The Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist

(A post in which I make no mention of Hilary Mantel. She’ll be on the shortlist. I haven’t read it yet.)

So, while most of us were asleep in bed last night, the people behind the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) were busy announcing their longlist. It has 20 – 20! – books on it. Alex in Leeds has already written a very astute piece on the length of the shortlist here. I, like a fool, am going to attempt to read – and post full reviews – on as many as I can before the shortlist’s announced on April 16th.

I’m delighted Sheila Heti’s made the list with a book that people seem to love or hate. I loved it. You can read my thoughts on it here. I also, mostly, loved A.M Holmes’ May We Be Forgiven, which is a statement of contention for the title of Great American Novelist. Surely she’ll make the shortlist. My review is here. Francesca Segal’s The Innocents won the Costa First Novel award and I reviewed that here. It’s a cracking first novel.

I’m also thrilled to see Kate Atkinson on the list – she’s a novelist I’ve long admired and I’ve been hearing great things about Life After Life. I’m going to her reading at Huddersfield Literature Festival on Friday night, so that should be my weekend reading sorted.

I’ve also read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette (pre-blog). Gone Girl kept me up late two nights running while I finished it. It’s taut and gripping with several sharp twists. Semple’s debut is fun and feisty with a big heart. It tells the tale of Bernadette’s disappearance – mentally and then physically – through emails, notes, letters and reports collated by her daughter Bee. I enjoyed it a lot.

From the rest of the list, I’ve had Zadie Frost’s NW, Shani Boianjiou’s The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, Bonnie Nadzam’s Lamb, and G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen sitting in my (physical and e) tbr pile for a while now. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into these.

I’m sure the rest of the list will bring me to some great books that I might not have read otherwise. From their blurbs, I’m already hoping I can find the time to read Emily Perkins’ The Forrests, Ros Barker’s The Marlowe Papers, Deborah Copaken Kogan’s The Red Book and Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with Birds. It looks as though my reading’s going to be completely female dominated for the next month or so – no bad thing with this sort of variety on offer though.

The Longlist:

Kitty Aldridge A Trick I Learned From Dead Men

Kate Atkinson Life After Life

Ros Barber The Marlowe Papers

Shani Boianjiu The People of Forever are Not Afraid

Gillian Flynn Gone Girl

Sheila Heti How Should A Person Be?

AM Homes May We Be Forgiven

Barbara Kingsolver Flight Behaviour

Deborah Copaken Kogan The Red Book

Hilary Mantel Bring Up the Bodies

Bonnie Nadzam Lamb

Emily Perkins The Forrests

Michèle Roberts Ignorance

Francesca Segal The Innocents

Maria Semple Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Elif Shafak Honour

Zadie Smith NW

ML Stedman The Light Between Oceans

Carrie Tiffany Mateship with Birds

G Willow Wilson Alif the Unseen

15 thoughts on “The Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist

  1. It is great to see that you loved Sheila Heti’s book. I am a bit worried that I’ll be one of those who hate it, but your review has given me a glimmer of hope! Enjoy the rest of your longlist reading – I look forward to comparing notes with you.


    • Thanks, Jackie. I can see why some people found it irritating; it is very middle class naval gazey but I thought she did something interesting with it. I’ll be interested in your opinion once you’ve read it. And yes, it’ll be interesting to compare thoughts on the others.


  2. Ooh, good luck reading them all. I’ve tried/read half the list so far and have ordered a couple more via the library but I’ve already committed to reading some Zola next month and have a few review copies to read too. Look forward to your reviews though as it’d be lovely to see someone compare all the titles. 🙂


    • I have a few review copies to read but as I’ve just over a fortnight off for Easter I figured I might just be able to do it. We’ll see!


  3. I look forward to reading more of your reviews.Quite a few of the authors on the longlist are new to me, so it’ll be interesting to hear your thoughts.
    I’m very pleased to see Zadie Smith’s N-W on the list – she’s so good with dialogue and I think it’s her best book to date.


  4. Good luck with the read! Hoping that my library is going to step up and get these all in (although as none of them feature vampire queens or werewolves (do they?) I have my doubts…) Looking forwards to hearing your thoughts – it’s a chunky list to get through in the time they’ve allowed.


  5. It’s taken me nearly 3 months to read 20 books, so I don’t envy you your challenge but I do admire your determination! I read 3 of last year’s shortlisted Orange Prize books including the winner and it was amazing how different each was especially in quality of writing. Once you’ve read them all are you going to try and predict the shortlist?


    • Thanks! I’ve read 5 already and the Easter holiday is the fortnight prior to the shortlist announcement, so that’s how I’m hoping to fit it in. We’ll see how far I get!

      The intention is to come up with a shortlist – not sure I’d call it a prediction, as it’ll probably be nowhere near the judges’ choices (except Mantel!) – but more my selections were I to have a vote.

      I read two last year – Cynthia Ozick and Madeline Miller – which couldn’t have been more different. Miller wouldn’t have been my winner either, which I know is a controversial statement as so many people loved it.

      Which did you read and what would have been your choice?


      • I read Ozick, Ediguan and Miller. 3 very different books. I wouldn’t have gone for Miller either, it felt a bit like a populist choice. I felt the writing in the other 2 were much more accomplished and polished, but the ending to Half Blood Blues was a bit weak compared to the rest of the book (I know I’m probably on my own there as have read others say the ending is impactful). Ozick was definitely the most literary but that can make a book a little inaccessible to a mass market I guess.
        It’s really difficult to know which way the judges go on these things; style, content, popular, which book will shift a shed load. I suspect that the Mantel juggernaut might be difficult to stop now that it is on a roll though! But I’ve just started Life After Life and absolutely love it so far.


  6. I’m looking forward to your coverage of the longlisted titles; I read the shortlist last year and have, in the past, targeted the longlist but I doubt that I have the necessary focus this year. Nonetheless, some of the books are new-to-me and are very intriguing (have recently picked up The Red Book and the new Michele Roberts…somehow I missed this one, but she’s a favourite of mine) and The Forrests (which I’d heard other good things about)…it does look like a stack of great reading awaits!


    • Thanks! I’m just hoping I can get through it now – I’m feeling a bit daunted!

      I read your review of The Light Between Oceans earlier and that seems more interesting than I thought it might. I’ve heard mixed reports about The Red Book so it’d be interesting to share thoughts when we’ve both read it.


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