Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021: longlist reaction

It is finally here!

I am both excited and not excited. There are many books I am very thrilled to see on the list and quite a few I either hadn’t heard of or have no interest in reading. As I said before, I will not even attempt to read the longlist this year (which is probably a good thing as I am in a very bad reading slump) – but I do hope to get to some of these. I only correctly predicted three books which hopefully means that this will be a lot better than last year.

Here are the books, in alphabetical order by title:

Because of You by Dawn French
I had heard of Dawn French but not of this book but I do like the inclusion. This deals with motherhood and grief and by the looks of it racism.
Will I read this? Probably not. I do not think I am in the right head space to read about still birth.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
This was already shortlisted for the Booker Prize – as such it was already on my radar. I forgot to include this one to my predictions and kicked myself basically the moment I posted them. This also focuses motherhood – but in what sounds a really interesting way.
Will I read this? Maybe – the reviews are all over and I will probably wait until more people in my WP group chat have read it.

Consent by Annabel Lyon
This is one book I have been on the fence whether I want to read it since I first heard about it. I love books about siblings but I do not deal well with unfairness in books and this sounds very unfair. But look at this cover!
Will I read this? I honestly do not know yet.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
I am so excited that the Women’s Prize finally longlisted their first trans woman. This book sounds like it could be incredibly up my alley, with its focus on difficult women, motherhood, and complicated and unconventional relationships.
Will I read this? Yeah, absolutely.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Another one that I nearly predicted and one that I am very excited for. It has been compared to Sally Rooney, who I famously love, and its focus on a difficult woman in a transitional phase of her life is absolutely my catnip. The audiobook narrator is the same as for Conversations With Friends, so I am very pleased.
Will I read this? Definitely.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
Another one that I briefly considered adding to my predictions, this sounds like a quintessential WP book, sprawling narrative, different perspectives, social commentary.
Will I read this? This is another one that features a dead baby, so no, this will not be a book I am going to read. I am very excited for everybody’s reviews though!

Luster by Raven Leilani
This one I correctly predicted! Another book featuring a difficult woman on the crossroad of finding herself, I thought the first half was pitch.perfect and the second half a bit lacklustre. But still, I adored most of the debut and would not have been happy had this not been longlisted.
Will I read this? Review here.

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
This is another one of the books I am thinking of as millenial books on this list. Lockwood’s memoir has been on my TBR for ages and this one, a novel about the internet and being very online, intrigues me to no end. It seems to be a bit of a marmite book and those are always fun to have on longlists.
Will I read this? Yes! The snippets I’ve seen, I adored, and this has the potential to be a favourite for me.

Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
I had heard nothing of this book before its inclusion on the longlist and I always like this! After the death of his wife, a man realises that he maybe did not know her as much as he thought.This seems to be a literary mystery of some kind – and those can be my thing but this sadly doesn’t sound like it.
Will I read this? Probably not. As this is written by an Irish author, I can be sure Rachel will get to it as some point and can then tell me whether I would like this or not.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
YES! I am SO happy! I loved this, I want more people to read this, I adore Clarke’s writing. Normally, I do not care about spoilers but with this one, I do think knowing as little as possible (there is a reason the blurb is this vague) actually works in the book’s favour. I need to finally write my review but, wow, this is so good. I am glad the judges included a book that is at least spec-fic adjacent and what a good one to choose!
Will I read it? Review to come.

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Another one I had only vaguely heard about, this initially did not interest me at all. A historical novel set in the fifties, featuring a possible virgin birth, a woman falling in love with her friend’s husband, and what sounds like interesting mother/daughter relaionships. Very few of my friends have reviewed this yet, so I am interested to hear more.
Will I read this? My first impulse was no, but the more I sit with it, the more intrigued I am.

Summer by Ali Smith
Possibly the biggest suprise for me, as I was under the impression that Smith didn’t want her books to be put forward for prizes anymore. Arguably one of the bigger releases on this list and one that comes with the additional hype of being the final in a quartett of books that has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. I am very glad to see this included because I like when authors are at the top of their game which Smith definitely is.
Will I read this? No. I read and appreciated Autumn but did not enjoy reading it and have thus not kept up with the series.

