Milkman by Anna Burns shortlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction

Rivals include previous winner Madeline Miller, Pat Barker and debutant Oyinkan Braithwaite

The Women’s Prize for Fiction judges with the 2019shortlist. Photograph: Sam Holden Agency

The Women’s Prize for Fiction judges with the 2019shortlist. Photograph: Sam Holden Agency

 

Milkman by Man Booker Prize winner Anna Burns has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Britain’s most prestigious annual book award celebrating and honouring fiction by women. She was previously shortlisted for the prize for her debut, No Bones.

This year’s list also features two reworkings of Greek myths, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and Circe by previous winner Madeline Miller, two very different portraits of relationships under stress, Ordinary People by Diana Evans and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and one debut, My Sister the Serial Kilelr by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

History professor Kate Williams, chair of the judges, said: “It’s a fantastic shortlist; exciting, vibrant, adventurous. We fell totally in love with these books and the amazing worlds they created. These books are fiction at its best – brilliant, courageous and utterly captivating.”

The other judges are journalist and critic Arifa Akbar; columnist and author Dolly Alderton; campaigner and psychotherapist Leyla Hussein; and digital entrepreneur Sarah Wood. The winner will be announced on June 5th.

The shortlist
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
Irish Times review
When the Greek Queen Helen is kidnapped by Trojans, the Greeks sail in pursuit, besieging the city of Troy. Trapped in the Greek soldiers’ camp is another captured queen, Briseis. Condemned to be bed-slave to Achilles, the man who butchered her family, she becomes a pawn in a menacing game between bored and frustrated warriors. In the centuries after this most famous war, history will write her off, a footnote in a bloody story scripted by vengeful men - but Briseis has a very different tale to tell . . .

Pat Barker was born in Yorkshire and began her literary career in her forties, when she took a short writing course taught by Angela Carter. Encouraged by Carter to continue writing and exploring the lives of working class women, she sent her fiction out to publishers. Thirty-five years later, she has published fifteen novels, including her masterful Regeneration Trilogy, been made a CBE for services to literature, and won awards including the Guardian Fiction Prize and the UK’s highest literary honour, the Booker Prize. She lives in Durham and her latest novel is The Silence of the Girls.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Irish Times review

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. She has had short stories published in anthologies and has also self-published work. In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top ten spoken word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam.

Milkman by Anna Burns
Irish Times review

In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous...

Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.

Anna Burns was born in Belfast. She is the author of two novels, No Bones and Little Constructions, and of the novella, Mostly Hero. No Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in East Sussex.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Two London couples find themselves at a moment of reckoning. Melissa has a new baby and doesn’t want to let it change her but, in the crooked walls of a narrow Victorian terrace, she begins to disappear. Michael, growing daily more accustomed to his commute, still loves Melissa but can’t quite get close enough to her to stay faithful.

Meanwhile out in the suburbs, Stephanie is happy with Damian and their three children, but the death of Damian’s father has thrown him into crisis - or is it something, or someone, else?

Ordinary People is an intimate study of identity and parenthood, sex and grief, love and ageing. It is the story of our lives, and those moments that threaten to unravel us.

Diana Evans is a British author of Nigerian and English descent. Her bestselling novel, 26a, won the inaugural Orange Award for New Writers and the British Book Awards deciBel Writer of the Year prize. It was also shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel, the Guardian First Book, the Commonwealth Best First Book and the Times/Southbank Show Breakthrough awards, and longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, The Wonder, is currently under option for TV dramatisation. She is a former dancer, and as a journalist and critic has contributed to among others Marie Claire, the Independent, the Guardian, the Observer, The Times, the Telegraph, Financial Times and Harper’s Bazaar. Ordinary People is her third novel, and received an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts Award. She lives in London.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Irish Times review

Celestial and Roy are a newlywed couple with a bright future; the embodiment of the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into a routine, their lives are derailed by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love she’s built her life around until now. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This is powerful story about love and family, injustice and strength. Through An American Marriage Tayari Jones proves she is not just a masterful storyteller, but also a visionary writer, unafraid to address important issues about race, class and society head-on.

Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, including Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, and Leaving Atlanta. Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. She serves on the MFA faculty at Rutgers and writes regular posts at www.tayarijones.com. She lives in Brooklyn.

Circe by Madeline Miller
Irish Times review

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child - not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long - and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.

So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss - the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.

Madeline Miller is the author of The Song of Achilles which won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012, was shortlisted for the Stonewall Writer of the Year 2012, was an instant New York Times bestseller and has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Madeline holds an MA in Classics from Brown University, and she taught Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students for over a decade. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and at Yale School of Drama.

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