Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019: Shortlist reaction

Yesterday at midnight UK time, the shortlist for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced – and I am glad I did not stay up until then because then I would be disappointed and tired today as opposed to just disappointed. I am obviously still making my way through the longlist but I do have thoughts. Even if I haven’t loved many of the books that were longlisted (as of writing this I have finished 10 books on the list and am in the middle of two others), I did think the overall list was exciting and varied. The shortlist? Not so much.

But first things first, here is the shortlist:

  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • Milkman by Anna Burns (review)
  • Ordinary People by Diana Evans
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (review)
  • Circe by Madeline Miller

Of these six, I have only read two so far (Milkman and An American Marriage), but I am more than halfway through My Sister, the Serial Killer. Even if I didn’t always love Milkman, I can absolutely see its brilliance and the inclusion on the shortlist makes sense. I struggled more with An American Marriage and would not have been sad to not see it advance further. My Sister, the Serial Killer I am really enjoying but not as much as some other books on the longlist. The three other books on the shortlist are all books I am really looking forward to reading, so there is that. I did not think both feminist myth retellings (Circe and The Silence of the Girls) would make it but I am intrigued enough by both of them to be ok with the fact. I am also a bit baffled that both Ordinary People and An American Marriage made the list; these books seem to be similar in theme and I would have wished a totally different book had made it.

I find the shortlist strangely underwhelming; maybe because there are two obvious pairs and another book that is enjoyable but not blowing me away. I cannot believe my three five star reads did not make the list at all. The book I am missing most on the shortlist is Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (review), which I found brilliant and original and just in a whole different league than most other books. My heart obviously beats for The Pisces (review), but I never genuinely thought it would make the shortlist. It is still the winner of my heart. But even so, I do wish it had made the list because at least this one was polarizing and it does something very interesting with its subject matter. While I adored Normal People (review), I think it is Conversations With Friends (review) that should have seen Sally Rooney nominated as it is the stronger book. But if I cannot have this, I would have at least liked to see her get shortlisted.

As of the moment, I am weirdly enough most excited to see Milkman on the list. It is such an obvious masterpiece that I cannot begrudge it all the praise it gets. It has also grown on me a lot since finishing it, enough that I might still change my rating.

I will now spend the next few weeks finishing up the longlist, I am so close I can almost imagine myself getting to the end. The only good thing about this list might be that threeย  and a half of the six books I haven’t read are on it, which makes picking them up a lot easier. Plus, I think I might finally give myself permission to DNF Lost Children Archive – a book that I just very much dread having to pick up again.

What are your thoughts? Are you as baffled as I am? Did your favourite make the list?

 

22 thoughts on “Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019: Shortlist reaction

  1. I am so glad you’re slowly being converted to #teamMilkman! It’s the book I’m most excited to see on this shitty shortlist as well. Because obviously I loved Silence but I think that largely has to do with my very subjective obsession with Iliad retellings, and I really enjoyed Serial Killer but why that was the novella that advanced over Ghost Wall is beyond me. I am also glad you didn’t stay up for this!

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    1. I am a bit glad to not be the only one being disappointed. My problems with many of the longlisted books are well-documented but I still hoped for something more exciting than this. And I was SURE Ghost Wall would make the list because even if it didn’t always work for me it is obviously brilliant and everybody else seems to love it.

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    1. I think I was just not in the right mood for it. I didn’t even make it very far but I just did not feel like reading it whatsoever.

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  2. I’m currently doing a marathon of the shortlist and, so far, I’m LOVING My Sister, the Serial Killer ๐Ÿ˜ The audiobook is great and it kept me company on my commute today ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿผ
    I haven’t read any of the books on the longlist, so I don’t know exactly what you mean when you talk about how underwhelming the shortlist is, but I’m sorry you were disappointed, that sucks ๐Ÿ˜ฃ Hopefully you’ll love the six books you still have to read – fingers crossed! ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ

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    1. I am really enjoying My Sister, the Serial Killer and I think it is deceptively shallow. There is so much commentary here that I am still mulling over.
      I just wish the shortlist had been more varied – two obvious pairs is a lot different to what I had been hoping for. I still hope to enjoy the books though!

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      1. I finished My Sister, the Serial Killer yesterday and I shared on Instagram that I loved it and gave it 5 stars. However, I’m kind of regretting that because I think I was too fast to give it 5 stars without reflecting more than I did. I enjoyed the hell out of the audiobook, but I’m not sure it’s a 5-star read – or worthy of the shortlist ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ
        I do agree that the shortlist could be more diverse and not include books that are very similar to each other, but I also haven’t read any of the longlisted books except for one, so I don’t have enough insight to judge that. I have seen a lot of outrage regarding this shortlist though, and based on people’s arguments I tend to agree that the shortlist could include better picks ๐Ÿ˜…
        Happy reading! ๐Ÿ’•

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      2. I can imagine that the audiobook is brilliant – there is something about the way her language flows that lends itself to being read aloud. I do think it’s a great book but not necessarily a brilliant one. I really like what she has to say about sibling relationships though. (I am always a fan of books that focus on siblings)

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    1. It seems like everybody is a bit disappointed with the list. I would really have liked Ghost Wall on the shortlist because even though it isn’t my particular kind of book, its brilliance is obvious.

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  3. Lost Children Archive was completely saved for me in the second half; I hope you can make it to the switch in perspective (if you haven’t already) before you put it down. But I completely agree with you about Freshwater, it’s a crime for that one to have been omitted! Looking forward to your reviews of the shortlisters you haven’t read yet, especially now that they’re under the added pressure of having advanced.

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    1. I have put it down for now and will maybe pick it back up after I have finished the rest of the longlist. It’s not a bad book by any stretch but it really isn’t working for my wonky reading mood.

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      1. That’s understandable. And by all means, DNF if it really doesn’t suit you! I just know that I started reading it in a bit of a slump as well and ended up glad that I had stuck with it long enough for the narrative switch. I hope it will turn around for you as well if you do pick it back up, but of course every reader is different. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. I also found myself underwhelmed by the announcement. It feels strange that they’d include such a wide variety of styles and genres on the longlist, only to have two obvious pairs, a thriller, and the Booker winner on the shortlist. Hope you enjoy the novels still ahead of you!

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    1. I am mostly looking forward to the rest of the shortlist. But my reading pace has been a lot slower these last few months, so I’ll have to wait and see many I get read soon.

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