Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2018 #WomensPrize

Today the short list was announced for the woman’s prize for fiction. From the longlist of 13 books, six books have been chosen.

The Chair of Judges Sarah Sands had this to say:

“The shortlist was chosen without fear or favour. We lost some big names, with regret, but narrowed down the list to the books which spoke most directly and truthfully to the judges. The themes of the shortlist have both contemporary and lasting resonance encompassing the birth of the internet, race, sexual violence, grief, oh and mermaids. Some of the authors are young, half by Brits and all are blazingly good and brave writers.”

I’ve actually read and reviewed three of the six chosen titles, all of which I really enjoyed, and I would like to read Sight and The Mermaid, so overall I think it’s an impressive list, even though the prize completely ignored the outstanding novel Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.

The shortlist is as follows, beginning with the three I’ve read, then the two I’d like to, all six revealed here in biscuit form, made by @BiscuiteersLtd :

Meena KandasamyWhen I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife  – my review here

  • a literary artwork, a portrait of a writer suffering in a four-month marriage, surviving through writing, her imagination and now looking back and turning what could have destroyed her into a blazing, unforgettable novel.

Kamila ShamsieHome Fire my review here

  • a heartbreaking tragic work, a modern retelling of Sophocles’ 5th century BC play Antigone, an exploration of the conflict between those who affirm the individual’s human rights and those who protect the state’s security, set in London, told through an immigrant family struggling to distance themselves from the patterns of their ancestral past.

Jesmyn WardSing, Unburied, Sing – my review here

  • narrated from three points of view, 13-year-old Jojo, his mother Leonie and the spectre of a young man Richie, it’s a coming-of-age story about surviving a dysfunctional family, haunted by the past, and spirits that won’t rest.

Imogen Hermes Gowar, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

  • Historical fiction with a splash of magic realism, a merchant and a celebrity courtesan brought together by the arrival of a mermaid in Georgian London, 1785 – a debut novel inspired by a “real mermaid” in the British Museum.


Jessie GreengrassSight

  • a woman recounts her progress to motherhood, remembering the death of her mother, and the childhood summers she spent with her psychoanalyst grandmother – alongside events in medical history – emerging into a realisation. 

Elif BatumanThe Idiot

  • a campus novel, reflecting on how culture and language shape who we are, how difficult it is to be a writer, and how baffling love is.



Of the three I’ve read, I think Meena Kandasamy’s stood out the most for me, in particular because I initially avoided it, and then was blown away by how the subject was so uniquely and adeptly handled. It’s a form of autobiographical fiction, some debating whether it is indeed a novel, being based in part on the author’s life.

So what do you think of the list, do you have a favourite, or one you really want to read?

Buy any of the books on the shortlist via Bookdepository

14 thoughts on “Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2018 #WomensPrize

  1. Hi Claire – after reading your review of Meena Kandasamy’s book a while back, I put it on my TBR. Thank you again, for introducing a book that I might not otherwise have heard about. OMG! I love that Bisquiteers Ltd. recreated book covers out of biscuits – that’s genius!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aren’t the biscuits wonderful! I loved them too, I bet they taste just as good as they look. I hope you get to read the Kandasamy book, I think it’s unique and thought provoking and an admirable attempt by a young woman to write her way through a terrible trauma, which might even help others in some way. It certainly highlights the extreme magnitude of the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Idiot appeals to me because I read and loved Elif Batuman’s The Possessed. It was actually about Russian literature but her sense of humour shone through it and I suspect that The Idiot will be funny in the same laconic way.
    I’ll also look out for Home Fires, because it’s the kind of ‘big picture’ book that I like to read, but as for the rest, well, I’m going to read my copy of Kintu first.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve just finished and much enjoyed Home Fire. I think it’ll be Meena Kandasamy next. The only one that doesn’t appeal is The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock because I’m not much good at magic realism. Love the biscuits! Inspired!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found it hard to describe what The Mermaid is actually about from the reviews I’ve read, I don’t mind a touch of magic realism, though I’m not too sure whether it’s just a touch or if it’s more fantasy. Interesting that it made it to the short list though, that suggests it’s got something that’s appealed to the judges.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read any of the shortlisted titles yet but I reserved The Idiot at the library and it’s on it’s way to me. I also want to read When I Hit You and Home Fire as I’ve heard lots of good reviews of both on Booktube.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The only one of the short list I have read is Home Fire which I thought was fantastic. I had read four of those that were originally longlisted (which must be a record for me). I hadn’t set out to read women’s prize nominees it happened by chance. When I Hit you is the one other shortlisted book that I might want to read.

    Liked by 2 people

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