The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
I had neither heard of the books nor the author (although a quick Google search reminded me that she signed that obnoxious open letter in support of JK Rowling which makes me unhappy for a variety of reasons) but this does not sound like my type of book at all. I do not often enjoy more crime focused novels and this one sounds too stressful.
Will I read this? No, no chance.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The third book I correctly predicted, as did pretty much everybody I follow. Another book focussing sisters (which I adore!), with a heavy emphasis on commentary on race, this seems to be the one to beat. I have wanted to get to Bennett’s writing for a while, but her debut which is written from the perspective of a chorus of mothers does sound more like my type of thing. I am very pleased to see it on the list though!
Will I read it? I got a copy of this book for Christmas, so yes, I will definitely read this.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
This also nearly made my list but for some reason didn’t. I am very happy to see it included. A book dealing with science and faith and sibling relationships that has been near universally been praised by reviews, this is another favourite to win, I am sure.
Will I read this? I am not sure yet.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
I read Fuller’s sophomore novel a while ago and while I appreciated it, it was not enough of a favourite that I have kept up with her books. That novel also focused siblings (which was my favourite aspect of the book), as does this one. Twins Julius and Jeanie’s lives start to unravel when their mother who they still lived with at 51 dies. I do often love books about siblings but for some reason this one does not particularly speak to me.
Will I read this? Maybe.

When the longlist was announced, my first reaction was excitement. This list seems to be a lot more catered towards my tastes than last year’s longlist was. However, the longer I sit with it, the less enthused I am. For one, with only five books written by authors of colour and the vast majority of authors coming from either the US or the UK, this is not as varied as I would have liked it to be. There are also many books that sound similar in themes – which I hope I will be proven wrong about.

However, even if I complain about books being similar, at least it caters to my taste. I will be reading all the books about difficult women and the internet. As always, I am most excited to see what my bookish community makes of these books. This really is my favourite time in the bookish world.

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?

Wrap Up August 2020

I cannot remember the last time I had a reading month this good. It seems like my choice to finally finish reading some of the books I had started months ago was a very good thing indeed. I have also finally gotten back into the groove of reading and reviewing ARCs – I do hope I can keep the momentum going. Especially because Rachel and I are planning on doing our two-person-ARC-readathon again at the end of September, this time without me being pregnant and not reading. (You are all invited to participate! But it’s super low-key and I am famously bad at reading plans.)

Books I read in August:

  1. Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell: 4 out of 5 stars
  3. Alpha Night by Nalini Singh: 4 out of 5 stars
  4. The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood: 4.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  5. Sisters by Daisy Johnson: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  6. Luster by Raven Leilani: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  7. Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel: 5 out of 5 stars (review)
  9. Saphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4, Catalina Baylor Trilogy #1) by Ilona Andrews: 5 out of 5 stars
  10. Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5, Catalina Baylor Trilogy #2) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars

I also started and DNFed The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E. Harrow.

Favourite of the Month:

Quality-wise, The Glass Hotel, hands down. I knew I would love it but also was scared of not being able to properly appreciate it during the pandemic and kept putting it off – I am so glad to have finally read it, it’s as good as I hoped it would be. But my proper favourite is probably Saphire Flames which I kept putting off because I know how addictive Ilona Andrews’ writing is. It’s so good! I had such a blast!

Stats(ish):

I read ten books, seven of which were written by women and the other three by a husband and wife team. Five books can broadly be categorized as literary fiction, one is a fantasy-scifi hybrid and four are some form of romantic fantasy.

Currently Reading:

Review: Luster by Raven Leilani

“This was the contradiction that would define me for years, my attempt to secure undiluted solitude and my swift betrayal of this effort once in the spotlight of an interested man.”

Luster – published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, August 4th 2020

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art and someone else’s open marriage

Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.

Find it on Goodreads.

Verdict: I do love difficult women.

It is no secret that I adore books with a difficult female main character, so it’s no surprise that I was beyond excited to get to this book – and I adored (seriously adored) the first thirty percent: Edie is wonderfully flawed and interesting and her narration is pitch-perfect. I adored the mix between long run-on sentences and shorter, punchier ones. I was certain this would be my favourite book of the year. I am not quite sure what happened then but by the end I was not quite as enamored and ultimately I was glad to be done with it. Maybe it was the endless parade of humiliations (I get a very bad case of secondhand embarrassment that makes reading something like this very difficult), maybe it was the way in which the narrative became unfocussed – but even if I didn’t love it the whole way through; what an impressive debut. As my thoughts are all over the place, so will be my review, but please bear with me as I am trying to figure out my exact feelings (and rating).

The biggest draw of a book like this is always the main character and Edie fits wonderfully in the canon of what Rachel has called “disaster women” – or rather, she expands on it. Because as a Black woman, her decisions have more far reaching consequences, more dangerous implications. And for this alone, I loved this book. I loved how Edie is unflinchingly aware of what being a Black woman in the middle of a difficult personal time entails. Unflinchingly aware is a good way to describe Edie in general; she is always aware of what her decisions might mean and then she does stupid things anyways – I appreciated that facet of her personality.

