Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021: Longlist predictions

It’s my favourite bookish time of the year! I love following the Women’s Prize for Fiction, or rather I love what it does with my bookish corner of the internet. While I will not be reading the longlist this year (after last year’s disaster of a longlist, my will to put myself through another possible Girl is just not there), I am nonetheless very excited to see what makes it. I have actually read more eligible books than last time, so who knows, I might even get to have opinions. I am also hopeful that this panel of judges (especially the brilliant Bernardine Evaristo) will longlist books that are more interesting in structure than what we (mostly) got last year.

Last year I did OK predicting the longlist but also jinxed it when I proclaimed to like books about motherhood – and books about mothers we got. Lets hope that this time I won’t accidentally wish on a monkey’s paw again. Here are my predictions, in no particular order. I have included whether the author was longlisted before or not because longlisted authors are basically a freebie for the publishers to nominate, additionally to the two spots they usually have.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This is the one I am most confident will make the list. It has gotten rave reviews and so much buzz that I cannot imagine the publisher not nominating it.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes, actually. I got a copy of this for Christmas, for whatever reason, so I might even try to pick this up if it ends up longlisted.

Harvest by Georgina Harding

The longlist is usually fairly historical fiction heavy, which this is. It also deals with a war that isn’t WWII, so it would make an interesting addition, I think

Longlisted before: Yes (2012).

Would I be happy to see it: This is not a book I would ever pick up but it sounds like something people who enjoy historical fiction would appreciate, so sure.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

St. John Mandel is at the top of her game here and her particular brand of non-linear storytelling is exciting enough that I think it absolutely merits a place on this list.

Longlisted before: Yes (2015).

Would I be happy to see it: Very much so. I adored this book.

Luster by Raven Leilani

This is one of the buzziest books of the last year and interesting enough in its commentary on loneliness (something that is very relevant to all of us at the moment, I am sure) and race that I would indeed be surprised if it didn’t end up longlisted.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: I thought this was an interesting addition to the difficult women cannon and the first half was near perfect. While I didn’t quite love the way the book developed after that, I still do think it is well worth being longlisted.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

This sounds both timely and readable, a combination the WP has been fond of for a few years now (looking at you, An American Marriage). Traditionally, Indian authors have been often longlisted but haven’t in the last years and I would like for the prize to remedy that.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: This is not a book that particularly appeals to me – but I do think that people who like this kind of politically charged, sprawling narrative this will work really well.

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Sometimes, I see a book and somehow immediately think that it’ll be a contender for the longlist (I spend a lot of time over the year thinking about the Women’s Prize). – this is one of those.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: I would, actually. This has the potential to be really great and I would like to see more reviews to decide if I want to read this.

As You Were by Elaine Feeney

Hailed as the Irish debut of the year, this sounds like it could be an excellent addition to the longlist.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes! Unlikeable female character but make her incurably ill, I love it. I need it. (The Sinéad Gleeson blurb also helps)

Silence is a Sense by Layla AlAmmar

This is a novel about isolation (need I say more?) – something I am sure will be a prominent feature this year, given, well, everything. It is also a novel about finding one’s voice and doing what’s right – and I cannot imagine anything timelier.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes!

The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes

This book has steadily been building hype, with overwhelmingly positive reviews – and with its focus on one family in Ireland during the financial crash, this sounds like a quintessential WP book to me.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Mostly. I am not sure I would love it – but plenty of others will and then I can decide for myself if I want to read it.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This is so good. Clarke writes with such perfection – and while it is speculative fiction, the speculative elements are slight enough that I think it has a chance making this list. Her debut was longlisted for the Booker after all!

Longlisted before: No. (which is a shame.)

Would I be happy to see it: Yes! Yes! Yes! It is SO GOOD!

The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin

Admittedly, I don’t even know what this is about but I have a gutfeeling of this making the list, so I am including it.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Sure.

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

Books about families, spanning generations, are often longlisted for the Women’s Prize. This sounds like the most likely contender for the spot.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: I genuinely do not know. It is not a book that appeals to me, for sure.

