And in 2013, as announced last week, women make up precisely 50% of the Prize’s longlist. Meet the six young women competing this year:
Emma Chapman (@emmajchapman) studied Creative Writing at Royal Holloway and has lived in Australia and Indonesia. Her début novel, How To Be a Good Wife, has been hailed as the next Before I Go to Sleep: it’s a clever psychological thriller about mental illness and secrets in a marriage.
With echoes of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Julie Sarkissian’s fiction debut, Dear Lucy, captures the unique voice of a disabled girl caught up in creepy happenings on a farm. Sarkissian (@SarkissianJulie) is from California and teaches at Brooklyn’s Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop.
Battleborn is the state motto of Nevada as well as the title of Claire Vaye Watkins’s collection of feisty short stories about cowboys, gold miners, brothel-keepers and serial killers (Watkins’s father was Charles Manson’s second-in-command).
Vogue called Watkins (@clairevaye) “The most captivating voice to come out of the West since Annie Proulx” and likened her journalistic tone to Joan Didion’s.
One of three poetry entries on the longlist, Jemma L King’s début collection The Shape of a Forest spans centuries and continents, taking inspiration from journeys as disparate as Genghis Khan’s and Amelia Earhart’s.
King (@JemmaKingPoet) teaches English and creative writing at Aberystwyth, won a Terry Hetherington Award for young writers in 2011, and is a founding member of the Centre for Women, Writing and Literary Culture.
Rounding out the longlist is the script for No Quarter by Polly Stenham – the first time the Prize has ever nominated a dramatic work. After the success of That Face and Tusk Tusk, No Quarter is Stenham’s third play to premiere at London’s Royal Court Theatre; all three were directed by Jeremy Herrin.
Guardian reviewer Michael Billington has dubbed her the nation’s “expert on dysfunctional families,” while Susannah Clapp, writing in The Observer, called No Quarter a “state-of-the-nation play” combining “punk and politics.”
This year’s longlist is an eclectic list of considerable variety…these are books that readers will definitely want to get their hands on.Prize Chairman Peter Stead believes “This year’s longlist is an eclectic list of considerable variety… These are books that readers will definitely want to get their hands on.”
The 2013 judging panel, which rivals the nominees in its diversity, includes novelist Allison Pearson, singer and BBC music presenter Cerys Matthews, and journalist Carolyn Hitt.
After her appearance on the 2013 Man Booker longlist (where she’s currently the 6/1 favourite to win), it’s a surprise to see 27-year-old Eleanor Catton’s accomplished Victorian pastiche The Luminaries missing from the running here.
Given the Prize’s history of rewarding women’s books about family and cultural clashes (Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements in 2012, Lucy Caldwell’s The Meeting Point in 2011 and Elyse Fenton’s Clamor in 2010), Sarkissian, Watkins and especially Stenham all seem to be prime contenders.