Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee Round Up

28th May 2013


Kate Atkinson: Life After Life

Kate Atkinson is an English author, whose first book Behind the Scenes at the Museum won the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year. She has since published a further 5 books, including a book of short stories and was awarded an MBE in 2011 for her services to literature.

Life After Life follows the life – or rather, lives – of Ursula Todd, who was born in 1910 and dies and is reborn several times throughout the novel. It’s a novel that has been received to general acclaim, and asks the reader to question the cyclical nature of life and the inevitability of death. A definite contender for the prize.

Memorable quote: “The beginning is the word and the end is silence. And in between are all the stories.” – Human Croquet

 A.M Homes: May We Be Forgiven

Amy M Homes was born in 1961 in Washington D.C. and is known for writing novels about controversial subjects, such as her third novel The End of Alice, which is narrated by a convicted child molester and murderer.

Holmes is a writer who, as you can imagine, has received incredibly mixed reviews, with some bookstores refusing to stock her books. May We Be Forgiven continues her predilection for the controversial with it’s mix of black humor, societal comment, murder, infidelity and more.

Memorable quote: “If you don’t write the book you have to write, everything breaks.”

Barbara Kingsolver: Flight Behaviour

Barbara Kingsolver is an American author and one of the most decorated on the list – she received The Orange Prize for Fiction (the former name for the Women’s Prize) in 2010 for her novel The Lacuna and since 1993 all of her books have been on the New York Time’s Bestsellers list.

Flight Behaviour is above all else a novel about climate change, a tricky topic to cover in fiction but a necessary one. As Liz Jensen observed in her Guardian review of the book “Urgent issues demand important art”.

Memorable quote: “If we can’t, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread.”

Hilary Mantel: Bring Up The Bodies

Hilary Mantel has received more press in the last 6 months (due to her comments on the portrayal of the Royal Family by the press and that Double-Booker) than any other writer on this list.

A writer who attracts both scorn and literary fan-girling for her Tudor-tastic Wolf Hall and now Bring Up The Bodies; the second instalment in her series about Thomas Cromwell marks Mantel out as a very formidable opponent for others in the running.

Memorable quote: “Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.”  – Wolf Hall

Maria Semple: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Maria Semple is an American novelist, with a career as a screenwriter which has led her to working on shows such as (yawn) Beverly Hills 90210 and (swoon) Arrested Development.

Whilst her first novel This One Is Mine, published in 2008 was shortlisted for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, Semple has not as yet won any awards for her novel writing.

But Where’d You Go, Bernadette seems to be a favourite with the judges if the video of them discussing the shortlist is anything to go by. Could she give Mantel something to worry about?

Memorable quote: “’That’s right,’ she told the girls. ‘You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.” – Where’d you go, Bernadette

Zadie Smith: NW

Another former winner of the award back in 2006, Zadie Smith is the youngest writer on the shortlist and top of the For Books’ Sake fan-girl list. Her novel White Teeth earned her substantial universal praise, and has won multiple awards, including the previously mentioned Women’s Prize spot.

Claire Strickett’s review of NW can’t be topped so here it is again; “Smith examines fundamental questions about where we come from and how far it’s ever possible to move on from our roots. There are no neat or comforting conclusions here, other than the satisfaction of being in the presence of a true master of  her art.”

Memorable quote: “Full stories are as rare as honesty” – White Teeth

The winner of the prize will be announced on the 5th of June and as well as the prestige that comes with such an accolade the winner will also receive £30,000 prize money.

With such a strong collection of shortlisted authors it’s really difficult to call who will come out victorious, but our money is either on Mantel or Semple. Although Smith still remains the writer we’re most likely to do a Kathy Bates over.

Kirsty Merryn