Kit de Waal and Gail Honeyman on Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist

Six debutants and winners of Goldsmiths and National Book Award for Fiction on list

The Women’s Prize for Fiction judges with the longlisted titles

The Women’s Prize for Fiction judges with the longlisted titles


The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal is the only Irish contender on the 23rd annual Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, which was announced just after midnight on International Women’s Day. Gail Honeyman, author of the hugely popular Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, is one of six debutant son the list.

This year’s longlist also features seven British authors, four Americans, two Indians, one Australian and one Pakistani/British author, Kamila Shamsie, who has previously been shortlisted in 2015 and 2009.

Shamsie’s Home Fire and and Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness were longlisted for last year’s Man Booker Prize, while Fiona Mozley’s Elmet was shortlisted. Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing won last year’s National Book Award for Fiction in the US. Nicola Barker's HAPPY won the Goldsmiths Prize.

The Trick to Time, a story of love and loss about an Irish couple in 1970s Birmingham, is not published until March 29th, two days before the award’s cut-off point. De Waal’s debut, My Name is Leon, won the Kerry Group Irish Book of the Year award at Listowel Writers’ Week in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Desmoind Elliott and Costa First Novel prizes.

“The longlist came out of a Chequers-style meeting where different views were accommodated and peace reigned, at least for now,” commented Sarah Sands, chair of judges, who include journalists Anita Anand and Catherine Mayer, and actors Katie Brand and Imogen Stubbs. “What is striking about the list, apart from the wealth of talent, is that women writers refuse to be pigeon-holed. We have searing social realism, adventure, comedy, poetic truths, ingenious plots and unforgettable characters. Women of the world are a literary force to be reckoned with.”

The £30,000 prize is awarded for the best full-length novel of the year written in English by a woman and published in the UK between April 1st, 2017 and March 31st, 2018. Formerly known as the Orange and then the Baileys prize, it is now sponsored by Baileys, Deloitte and NatWest. The shortlist will be announced on April 23rd and the winner on June 6th.

The longlist

H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker (William Heinemann)
Imagine a perfect world where everything is known, where everything is open, where there can be no doubt, no hatred, no poverty, no greed. Imagine a System which both nurtures and protects. A Community which nourishes and sustains. An infinite world. A world without sickness, without death. A world without God. A world without fear.

Could you… might you be happy there?

Nicola Barker was born in Ely in 1966 and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. She is the author of eleven previous novels, including Wide Open, Darkmans, The Yips and The Cauliflower, and two short story collections. She has twice been longlisted and once shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, has won the IMPAC, the John Llewellyn Rhys and the Hawthornden Prizes, and was named one of Granta’s 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003. She lives and works in East London.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman (Jonathan Cape)
Selin, a tall, highly strung Turkish-American from New Jersey turns up at Harvard and finds herself dangerously overwhelmed by the challenges and possibilities of adulthood. She studies linguistics and literature, teaches ESL and spends a lot of time thinking about what language - and languages - can do.

Along the way, she befriends Svetlana, a cosmopolitan Serb, and obsesses over Ivan, a mathematician from Hungary. The two conduct a hilarious relationship that culminates with Selin spending the summer teaching English in a Hungarian village and enduring a series of surprising excursions. Throughout her journeys, Selin ponders profound questions about how culture and language shape who we are, how difficult it is to be a writer, and how baffling love is.

Elif Batuman is a staff writer for the New Yorker. She grew up in New Jersey and currently lives in New York, where she was a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library from 2013-2014. Her first book, The Possessed, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award and a PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award. She has also received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and The Paris Review Terry Southern Prize for Humour. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, n+1, Harper’s and the London Review of Books.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon (The Borough Press)
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

Joanna Cannon graduated from Leicester Medical School and worked as a hospital doctor, before specialising in psychiatry. Her first novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was a top ten bestseller in both hardback and paperback and was a Richard and Judy pick. She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog.

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig (Grove Press)
Based of the lives of the author’s mother and grandparents, Miss Burma tells the story of modern-day Burma through the eyes of one family struggling to find love, justice, and meaning during a time of war and political repression.

Charmaine Craig is a faculty member in the Department of Creative Writing at UC Riverside, and the descendent of significant figures in Burma’s modern history. A former actor in film and television, she studied literature at Harvard University and received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine. Her first novel, The Good Men, was a national bestseller translated into six languages.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Corsair)
Anna Kerrigan, nearly 12 years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerised by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

Jennifer Egan is the author of five previous books of fiction; A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Keep; the story collection Emerald City; Look at Me, a National Book Award finalist; and The Invisible Circus. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Granta, McSweeney’s and the New York Times Magazine.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Harvill Secker)
One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History at UEA before going on to work in museums. She began to write small pieces of fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with and around, and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. She won the Curtis Brown Prize for her dissertation, which grew into her first novel. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition and shortlisted for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award.

