By Michelle Ye, Jia Wen Ho, Shaniah Shields and Leanne Francis
The prestigious Women’s Prize 2023 features an abundance of originality and talent. The longlist has been described by Chair of Judges Louise Minchin as “a glorious celebration of the boundless imagination and creative ambition of women writers over the past year.”
The shortlist will be announced on 26 April and the winner on 14 June.
Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
From the brilliant mind of award-winning Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo comes her second novel Glory, a political satire with echoes of Animal Farm. Glory documents the “fall of an oppressive regime, and the chaos and opportunity that rise in its wake.” Taking inspiration from the 2017 coup against Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, Bulawayo brings us a tale of tyranny through a chorus of animal voices. This riveting novel holds a mirror up to a world that, much like ours, has been torn apart by greed – all while exhuming the smallest glimmer of hope.
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
In The Bandit Queens, a humorous, ‘razor-sharp’ debut novel by Parini Shroff, we are introduced to Geeta, a young woman whose husband walks out on her. In a small Indian village where news travels fast, rumours begin to spread that Geeta killed her own husband. Soon enough, women begin to consult her for advice on ‘husband disposal’. What begins as a simple favour for one woman changes things for every woman in the village in this spirited dark comedy.
Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin
In her debut, Wandering Souls, Cecile Pin shines a spotlight on those “who [have] been shuffled offstage,” bolstering Southeast Asian voices in the UK literary scene. Inspired by her family history, the novel introduces siblings Anh, Thanh and Minh, who have fled from Vietnam to Britain. As orphaned refugees, the siblings are plunged into unceasing storms and forced to endure survivor’s guilt while they carve their own paths in unwelcoming soil. The interwoven narratives come together not only to educate but also to explore the generations that exist within the individual.
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
Coming from a family of storytellers, Tara M. Stringfellow knew that it was her duty to make ‘tales sing’. Memphis spans generations, tracing the ugly trauma and enduring beauty of a Southern Black family. The violent collisions plaguing Joan’s life are tempered by the women in her family: grandmother Hazel, mother Miriam, her aunt and her sister. By painting their portraits, their unfaltering love and strength propels Joan in the direction of healing and hope. Memphis illuminates the rich mosaic of their lives, celebrating the vibrancy and complexity of Black women.
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel
I’m a Fan is Sheena Patel’s searing debut, offering a critique of society, social media and human relationships. Following a single speaker, we get a frantically brutal examination of culture, obsession and how social media and politics feed into our self-image. Patel’s narrative is exhilarating and visceral. Through the narrator’s seemingly toxic relationship, she creates a platform wherein the reader is enveloped in a display of societal norms and patriarchy. This powerful book has established Patel as an original talent and has also been longlisted for the 2023 Jhalak Prize.
Pod by Laline Paull
Described by The Belfast Telegraph as “another conversation starter,” Pod offers a timely commentary on the current ecological crisis. From the bestselling author of The Bees, this is the immersive tale of a troubled dolphin’s terrifying quest. Paull continues to put our complex planet at the forefront of her stories, this time spotlighting the ocean and the harmony and tragedy of the pod. Told from the dolphin’s point of view, the thought-provoking book explores themes of family, belonging and sacrifice, and is sure to stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks
Crooks’ mesmerising debut follows Yamaye who lives for the weekends where she can go raving at The Crypt, an underground club, with her friends. At the heart of this story is a musicality, a lyricism that permeates the prose. From the UK to Jamaica, Fire Rush is rich in plot and characterisation, with Bernardine Evaristo saying: “By the end of the novel, I felt charged and changed and already longed to re-read it”. Crooks depicts a sprawling narrative that navigates Black British Caribbean identity and the impact of police violence on Black communities, but ultimately leaves space for hope.