Women’s Prize for Fiction: Louise Kennedy and Maggie O’Farrell on 16-strong longlist

Debut Irish novelist Kennedy longlisted for Trespasses; previous winner O’Farrell for The Marriage Portrait

Two Irish authors and a lecturer at UCD are among the 16 writers on the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, which was announced this evening.

Louise Kennedy has been recognised for her debut novel, Trespasses, a doomed love story set during the Troubles, which was chosen as the Irish Novel of the Year last November. Maggie O’Farrell, who won the Women’s Prize for her previous novel, Hamnet, in 2021, has been longlisted for The Marriage Portrait, a historical depiction of Lucrezia, the daughter of Cosimo de’ Medici, a young woman omitted from history. Priscilla Morris, a London-born writer who teaches creative writing at UCD, has been longlisted for her debut novel, Black Butterflies, about the siege of Sarajevo, her mother’s native city.

Now in its 28th year, the £30,000 prize highlights outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world. Of the other 13 authors, five are British, five American, one Canadian, one Zimbabwean/American, and one French. Nine are debuts (Jennifer Croft, Jacqueline Crooks, Camilla Grudova, Kennedy,Morris, Sheena Patel, Cecile Pin, Parini Shroff and Tara M Stringfellow) and independent publishers represent a quarter of the list. Three – Charco Press, Duckworth Books and Rough Trade Books – are involved with the prize for the first time.

The longlist

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo


Homesick by Jennifer Croft

Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks

Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh

The Dog of the North by Elizabeth McKenzie

Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel

Pod by Laline Paull

Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

Memphis by Tara M Strongfellow

The 2023 longlist features Barbara Kingsolver, who won the prize in 2010 for The Lacuna, while three others – Natalie Haynes, Laline Paull and Elizabeth McKenzie – have previously been shortlisted. Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead is inspired by Dickens’s David Copperfield; Haynes’s Stone Blind is an exploration of the Greek myth of Medusa.

Chair of judges, broadcaster and writer, Louise Minchin said: “This year’s longlist is a glorious celebration of the boundless imagination and creative ambition of women writers over the past year. Every one of these 16 books is excellent and original in its own individual way; they all offer fresh perspectives on history and humanity, exploring hard truths with empathy, sensitivity, directness, and sometimes infectious humour. There is something here for all readers! It has truly been a life-enhancing experience to judge the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist this year, and we are looking forward to celebrating these voices that need to be heard.”

Two novels on the longlist are told from the unusual perspective of animals – a spinner dolphin in Pod and a chorus of animals in Glory. Other notable themes include the power of stories, art and music to heal; social media and obsession; how the political invades the personal; poverty and violence; power and tyranny; and sisterhood. The list also features darkly comic novels about women journeying to rediscover themselves or plotting revenge against oppressive patriarchal structures.

Globe-spanning locations range from Renaissance Italy, rural India, the Siege of Sarajevo, Northern Ireland and opioid-infested Virginia, to an imaginary kingdom ruled by animals, a hallucinatory old cinema and an underwater world with extraordinary creatures, mysteries and mythologies.

Minchin’s fellow judges are authors Rachel Joyce, Bella Mackie and Irenosen Okojie, and Tulip Siddiq MP. Set up in 1996, the prize is awarded for the best full-length novel of the year written by a woman and published in the UK between April 1st, 2022 and March 31st, 2023. Any woman writing in English is eligible. A shortlist of six books will be announced on April 26th. The prize will be awarded on June 14th.

Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle is Books Editor of The Irish Times