-founder of the Black British Business Awards, author and comedian Viv Groskop and Paula Hawkins, international bestselling author.
These are the books nominated for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist…
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Inspired by the author’s mother’s own story, Dominicana is the story of a Dominican teenager’s arranged marriage and immigration to New York City in the 1960s.
Martha Lane herself described the book as, “A story for now, an important story…told with incredible freshness.”
Buy now: Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
The novel follows the story of 12 characters on personal journeys, from Newcastle to Cornwall. Each character is looking for something different – “a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope.”
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Written by broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes, A Thousand Ships retells the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective.
Published three years after her last novel, The Children of Jocasta, Natalie Haynes’ fourth book gives a new voice to the women, girls and goddesses who have been silent in the traditional story for so long.
Buy now: A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
The Mirror and the Light is the final book in the famous trilogy that begun with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. In this book, Hilary Mantel recounts the final years of Thomas Cromwell – the boy who climbed from nothing to the heights of power.
Published in early March, it makes a great addition to the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist as it's become one of the most read books of 2020 already.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of England’s most famous playwright. Following the death of his 11-year old son in 1596, William Shakespeare wrote arguably his most successful play, naming the tragic hero after his own son.
In a story that centres Hamnet’s mother as the main character, this is a book about “the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief.”
Sounds like our next read.
Buy now: Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
Weather by Jenny Offill
This dystopian novel was one of the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year. They described it as having “an unbearable emotional intensity: something at the core of the story that cannot be narrated directly, by straight chronology, because to do so would be like looking at the sun.”
It follows the story of Lizzie Benson, who becomes the “shrink” on a famous podcast. As her life changes and the pressure builds, she tries as hard as she can to save everyone – from her family to the floating voices of the city who come to her for advice.
Buy now: Weather by Jenny Offill
The winner of the prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction receives a cheque for £30,000 and a bronze statuette, known as the "Bessie", created and donated by artist Grizel Niven.