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The 2024 Writers’ Prize Shortlist

By Grace Briggs-Jones, Jamie Fowler, Clara Garnier-Barsanti, Benedetta Giordani and Maria Sadek


The shortlists for the Writer’s Prize 2024 have been announced! Formerly the Rathbones Folio Prize, this rebranded award – honouring literature written in English and published in the UK in the last year – boasts three categories for Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry. A winner from each category receives £2000, with the overall Book of the Year winner receiving a further £30,000. Usually, between three and five judges are nominated from the Folio society to judge this prize. However, for 2024, the entire organisation of writers and critics has been invited to vote on the winner. Without further ado, here are the shortlisted works:


Our first title for the Fiction shortlist is The Wren, The Wren. The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright is a novel that explores raw emotion through powerful characterisation that re-evaluates the meaning of family and love for its readers. This is definitely a novel everyone needs to check out in 2024. 


The second title on the shortlist is The Bee Sting by Paul Murray and might be the witty, comi-tragic and wise book you want to add to your bookshelf. Immersed in the troubles of the Barnes family, where every member is trying to achieve oblivion in their own clumsy way, one wonders where everything started to go wrong. Was it when the bee stung? And is it still possible to get back on track and have a happy ending? This new book is here to warm up your hearts after An Evening of Long Goodbyes


Third comes Zadie Smith’s The Fraud, marking their first foray into the historical fiction genre. Focusing on the Tichborne Trial of 1973 through the perspectives of housekeeper Eliza Touchet and formerly enslaved Andrew Bogle, Smith branches out to explore the relationship between Jamaica and Britain, as well as the dynamics between class, power and justice. Also shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2023, this is an outstanding candidate praised for its intelligent style, wit and fierce confrontation with the past.


Now onto the Non-Fiction shortlist, which starts with Thunderclap by Laura Cumming. In this book, Cummings reveals her passion for the art of the Dutch Golden Age and her determination to lift up the reputation of Carel Fabritius – known across the world for his exquisite painting, The Goldfinch. Cummings takes the dramatic 1654 explosion in Delft as a springboard for a profound meditation on Dutch art and culture, taking the precariousness of human life by asking “What can art do to sustain us?”


Next up is Doppelganger by Naomi Klein which asks the question “What if you woke up one morning and found you’d acquired a double? Someone almost like you, and yet not you at all?” Following the threads from online keyboard warriors to conspiracy theorists and the instability of democracy itself, Klein tracks the extreme views of a woman frequently mistaken for herself, a woman sharing Naomi’s first name with radically different, harmful views. This book is a must read for anyone who has lost hours down an internet rabbit hole.


Our final non-fiction text is A Thread of Violence by Mark O’Connell. This true story follows a wealthy heir to a large estate who decides to commit a series of crimes, including robbing a bank and murdering those who stand in his way. O’Connell reflects on the mysterious tale, going as far as tracking down the man behind these true events to ultimately learn the true motive of the crimes. A fascinating read indeed. 


Moving on to the poetry shortlist, first up is Jason Allen-Paisant's Self-Portrait as Othello. This collection reimagines Shakespeare’s Othello in a contemporary European setting, reflecting on intersecting identities and how its language, especially its visual vocabulary, may speak to readers today. The book, which has already won the TS Eliot Prize, is Allen-Paisant's second poetry collection, following his debut Thinking with Trees (2021), which won the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for poetry.


Next up is Liz Berry's The Home Child. Inspired by the life of the author's great aunt, this novel in verse tells the story of one of the thousand British children who were sent to Canada to work as indentured labourers and domestic servants at the beginning of the 19th century. Berry is the author of the highly praised Black Country (2014) and The Republic of Motherhood (2018). Throughout her works, she celebrates the landscape, history and language of the Black Country.


Mary Jean Chan rounds off the shortlist. Their debut collection Flèche won the Poetry Costa Award along with others in 2019, and Bright Fear continues exploring the question of a queer-identity intertwined with post-colonialism and the gray zone of languages between Chinese and English through the new lens of the pandemic. Highly acclaimed, it can be read as a sequel or on its own. 


Good luck to everyone on the shortlist!


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