With the Women’s Prize for Fiction approaching – the 2021 winner will be announced on 8th of September – I thought of documenting what previous shortlisted books I read. Initially I wanted to document what previous winners I read, but there were only two books … so it would’ve been a very short post 😀

Here I refer to shortlists not only from 2021, but starting from 2003. Unfortunately I did not read any books that were shortlisted from 1996 to 2002. The books are listed in chronological order, from the oldest to the most recent.

2003 | The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

This is a lovely story that I appreciate a lot more now than right after I finished reading it (my review). The Little Friend tells the story of Harriet, a 12-year old girl living in Mississippi in the 1970s. She was just a baby when her brother, Robin, died in mysterious circumstances. During the summer holiday Harriet becomes deeply preoccupied by the unexplained death and tries to seek revenge for her brother.

2004 | Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The first book of the MaddAddam trilogy, Oryx and Crake is a dystopia on genetically engineered humans and animals (my review). It tells the story of Snowman, a man once known as Jimmy, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world. Through his flashbacks we find out about the past times, when corporations were thriving in the business of genetic engineering of animals.

2010 | The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

I read this book so long ago that initially I barely remembered what it was about, and I had no idea it was a shortlisted book for Women’s Prize. Now I’m thinking of re-reading it, and I also was to read The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey.

It is a beautiful story of a married couple who move to Trinidad during political turmoil. While George is seduced by the island, Sabine does not adapt easily to the climate nor the culture.

2012 | The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This is one of the Women’s Prize for Fiction winner I read, and I was quite surprise that it did win. While I enjoyed reading the book, I do not see it as a masterpiece (my review).

The Song of Achilles tells the story of the friendship between Achilles (the son of a goddess and a king) and Patroclus, his closest friend. The story is narrated from Patroclus’ point of view and it covers events for almost the entirety of their lives, including the famous Trojan war.

2014 | The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

One more book by Donna Tartt ❤ The Goldfinch is about a young boy who survives a terrorist attack in New York. The story follows Theo as he grows up, with his destiny closely linked to “The Goldfinch” painting. The book encompasses a wide variety of themes throughout its 800+ pages – from post traumatic stress disorder to fate versus free will, drugs, and art crime (my review).

photograph of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt book at the seaside

2016 | A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

The most consuming and heartrending book I’ve ever read is definitely A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (my review). It is a story of friendship and love, physical and psychological trauma, anxiety and helplessness. Yanagihara said in an interview that she “wanted everything turned up a little too high” (The Guardian, 2015), and that’s what she delivered.

Reading A Little Life is an amazing journey, a journey I would recommend to the brave ones. This is a story that will consume you as no other, a story of pain and trauma, and a story that will make you appreciate the beautiful life you’re living.

2020 | Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

This is the second Women’s Prize for Fiction winner I read, and I understand why it won 🙂 The writing style is so pleasant and smooth, and the story itself is very imaginative and full of emotions. Very much deserved!

Hamnet (my review) tells the imagined story of Shakespeare’s son, who died at 11 years old. Few years after, Shakespeare wrote the play called Hamlet. Coincidence? Maggie O’Farrell thinks not. Hamnet is a touching story about love, family, and marriage. I was impressed that the whole story is built around Shakespeare, but his name is never mentioned in the book.

2020 | Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Oh, what an intriguing book! “Girl, Woman, Other” tells the stories of 12 Black British women, aged 19 to 90+. It is an interesting blend of diverse experiences with focus on the leitmotif of identity – personal, cultural, and artistic. The book also covers themes such as feminism, politics, racism, relationships and sexuality (my review).

2021 | The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

And now we got to the 2021 shortlist! The Vanishing Half tells the story of Desiree and Stella, identical Black twins with skin colour so light that they could pass as white. It is a reflection on race and identity, about roots and new beginnings (my review) . As Brit Bennett said, it’s all about answering this question: “What do we gain and what do we lose in becoming someone new?

2021 | Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

My favourite book from the 2021 shortlist. Fingers crossed for 8th of September! ☘️

Transcendent Kingdom is the story of Gifty, a 28-year-old neuroscientist who spends most of her time studying reward-seeking behaviour at Stanford University. Gifty has Ghanian heritage, but she was born after her family relocated from Ghana to the USA. It is a touching story that covers difficult topics such as addiction, mental health, and immigration (my review).

2021 | How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House tackles a topic that is so real and contemporary – violence against women in the Caribbean. It tells the story of Lala, a young woman from Barbados. Her life is far from being a happy one, marked by poverty, violence, and psychological trauma. The story is a difficult and emotional read, as it illustrates how harsh life can be even in places that foreigners consider Paradise (my review).

Did it happen to you to read a book and afterwards to find out it was shortlisted / awarded prestigious prizes? Let me know if you have some examples!

‘Till next time … happy reading!


7 thoughts on “Women’s Prize for Fiction – what shortlisted books I read (2003-2021)

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