The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 – Shortlist Predictions

A month after the 20 strong longlist was announced for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction, shortlisting is upon us. I’ve read 17 of the 20 books listed, links to the reviews of which, you can find here.

I’m going to do two shortlists – my preferences i.e. the books that I would have chosen were I the sole judge and my predictions as to the books the judges will choose (so we can all have a good laugh tomorrow at how far off I am!).

What’s been good about the incredibly long list of 20 books is that I’ve only come across one so far that I really didn’t like and – more importantly – I’ve discovered a writer I’ve never come across before who is amazing – Michelè Roberts – and a writer who I knew existed but might never have read otherwise and is also brilliant – Barbara Kingsolver.

So, my choices:

Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

I know, I haven’t even read it yet, but it’s Hilary Mantel. I read Beyond Black when it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, I’ve read her memoir Giving Up the Ghost and I’ve read Wolf Hall. The only reason I haven’t read Bring Up the Bodies yet is because I have a paperback of Wolf Hall and I like sets to match. Yes, I’m one of those. Anyway, Mantel is one of our greatest writers and deserves to stand alongside the likes of Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and anyone else from the literary establishment you care to mention.

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

Not just her best book yet, I suspect one of the best books of the year. The scope of the narrative; the characters – particularly Ursula – who you root for time after time; that incredible structure that could have become so tedious but instead illuminates the whole novel. It’s simply wonderful.

Ignorance – Michelè Roberts

A surprise one for me but this is a new take on the WWII novel, focusing on the relationship between two women and how life treats you depending on whether you have money and status or not. Beautifully written.

How Should a Person Be? – Sheila Heti

Divisive this one but I loved it. Heti’s novel uses emails and conversations – that we’re led to believe are real – between her and her friends, mainly the artist Margaux. Through them and her work, her lovers and her wanderings, Heti wonders what sort of person she should be and how she would become that person. Inventive and thought provoking.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple

Another novel that makes use of emails as well as reports, transcripts and letters. This is the story of Bernadette and her daughter, Bee. It’s almost a year since I read it but the humour, the darkness and the novel’s big heart are still vivid.

The Marlowe Papers – Ros Barber

It takes guts to write a novel in verse and make that novel accessible to everyone. Barber not only pulls this off, she tells a story that is wildly inventive but relatable. Yes, the idea that Christopher Marlowe didn’t die in that tavern brawl and then went on to write under the name William Shakespeare may be implausible but that he loved, that he had his heart broken, that he lived under a brutal regime, those – through Barber’s words and images – we feel along with Marlowe himself.

My predictions (I’ve chosen these based on the theory that the judges will have to agree on all of the titles):

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
The Marlowe Papers – Ros Barber
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel
Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
N-W – Zadie Smith

Of the books I’ve not mentioned on either list, these are the others that you really should make time to read:

The Children of Forever Are Not Afraid – Shani Boianjiu
May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Homes
Flight Behaviour – Barbara Kingsolver
Lamb – Bonnie Nazdam

9 thoughts on “The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 – Shortlist Predictions

  1. Nice justifications! It will be interesting to see how close you get – these things are always hard to judge. What’s your reward to yourself if you get it bang on?


    • I hadn’t even thought about it – bar Mantel & Atkinson who have to be certs I can’t see me getting the other 4/18 right! Maybe if I do I’ll see if there’s a spot on next year’s panel!


  2. Our predictions and preferences are very similar. Let’s hope that means we’ll be right! It is great to see that you’ve included Ignorance in your favourites – that was a surprise love for me too. Bernadette didn’t make my prediction, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it there either. I look forward to seeing the real list tomorrow.


    • There’s a few I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the list. Just read the first chapter of Honour, which is one of the three I haven’t got to yet and that’s bloody powerful. So many good books to choose from…


  3. You nailled the description for Life After Life.

    I’m really interested in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? now because, to tell you the truth, I’d never thought it would get shortlisted – even though I haven’t read it. I know, a little bit too snobbish on my part.

    I was just told I’ll get a review copy of The Perfume Collector. Yay!


    • It is closer to the commercial end of the spectrum but it is good – funny while dealing with a dark subject. I enjoyed it a lot.



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