Winner Prediction : Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018
5th June, 2018
Since 1996, the Women’s Prize for Fiction has recognized the best novel in English by a woman published in the U.K. in the previous year. The winner of 2018 would be announced tomorrow, on 6th June. This year’s longlist was one of my personal favourites (May I casually deviate and ask you to please read Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman ? It did not make it to the shortlist but is incredibly funny and a darling of a book). The six books chosen from the sixteen in the longlist are in a fine balance with three established writers and three debut authors; an unusual mix. From a road trip to the London of 1700s, the shortlisted books feature an eclectic mix of plot settings this year.
Onto the books.
Sing, Unburied, Sing was my first novel by Jesmyn Ward. It is a favourite in many book lists all over the web and made it to my list of ‘Almost favourites of last year’. The book won the National Book Awards 2017 and is an exploration of relationships in a visceral form with a dash of surrealism.
Kamila Shamsie’s Homefire grabbed my attention from the start but I must admit I had my differences with the novel as the story progressed. But I loved the book for the portrayal of Muslims weaved through the story of Antigone. And hands down, Homefire had one of the best endings in books released last year.
I never imagined that I would enjoy Imogen’s debut novel so much. I read The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock over a weekend and it was an indulgent read; perfect for a TV adaptation (the rights are already bought). The story follows Mr. Hancock, who loses his merchant vessel in exchange for a mermaid and this introduces him to Angelica Neal, a high class courtesan. It brings alive the society of 1700s in London while questioning the myths of grief that mermaids are said to bring to humans.
My personal favourite from the shortlist is When I Hit you by Meena Kandasamy. This book is brutal, raw, honest and unflinching. The author explores her internal conflicts as a writer who creates strong characters while being unable to find an escape line for herself from an abusive marriage.
I loved how the novels chosen for this year’s shortlist have small overlaps in one aspect or the other, yet stand strong on their own. Both The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock and Sing, Unburied Sing are a bit weak in plot. However, while Imogen Hermes Gowar prides in the visual delight she presents to the reader, Jesmyn Ward’s lures you with her beautifully lyrical language and writing techniques. I am pleased that this year’s shortlist includes Homefire and When I hit you, both of which bash some major stereotypes. Kamila Shamsie gives an accurate account of treatment of British Muslims, often in a humorous way, without being condescending. Meena Kandasamy on the other hand rips out the societal misconception on abuse in a marriage for an educated woman who marries the man she loves.
Though my initial plan was to read all the six books in the shortlist, I fell short by two. I left The Idiot by Elif Batuman unfinished at 35% because it clearly was not a book for me (review linked below). As for the other debut novel, Sight by Jessie Greengrass, I had no intention of reading the book even when it was longlisted for the prize. The blurb didn’t intrigue me and from the reviews I have heard from trusted fellow readers, I don’t think I would gel well with it either. Maybe I will pick it up one day to satiate my curiosity if it wins the prize tomorrow. But otherwise, no.
I am never that lucky with my winner predictions. In 2016, my personal favourite was Ruby by Cynthia Bond while the actual winner (The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney) came to a close second. Last year my favourite in the shortlist was The Dark Circle by Linda Grant and funny enough The Power by Naomi Alderman which was one of the lesser favourites bagged the prize. I’ve kept my fingers double crossed for Meena Kandasamy for tomorrow. May the best book win.
Here is my take on the shortlist in the decreasing order of my favourites:
1.When I Hit you by Meena Kandasamy – [short, brutal read of a young writer trapped in an abusive marriage]
2.The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar– [a historical romp set in London of 1780s with rich, visual and atmospheric narrative]
3.Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward – [a road trip with surreal vibes and strong character sketches]
4.Homefire by Kamila Shamsie– [retelling of Antigone set in the present world of British Muslims]
5.The Idiot by Elif Batuman – [eccentric, dry humour; I left this unfinished]
6.Sight by Jessie Greengrass (unread)
I am thrilled to partner with Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2018 this year as well for an International Giveaway. If you would love to win this year’s shortlist (yes, you heard it right! All six of them), head over to my social media handles. Good luck! The giveaway ends on 7th June, 2018.
Pic courtesy : The Women’s Prize