Six novels make shortlist for 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction

From a longlist of 16 books, the judging panel selected six novels to compete for prize

Chairwoman of judges, Bernardine Evaristo. Reuters
Chairwoman of judges, Bernardine Evaristo. Reuters

Organisers have revealed the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction finalists, none of whom have previously been shortlisted for the award.

The Women's Prize Trust said this year’s shortlist includes two British authors, two Americans, one from Barbados and one Ghanaian-American writer.

The six books have been selected by the chairwoman of judges, Bernardine Evaristo, and her judging panel.

They are: podcaster, author and journalist Elizabeth Day; TV and radio presenter, journalist and writer Vick Hope; print columnist and writer Nesrine Malik; and news presenter and broadcaster, Sarah-Jane Mee.

The winner will be announced on July 7.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi is one of the shortlisted titles, with one judge commenting: “The most emotional I’ve felt after reading a book in a long time.”

Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half was said by judges to “really get to the heart of the pernicious consequences of racism".

Judges described How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps her House by Cherie Jones as “a tale of violence, loss and love in Barbados".

Coming up with a longlist of 16 books for this prize was relatively easy compared to whittling the selection down to six novels, which by necessity demands more consensus

Bernardine Evaristo

“Very moving and profoundly insightful into human nature,” is what the judges said about Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking about This.

Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground was described as “heartbreaking and real, it deals with issues that are often overlooked".

“Spirits you away into a fascinating universe that stays with you long after you’ve put the book down,” said judges of Piranesi by Susanna Clarke.

"Coming up with a longlist of 16 books for this prize was relatively easy compared to whittling the selection down to six novels, which by necessity demands more consensus," said Bernadine Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.

"Sadly, we had to lose so many exceptional books that we loved. However, with this shortlist, we are excited to present a gloriously varied and thematically rich exploration of women’s fiction at its finest.

“These novels will take the reader from a rural Britain left behind to the underbelly of a community in Barbados; from inside the hectic performance of social media to inside a family beset by addiction and oppression; from a tale of racial hierarchy in America to a mind-expanding tale of altered perceptions.

“Fiction by women defies easy categorisation or stereotyping, and all of these novels grapple with society’s big issues expressed through thrilling storytelling.

"We feel passionate about them and we hope readers do too."

The Women’s Prize Trust is a registered charity promoting female writers on a global stage.

It empowers all women to raise their voices and own their stories, shining a spotlight on outstanding and ambitious fiction by women from anywhere in the world, regardless of their age, race, nationality or background.

It displays the very best writing by women through the prize, which is one of the most respected, celebrated and successful literary awards in the world.

The charity’s programmes support aspiring writers with mentoring, tools and advice.

Updated: April 29, 2021 10:37 AM

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