The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019: Shortlist Thoughts and Winner Predictions

I still haven’t read all the books on the longlist nor the shortlist for that matter (yes, I got sidetracked by fantasy and romance novels) but I read enough of all the books to have opinions. I really enjoyed my journey through the longlist, mostly because I read it with some super wonderful people, and I do plan on doing this again. It is so much fun feeling connected to the blogging community! And our group chat is a thing of beauty. I will still be posting three reviews and I imagine I will have thoughts on the winner come tomorrow, so this isn’t quite the end of my coverage but it feels a bit like it.

I will keep my thoughts on the longlist for when I finish reading it so for now I will concentrate on the six books on the shortlist in order of preference. Overall I find the shortlist underwhelming. The judges have picked mostly traditionally told books instead of the more experimental ones (and there weren’t many to begin with on the longlist) and I personally adore interesting narrative structures more than anything.

6) Ordinary People by Diana Evans

35277858I do not get on with the book so far. The writing style is absolutely not for me and I am not sure yet whether I’ll finish it at all. I find this one does what many of the books I disliked on the longlist did: it gets bogged down in unnecessary detail. I know this is a me thing but it is driving me a little bit up the walls. I would be very surprised if it won.


5) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

33590210Many people love this book but I am not one of those people. I found Jones’ depiction of toxic masculinity convincing – but so very infuriating. I am not sure the book accomplishes what it sets out to do: the deeply problematic behaviour of the main character made me doubt his innocence in a way that undermined the more political points. I do not want this to win but would not be surprised. This book has clearly spoken to many people.

4) Circe my Madeline Miller

37134404I want to love this book. I love Millers writing on a sentence-by-sentence level and I agree with her political points but the book is killing me. I find her narrative style patronizing, she does not seem to trust her readers to understand subtext, and everything is spelled out. There are glimpses of brilliance (Medea!) but overall, I find Circe’s story dull and overshadowed by the men in her life – which seems to be the exact opposite of what Miller set out to do. But still, what pretty sentences. This does have a pretty good chance of winning and I wouldn’t pull my hair out if it did. Also, nearly everybody loves this, so I am probably just the wrong reader.

3) My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

38819868I enjoyed this book a lot while reading it and I think it is a lot deeper than people give it credit for. But there is no way in hell this is the best book written by a woman or a non-binary author in the last year (that is obviously The Pisces but I am not still bitter about that). I loved the way the language flowed and I am always a fan of sibling relationships. If this won I wouldn’t be upset but I am not rooting for it. It does seem to be a lot of people’s prediction for the winner though, so colour me intrigued.

2) Milkman by Anna Burns

36047860This book has grown on me. While I found it brilliant from the beginning, I also struggled with my reading experience. But, god, what brilliance. This book is narratively the most interesting and accomplished book on the shortlist and it is the one I want to win even if it isn’t my personal favourite. There is just something mesmerizing about this book and I want Burns to have both the Booker and the Women’s Prize. Because this might actually be the best book written by a woman this last year (kidding, that is still The Pisces).

1) The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

38470229I loved, loved, loved this book. It was near perfect for me and seems practically custom-made. I love the way Barker tells her story and I find her characters endlessly compelling (they are the only really compelling characters on a shortlist filled with books whose characters did not work for me). I find her book very clever in its deliberate play with expectations (Achilles in humanized but not through his love to Patrocles but rather his difficult relationship with his parents; Briseis struggles more with her lack of agency than with the rest of her situation) and I am so very happy to love at least one book on the shortlist.

Which book are you rooting for? Is the book you’re rooting for the book you think will win? It doesn’t seem like there is a clear front runner, so I cannot wait for tomorrow.

Now I nearly forgot: I am predicting Milkman.

15 thoughts on “The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019: Shortlist Thoughts and Winner Predictions

  1. Lovely to see your thoughts, Hannah. I’ve only read My Sister the Serial Killer from this list, and I quite liked it but I don’t really think it’s worth the women’s prize. Ordinary People initially really intrigued me most, but after reading the mixed reviews from everyone I think it’s not what people expected it to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      I am a bit unsure on My Sister the Serial Killer. I really did enjoy it (and this more than I can say for many of the longlisted books) but then again, I really do not think it is the best book of the year.


  2. Another vote for Milkman! I’m so curious to see how this will go. I completely agree with you about Circe, and Ordinary People was the low point of the shortlist for me as well. An American Marriage worked a bit better for me on the reread than I was expecting, but the toxic masculinity was definitely the biggest issue for me as well. I didn’t get to the point of doubting Roy’s innocence, but I did reach a point where I didn’t care much about his incarceration or his love life as a result of his attitude. I liked Silence but it fell somewhere in the middle for me.
    So I’m rooting for Milkman as well, though I would also be happy with My Sister winning!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Milkman is just so obviously brilliant (even the negative reviews mostly don’t dispute that point) and I would be thrilled if it won.
      An American Marriage really didn’t work for me – but I am super impatient with a certain type of man and Roy just pushed all my buttons. Which worked well for the injustice angle but Celestial just deserved so obviously better.
      I am so excited for the announcement later today!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Man people absolutely adore Circe! I might just be the wrong reader. I also read The Silence of the Girls around the same time and I enjoyed that so much more that Circe was always going to suffer from the comparison.


  3. To be honest, at this point I’m wondering the judges are just going to flip a coin or do a tarot reading or something. In a way, I wouldn’t be surprised if the prize went to any one of those books. (Me, I think Milkman is the best one, and Silence of the Girls is the one I’d be pretty happy with, and My Sister… is the one I think has a surprisingly good chance. Then again, others seem to think An American Marriage has it in the bag.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh god, yes! I just seem to have a totally different taste than the judges so I am probably wrong. (at least one of the judges seems to really love wordy book but I just don’t) Milkman definitely is the objectively best book on the list.

      Liked by 1 person

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