VV Ganeshananthan and Naomi Klein win Women’s prizes for fiction and non-fiction

Brotherless Night wins Fiction Prize; Doppelganger wins Non-Fiction Prize, both worth £30,000

Sri Lankan author VV Ganeshananthan. Photograph: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

American author VV Ganeshananthan has won the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her deeply moving, powerful second novel, Brotherless Night, which depicts a family fractured by the Sri Lankan civil war.

The inaugural £30,000 Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction was awarded to Canadian writer, activist and film-maker, Naomi Klein, for Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World, her urgent, illuminating examination of our polarised society.

Anne Enright’s The Wren, The Wren and Claire Kilroy’s Soldier, Sailor were also on the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist.

Ganeshananthan’s debut novel Love Marriage was longlisted for the Women’s Prize in 2009. Brotherless Night took almost two decades to complete. It follows Sashi, a 16-year-old aspiring doctor, growing up in Jaffna in the 1980s. Her close family is torn apart by the onset of civil war, with two of her four brothers and childhood friend K ultimately joining the militant Tamil Tigers. Conflicted by what she can do to help, Sashi works as a medic in a field hospital for the Tigers and befriends a feminist, dissident Tamil professor who invites her to document human rights violations as a means of civil resistance.


Brotherless Night vividly and compassionately centres erased and marginalised stories – Tamil women, students, teachers, ordinary civilians – exploring the moral nuances of violence and terrorism against a backdrop of oppression and exile.

Monica Ali, chair of the judges, said: “Brotherless Night is a brilliant, compelling and deeply moving novel that bears witness to the intimate and epic-scale tragedies of the Sri Lankan civil war. In rich, evocative prose, Ganeshananthan creates a vivid sense of time and place and an indelible cast of characters. Her commitment to complexity and clear-eyed moral scrutiny combines with spellbinding storytelling to render Brotherless Night a masterpiece of historical fiction.”

Ali’s fellow judges were Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ; Laura Dockrill; Indira Varma; and Anna Whitehouse.

Naomi Klein. Photograph: Robert Trendiak.

While Brotherless Night is a reckoning with the past, Klein’s Doppelganger is an in-depth critique of the present day. By shining a light on the shadow world of social media – where facts are malleable, disinformation is prevalent and conspiracy theories abound – Klein captures the absurdities and dangers of the modern age, on a personal, social and political level. Doppelganger prompts us to rethink the moment we’re in, to reject fixed ideas about each other, and to forge a path to a more cohesive, inclusive and stable future. Klein’s expertly researched work offers a hopeful alternative to our collective crisis while exposing how the ‘internet rabbit hole’ has polarised our politics and our culture.

Prof Suzannah Lipscomb, chair of the non-fiction judges, said: “This brilliant and layered analysis demonstrates humour, insight and expertise. Klein’s writing is both deeply personal and impressively expansive. Doppelganger is a courageous, humane and optimistic call-to-arms that moves us beyond black and white, beyond Right and Left, inviting us instead to embrace the spaces in between.”

Lipscomb’s fellow judges were Venetia La Manna; Prof Nicola Rollock; Anne Sebba; and Kamila Shamsie.

Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle is Books Editor of The Irish Times