Pew by Catherine Lacey

This book is experimental enough while being accessible still, that I could see it making the list. Its commentary on gender was more successful for me than its commentary on race but in general I thought this was mostly well done.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes.

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

Before this won the Costa Award, I was sure this would make the longlist, now not as much anymore. It was, however, also longlisted for plenty of other prizes.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: I am always happy when books with a speculative twist make literary prize longlists, this would be no exception.

A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo

Another book dealing with loneliness and Brexit, I think this has an absolute chance of making in the list.

Longlisted before: Yes (2007 – shortlisted even)

Would I be happy to see it: Sure. I have loved Guo’s writing in the past and really should read more of hers.

The Yield by Tara June Winch

This has basically won every Australian book award there is (I don’t actually know if that is way hyperbolic or only little hyperbolic – but it won a lot). Everybody I know who read it, loved it. And I think it is time for an Australian author to be longlisted again.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes. I even have an unread ARC on my Kindle and would love the extra incentive to read it.

There you have my official 16 predictions. As always, there is the slight chance that they go back to the longlist of 20 books – but I doubt it somehow. I left off some books that nearly made my list: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, Sisters by Daisy Johnson, Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh, and Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan. If the list is 20 books strong, these are my additional predictions.

Whch books are you most hoping for? Are you planning on reading the longlist?

21 thoughts on “Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021: Longlist predictions

  1. Really interesting list! There are quite a few here that I haven’t seen on other lists. I really hope The Art of Falling doesn’t make it – it’s a character-led novel but the central character is incredibly flat and most of her concerns feel trivial. I get the sense that McLaughlin is better at short stories. I’m most keen to see Transcendent Kingdom, Piranesi and The Glass Hotel longlisted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, interesting! I have mostly heard vaguely positive things about The Art of Falling but I admit to having lost a bit of touch with the blogging community.
      Piranesi making the list would make me very happy indeed! They used to longlist more speculative type of books. I hope they go back to that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t come across anyone else who’s read it yet except Eric (Lonesome Reader), who really liked it, so I’m hoping I’m not the only one!

        I feel like the WP has always had a huge blind spot for speculative and SF books, but I agree it’s got even worse in recent years (they once longlisted Becky Chambers!)


  2. Really great prediction list! There’s a lot of books I have been seeing on everyone’s prediction lists, but you have a few that I have not seen on any before, and I think they’re really interesting picks! I am not planning reading the longlist because Girl scarred me for life, but I am so excited to see the longlist. And honestly, I might be tempted to read it if it’s good

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Usually my more out there picks don’t end up being longlisted. But it’s like gambling, I get a rush just from the idea of being right!
      I kind of hate it for us that Girl was this bad. I mean, hopefully nothing will be as awful this year but just a chance of it makes me very very unlikely to even try to read them all.


  3. I hadn’t heard of Harvest but that sounds like it would make an excellent addition to the list. I really really hope As You Were makes it too. I’m so excited!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Harvest was the first book I added when I started my predictions list back in June. It does sound like a wp kind of book but I haven’t heard much buzz. (although quite a few of my Goodreads friends reviewed it, so it must have had some sort of marketing push)
      I think I included too many Irish books for all of them to make it but I would be very cool!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh, this looks like a very promising set of books! Lots here I’d also be happy to see longlisted (mostly because they’ve been sitting on my TBR for far too long, I don’t think I’ve actually read any of these yet! I think I’m opposite of you, having read fewer eligible books this year than last year), and I see a few that weren’t on my radar at all, which is exciting. I am definitely hoping for a few less motherhood books and, like you say, more structurally interesting work overall!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh god, the motherhood books. And the horrible mother books. And the stepmothers are awful books. I really did jinx it.
      I could see isolation and loneliness being themes but hopefully not as overt as last year’s hatred of mothers was.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Other than the 6 book overlap – I was tempted to include Pew, The Art of Falling, The Wild Laughter and As you Were. Other major contenders are : Burnt Sugar and Transcendental Kingdom

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I forgot about Burnt Sugar and I am upset with myself. Basically the moment I hit post, I realized this major oversight. I am sure it’ll make the list! (and it’s one I would love to get to as well!)

      Liked by 1 person

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