Ultimately, this is a book about loneliness; unbearable, all-encompassing loneliness is what defines all four of the book’s main characters, but most of all Edie who has lost her (difficult) parents young and does not know what she wants out of her life. Her loneliness is most obvious when she chooses to remain in situations that are humiliating beyond measure just to avoid being alone. But the married couple she gets entangled with is also lonely, even in their coupledom, and their adopted daughter seems to have accepted her own loneliness in a way that made my heart hurt.

Overall, an incredibly impressive debut that thankfully is getting the accolades it deserves. I will for sure be reading whatever Raven Leilani publishes next because this mix of incredible prose and interesting characters is my literary fiction catnip.

Content warnings: violent sex, vomit, miscarriage, asphyxiation, loss of a loved one (backstory), racism, police brutality, cheating, alcohol abuse, drug abuse

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wrap Up July 2020

Books I read in July:

  1. The Harpy by Megan Hunter: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. I Hold A Wolf By The Ears by Laura van den Berg: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson: 5 out of 5 stars
  5. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I also DNFed Beach Read by Emily Henry. I might come back at another time but for now the book was just not what I expected and was in the mood for.

Favourite of the Month:

Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson is as incredible as everybody said. I cannot recommend it highly enough – I listened to the audiobook and just love the way Gleeson narrates her essays.

Stats(ish):

I read five books this month. Of these books four were written by women. I read two non-fiction books, one thriller, one short story collection, and one literary fiction novel.

Currently Reading:

Still too many books. Whenever I am reading more than four books it really messes with my reading mojo, so I am currently trying to finish as many books as possible before starting new ones. Ideally I would get it down to zero because I love being able to choose all new books but we’ll have to wait and see if that will happen.

The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2020

I cannot believe the year is halfway over. Being perfectly honest, I haven’t so far had the best of reading years. I was considering not doing this tag for the first time since I have my blog but that felt too sad.

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2020

I am trying to rank all the books I am reading this year (surprisingly hard!) and one of the things that I am struggling with is my top spot. At the moment it is between The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy and Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. I cannot yet say which one will ultimately win out but I can say now that both of these books are incredible in their own way.

Continue reading “The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2020”

TBR: ARCs on my shelves part I (2020)

I have not felt the need to write up a post like this in quite some time – but I have quite a few ARCs now that I am super excited for and want to share that excitement. For many reasons, I am even worse at following TBRs than I used to be but some of these books I am so very much looking forward to that I am hoping to read and review these books before their publication date for a change.

49385085._sy475_The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mantel

Picador, April 30th

Station Eleven by the same author is one of my all-time favourite books, so you can imagine how excited I am that this newest book of hers is getting rave reviews. I need to carve out a day to immerse myself in what is likely to be one of my favourite books of the year.

47545450._sy475_Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh

Hamish Hamilton, May 7th

I really enjoy Mackintosh’s debut novel and am currently loving this one – I am about a quarter of the way through. Her prose is even better than in her first novel and I love the way in which she uses dystopian settings to explore human behaviour. People looking for a more classical dystopian novel are bound to be disappointed – but I get the feeling that this is just not the type of writer Mackintosh is.

44778722._sy475_The Shapeless Unease by Samantha Harvey

Grove Atlantic, May 12th

This is a non-fiction book about the author’s struggle with insomnia. I have read the first few pages and it seems like just my type of book. It is just the right mix of personal and experimental that I really appreciate in creative nonfiction.

52272255._sx318_sy475_Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

Bloomsbury Publishing, May 14th

A book about a failed PhD student, obsession, and poisonous plants sounds like it could be perfect for me. I am hoping for difficult women and introspective narration.

50186889._sx318_sy475_Sisters by Daisy Johnson

Jonathan Cape, July 2nd

I adored, adored Johnson’s debut and have been looking forward to her next book ever since. Her prose and imagination are just perfect and her brand of magical realism really works for me. I am beyond excited for this one, which focusses two sisters and their complicated relationship.

43301992Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford

Grove Atlantic, July 24th

The cover drew me in and then the blurb featured this brilliant sentence: “Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world—of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados—intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.” – and I could not not request this. I love stories about familial relationships and I am interested in the influence religious devotion can have on those.

51541496._sx318_sy475_Luster by Raven Leilani

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, August 4th

Honestly, this novel about a twenty-something woman getting caught up in a couple’s open marriage sounds like it could be similar to The Pisces, which is always enough to convince me to try a book – I have been chasing that high since reading Broder’s magnificent book about a horrible woman.

48637753._sy475_The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Grove Atlantic, August 11th

Again, a book by an author whose debut I really enjoyed, this also has possibly my favourite cover of the year. The premise of a woman whose husband has cheated on her and in return has agreed to be hurt by her three times sounds incredible – coupled with Hunter’s strong prose, this could be a favourite for me.