Women’s Prize for Fiction Announces 2021 Shortlist

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The 26th Women’s Prize for Fiction has announced its shortlist for the prestigious £30,000 award. The annual award announced its six-book shortlist on April 28th after confirming a 16-book longlist earlier in the year. 

Sponsored by Bailey’s and NatWest, the award’s shortlist features six authors shortlisted for the first time. Amongst the nominees are two first time fiction novelists: Patricia Lockwood for No One is Talking About This and Cherie Jones for How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House. 

Also featured in the shortlist are three authors celebrated for their second novels with nominations for The Vanishing Half  by Brit Bennett, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, and Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. 

Clare Fuller’s fourth novel Unsettled Ground completes the six-book list; set in rural England, it follows a pair of 50-year-old twins living a solitary life. The six first-time nominees range in nationalities from Barbados and Ghanaian to British and American. 

Chair of the judges and Booker Prize-winning writer Bernadine Evaristo praised the diversity of stories told in the shortlist; she explained they told stories of: “lives you haven’t read about before.”

Speaking of Jones’, Fuller’s and Gyasi’s novels, she continued: “We did want to champion books that introduced the reader to little-told stories. These three books are about marginalised communities, and they are very fresh because of that.”

The shortlist of six books had been reduced from the 16 longlist, which included Torrey Peters Detransition Baby, Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times, and Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar, all of whom were nominated for their popular debut novels.  

On the process of cutting down the longlist, Evaristo said: “Coming up with a long list of 16 books for this prize was relatively easy compared to whittling the selection down to six novels, which by necessity demands more consensus. 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.”

Joining Evaristo on the judging panel are Elizabeth Day, Vick Hope, Nesrine Malik and Sarah-Jane Mee. The winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced on July 7th and will be in esteemed company as they join former winners Zadie Smith, Maggie O’Farrell and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – to name just a few. 

The 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke 

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi 

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

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood 

Words by Matilda Head

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