Women's Prize for Fiction: The Shortlist

The Women's Prize for Fiction (more familiarly known by it's previous name, The Orange Prize) announced it's shortlist in the wake of Monday's 2013 Pulitzer Prize awards.  A Reader's Respite has always loved the WPF.  Women writers judged by a panel of fellow women, we feel it showcases some of the most talented writing on the market today.  While the long-list was an interesting mix, the short-list has narrowed it down to some fierce competition:

This is a big deal.  Bringing Up the Bodies, the sequel to her wildly acclaimed novel Wolf Hall (which won the 2009 Booker Prize), has already won this year's Booker Prize and the Costa Award, and deservedly so. Could this influence the judges' decision?  Might they feel that the novel has already received it's fair share of prize money and look elsewhere?  Should they?  Or should the prize go to the most deserving novel with all outside considerations ignored?  We can't stand the tension.....

Unlike Mantel's historical fiction, Kingsolver addresses the politically hot topic of climate change in her novel Flight Behavior.  A previous winner of the 2010 Orange Prize for her novel Lacuna, Kingsolver returns to a familiar setting, the Appalachians, to depict the enormous consequences that a global problem - climate change - has on a quite ordinary, inconsequential even, woman.

Life After Life has been receiving much attention lately, being a particular favorite with book bloggers.  While  author Kate Atkinson won the prestigious Whitbread Prize back in 1995 (for her very first novel, gee, no pressure after that, right?), she has never won the Women's Prize for Fiction.  Life After Life, as the title suggests, is a novel featuring a woman who dies time and again, making history most poignant.

Amy Homes novel, May We Be Forgiven, is a bit of a wild-card here.  A modern tale about a terribly dysfunctional family personified to two competitive brothers whose lives took vastly different paths, this is the first nomination for Homes, who has also worked extensively in journalism and writing for television.

It's doubtful that anyone was surprised by the inclusion of Zadie Smith's novel, NW, on the shortlist.  Smith, whose first novel White Teeth, was the receipient of the 2000 Whitbread Award, as well as the Betty Trask Award.  NW is the story of four people from the same small section of London: their struggles, achievements, and disappointments.  To be honest, Smith is the only author on the shortlist who has never resonated with us and we've decided to skip reading this one (which probably makes it most likely to win *droll*).

Admittedly, A Reader's Respite is delighted with the inclusion of Maria Semple's novel, Where'd You Go, Bernadette?  A recent read for us, the novel is a best-seller and favorite among readers and critics across the board, featuring a disaffected mother from Seattle who humorously grapples with life's big questions.  If there  was a general audience voting for the prize this year, Semple's novel would most certainly win, but we're not sure how it will play with the high-falutin' judges.

Stay tuned....over the next few weeks, A Reader's Respite will be featuring an in-depth review of each nominee (Smith excepted....we just can't make it through one of her books, no matter how talented she is) as well as a prediction (usually wrong, so don't go off contacting your bookie, 'kay?) who will take home this wonderful prize.

The winner will be announced on June 5, 2013.  May the best lady win!


  1. I've read 3 of those books and have to agree with you about NW - I made it through the audio but really didn't "get" the book.

  2. I have tried and failed to read each of Smith's books. I really liked the first narrator in NW, and I thought I had finally struck gold, but then I got to Felix, the second narrator, and I just couldn't get past him. I might try again later. Looking forward to your coverage and am so glad that you are back!

  3. Hey I'm just excited that I've actually read one of these (Bernadette which I loved). I have no patience for Mantel and never loaded NW on the iPod because Kathy said she didn't get it. Atkinson is pretty awesome though and I full intend to read Life After Life.

  4. I have the audio of Life After Life and am going to hit that after I finish Beautiful Ruins (okay, and Dare Me, damn you, ha).

  5. Maybe I can try Felix and we can alternate chapters telling each other what happened.

  6. There's a lot of stuff I just don't get. Seriously. I'm have a literary dead spot in my brain where I don't get the fancy stuff.

  7. Wow you are ambitious. I shall wish you luck!

  8. Thanks for the luck, I usually fall far short of my book ambitions. :P

  9. Yeah, I'm behind in my reading. I read Bernadette, liked it a lot but not sure it's the Orange Prize winner. I've never been attracted to Kingsolver (*shrug*). I plan on listening to or reading Life after Life (I read the other one).

  10. I mean the other Life after Life.

  11. I like that! That could work.

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