This month, instead of looking at a single title, we’ll be reflecting on the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist. It’s a very strong list this year from a panel of judges chaired by the historian, broadcaster and professor of history Kate Williams. As the journalist Gwendolyn Smith has said “This is a good list. Too good. Thoughts and prayers are with the judges.” The winner will be announced on June 5th, the day before the book club reconvenes on June 6th when we’ll be able to offer some reflections on the winner as well as the shortlist as a whole.
It’s too early to ask Ladbrokes for the favourite but the obvious choice is Circe, Madeline Miller’s gorgeously written reimagining of The Odyssey from the perspective of a minor character, the witch Circe. Similarly offering a feminist retelling of a Homeric epic is Pat Barker’s wonderful The Silence of the Girls. Anna Burns’s Booker Prize-winning Milkman is also on the shortlist. We had mixed feelings about this singular narrative that we’ll explore in more depth when we reconvene on 6th June. Diana Evans’s Ordinary People is a novel that seems to have belatedly garnered attention and some readers are positioning it as lying somewhere between Zadie Smith’s London novels and Sally Rooney’s Normal People. We are not sure we entirely agree but it’s a novel we enjoyed in hardback and we’re looking forward to returning to it before a winner for the Prize is chosen. Also on the shortlist is Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage which was not only chosen for Oprah’s Book Club but also for Barack Obama’s Summer Reading List. It’s Jones’s fourth novel and one that we’re looking forward to reading, as is the intriguingly titled My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – the only debut author on the list. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the shortlist and the eventual winner in June.