Sight by Jessie Greengrass (John Murray)
In Sight, a woman recounts her progress to motherhood, while remembering the death of her own mother, and the childhood summers she spent with her psychoanalyst grandmother. Woven among these personal recollections are significant events in medical history: Wilhelm Rontgen’s discovery of the X-ray and his production of an image of his wife’s hand; Sigmund Freud’s development of psychoanalysis and the work that he did with his daughter, Anna; John Hunter’s attempts to set surgery on a scientific footing and his work, as a collaborator with his brother William and the artist Jan van Rymsdyk, on the anatomy of pregnant bodies.

Jessie Greengrass was born in 1982. She studied philosophy in Cambridge and London, where she now lives with her partner and child. An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award, and was shortlisted for the PFD/Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Sight is her first novel.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins)
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted - while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life. Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely anything is better than...fine?

Gail Honeyman wrote her critically-acclaimed debut, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working full-time, fitting writing into early mornings and holidays. While it was still a work-in-progress, she won the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award, which included a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre - an opportunity to spend uninterrupted time working on the book. The book was the focus of an 8-way auction at Frankfurt Book Fair and has since gone on to sell in over 30 territories worldwide. In January 2017 it was named as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year and, since publication in May, has spent over 20 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller list and been chosen as the WHSmith Fiction Book of the Year. It was also chosen for the Radio 2 Book Club, serialised by BBC Radio 4 for Book at Bedtime and has been optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon. Gail is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow and Oxford. Born in Stirling, she currently lives in Glasgow.

When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy (Atlantic Books)
Seduced by politics, poetry and an enduring dream of building a better world together, a young woman falls in love with a university professor. Marrying him and moving to a rain-washed coastal town, she swiftly learns that what for her is a bond of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about bullying her into his ideal of an obedient wife, and devouring her ambition of being a writer in the process, she begins to push back - a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.

Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, translator and activist who lives in Chennai and London. She has published two collections of poetry, Touch and Ms Militancy, and the critically acclaimed novel, The Gypsy Goddess, which was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the DSC Prize in 2015.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley (JM Originals)
Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Fiona Mozley grew up in York and went to King’s College, Cambridge, after which she lived in Buenos Aires and London. She is studying for a PhD in medieval history. Elmet is her first novel.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (Hamish Hamilton)
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on a journey of many years - the story spooling outwards from the cramped neighbourhoods of Old Delhi into the burgeoning new metropolis and beyond, to the Valley of Kashmir and the forests of Central India, where war is peace and peace is war, and where, from time to time, ‘normalcy’ is declared.

Anjum, who used to be Aftab, unrolls a threadbare carpet in a city graveyard that she calls home. A baby appears quite suddenly on a pavement, a little after midnight, in a crib of litter. The enigmatic S. Tilottama is as much of a presence as she is an absence in the lives of the three men who love her.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is at once an aching love story and a decisive remonstration. It is told in a whisper, in a shout, through tears and sometimes with a laugh. Its heroes are people who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, mended by love - and by hope. For this reason, they are as steely as they are fragile, and they never surrender.

Arundhati Roy is the author of The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize in 1997 and has been translated into more than forty languages. Since then Roy has published several works of non-fiction, including The Algebra of Infinite Justice, Listening to Grasshoppers and Broken Republic. She lives in Delhi.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (Tinder Press)
Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He’s found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe. It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls’ Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.

Sarah Schmidt is a librarian from Melbourne. She was inspired to write See What I Have Done after coming across Lizzie’s case by chance in a second-hand bookshop, and her research for the novel included spending several nights in the Borden House.

A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert (Virago)
Early on a grey November morning in 1941, only weeks after the German invasion, a small Ukrainian town is overrun by the SS. Penned in with his fellow Jews, under threat of transportation, Ephraim anxiously awaits word of his two sons, missing since daybreak. Come in search of her lover to fetch him home again, away from the invaders, Yasia confronts new and harsh truths about those closest to her.

Rachel Seiffert’s first novel, The Dark Room, (2001) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and made into the feature film Lore. She was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003, and in 2011 received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Field Study, her collection of short stories, received an award from PEN International. Her second novel, Afterwards (2007) and third novel The Walk Home (2014), were longlisted for the Orange/Baileys Prize. Her books have been published in eighteen languages.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury Circus)
Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she resumes a dream long deferred - studying in America. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream - to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.

Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to - or defy. The fates of these two families are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

Kamila Shamsie is the author of seven novels: In the City by the Sea, which was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; Salt and Saffron; Kartography, also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; Broken Verses; Burnt Shadows, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and A God in Every Stone, which was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Her most recent novel, Home Fire, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Three of her novels have received awards from Pakistan’s Academy of Letters. Kamila Shamsie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was named a Granta Best of Young British Novelist in 2013. She grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.

The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal (Viking)
Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage - before a sudden tragedy tears them apart. Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again?

Kit de Waal, born to an Irish mother and Caribbean father, was brought up among the Irish community of Birmingham in the 60s and 70s. Her debut novel My Name Is Leon was an international bestseller, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for 2017.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury Circus)
Jojo is 13 years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University. She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, which won the 2011 National Book Award. She is also the author of the anthology The Fire This Time and the author of the memoir Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2016, the American Academy of Arts and Letters selected Ward for the Strauss Living Award. She lives in Mississippi with her family.

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