Today the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023 shortlist of six novels was announced; the Chair of judges Louise Minchin summed up their decision to select this group of books by saying:
‘This is an exquisite set of ambitious, diverse, thoughtful, hard-hitting and emotionally engaging novels. A glittering showcase of the power of women’s writing. My fellow judges and I feel it has been a huge privilege to read these novels, and we are delighted to be part of their journey, bringing them to the attention of more readers from across the world.’
The six shortlisted books are as follows:
Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris (Yugoslav/Cornish – UK) (Historical Fiction)
– a city under seige, 90’s Sarajevo, a breathtaking story of disintegration, resilience and hope of a young woman artist/teacher and her friends.
Pod by Laline Paull (UK) (Nature/Oceanic Fantasy)
– an ocean world, its creatures, mysteries and mythologies , their relationships to each other – increasingly haunted and damaged by the cruelty and ignorance of the human race, told through Ea, a dolphin.
Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks (Jamaican/British) (Historical Fiction)
– set in 80’s London & Jamaica, a mesmerizing story of love, loss, and search for home, that vibrates with the liberating power of music
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy (Northern Ireland) (Contemporary Fiction)
– set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a drama of of thwarted love and irreconcilable loyalties; a young woman caught between allegiance to community and a dangerous passion.
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (UK/Ireland) (Historical Fiction)
– set in 1550 Florence, Renaissance Italy, an extraordinary portrait of a resilient young woman, the duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici, whose life arc changes when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio. Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight and must navigate and survive the demands of her new position.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (US) (Fan Fiction)
– a retelling of David Copperfield in contemporary America that speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.
The Known, The Oceanic, The Talked About, The New
It is an interesting shortlist, with the familiar, experienced authors Maggie O’Farrell (who won the prize in 2020 with Hamnet) and Barbara Kingsolver (who won in 2010 with Lacuna). Both authors I have enjoyed reading and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up anything by them.
I am currently reading Pod by Laline Paull, after being completely entranced by her world creating in The Bees. Pod isn’t as compelling a reading experience for me as The Bees was, but it is equally fascinating the way the reader is drawn into her disturbing, oceanic world. Fire Rush is one I sought out, after seeing it on the longlist, I’ll likely be reading that next.
Louise Kennedy’s Trespasses I read and reviewed during Reading Ireland Month and enjoyed it. This novel has been on The Times bestseller list the last few weeks, a word of mouth sensation that has built up immense popularity in the past few months.
The winner of this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction will be awarded on Wednesday 14th June 2023.
Have you read any books from the shortlist that you recommend? Are you going to pick up any others? Let me know in the comments below.