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2021 Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist Announced

By Ameenah Khan, Emma Carey, Caitlin Evans, Holly Mahoney

I used to think fiction was indulgent. Judging the Women's prize reminded me it is essential.

These were the words from journalist Nesrine Malik, after sitting on the board of judges for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. These words stand as a testament to not only the quality of this year’s pool of entrants, but also to the strong and defiant content held within. Malik was joined on the board of judges by author Bernardine Evaristo, podcaster Elizabeth Day, TV Presenter Vick Hope and news broadcaster Sarah-Jane Mee.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction announced the 2021 Longlist on March 10, and it includes a variety of genres from new and established authors. The following are the sixteen longlisted books:

  • Because of You by Dawn French.

  • Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi.

  • Consent by Annabel Lyon.

  • Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters.

  • Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan.

  • How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones.

  • Luster by Raven Leilani.

  • No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.

  • Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon.

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke.

  • Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers.

  • Summer by Ali Smith.

  • The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig.

  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.

  • Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.

Avni Doshi's Burnt Sugar took the world by storm when it was short-listed for the 2020 Man Booker Prize. In her debut work of fiction, formerly known as Girl in White Cotton, the reader is transported to Pune, a small city in India. The narrative closely follows its protagonist, Antara, and her indescribable sense of loathing towards her mother. Doshi's debut novel overflows with rich, profound prose, proving to be nothing short of exquisite. Unearthing the layers of this complicated mother-daughter relationship makes for a read like no other. It is no surprise that we see this book competing for another award.

The 2021 Women's Prize for Fiction marks a significant moment in history with the first trans women to make the longlist. With her debut, Detransition, Baby, Torrey Peters raises the bar in the trans literature world with an electrifying novel following three transgender and cisgender women. There is no shortage of quick wit throughout this eye-opening exploration of gender, parenthood and love. In addition, Peters' has two published novellas under her belt; The Masker and Infect Your Friends. Detransition, Baby cements her talent in the world of fiction, especially so in the trans community. You've got to get your hands on this one.

Capturing the attention of the world last summer was Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this entertaining read made it onto this year’s longlist for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction. The intriguing novel explores the themes of identity through the lives of two twin sisters who reconnect after many years. Bennett’s novel also connects with readers on a personal level as it provides a sense of belonging whilst also exploring issues related to class, race and compassion. Therefore, if you haven’t already, you need to add this novel to your TBR (to be read) pile now.

Best-selling author Dawn French’s Because of You also found its way onto the longlist for this year’s prize. This thought-provoking read is full of emotion and may even leave you in tears. The theme of a mother-daughter relationship allows the reader to resonate with the characters, making it a gripping read that also tackles the concepts of guilt, regret and forgiveness. Many readers of the novel also found themselves questioning whether the storyline was ethical or not. To join in the debate and have your say about what you think of French’s novel, grab your copy today.

What is most striking about such a remarkable collection of fiction is not only the range of topic matter discussed, but also the technical innovation encased in the literary prowess of each of these female authors’ writing. This list transcends the more restrictive award ‘rules’ that exclusively celebrate literary fiction with its inclusion of genre and literary fiction as well as debut novels. As Malik quite rightly states, these works of fiction are not merelyindulgent,” but rather imperative to the collective voice of women in society – whether that be cisgender women, transgender women or any persons who identify as female. While the social and political backdrop to this announcement in the United Kingdom has been steeped in a lot of injustice and fear among women, this collection of works demonstrates the immense power in the voices of women and the stories that they have to tell. As such, these works of fiction are very much necessary for the progression of the literary world and its discussion of women. This list is wholly impressive with lots of trailblazing female authors.

Keep an eye out for the shortlist announcement on 28 April 2021, as well as the winner announcement 7 July 2021.


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