The UK Women’s Prize for Fiction Names a 16-Title Longlist

In News by Porter Anderson

With six nationalities represented and six debuts this year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction plans a July winner’s announcement after a shortlist in April.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction’s big longlist comprises 16 titles. Image: Women’s Prize

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

An Award Program in Its 26th Year
Overnight in London, the Women’s Prize for Fiction has announced its 2021 longlist with 16 titles to be winnowed down to six for the shortlist, to be announced April 28. The winner is expected to be named this year on July 7.

The purse for that winner will be worth £30,000 (US$41,926) and is endowed by an anonymous donor. The winner also traditionally receives the limited edition “Bessie” figurine made and donated by artist Grizel Niven.

The Women’s Prize—formerly known by its sponsors, Orange (1996 to 2012) and then Baileys (2013 to 2017)—is in its 26th year and, as Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the program named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie its “winner of winners” in a 25th-anniversary readers’ vote last year. Baileys and National West remain sponsors of the program.

The new longlist includes six British authors, five American writers, two Irish writers, one Canadian, one Barbadian, and one Ghanaian-American author.

Those who have followed the prize will recall that Ali Smith, longlisted this year, won the prize in 2015 for How To Be Both. She has also previously been shortlisted twice and longlisted once. Amanda Craig is another author familiar to the program, having been longlisted for the 2010 then-called Orange Prize for her novel Hearts and Minds.

This year’s list includes six debut novels from Naoise Dolan, Avni Doshi, Raven Leilani, Patricia Lockwood, Cherie Jones, and Torrey Peters.

At The Bookseller in London today, Mark Chandler points out that Torrey Peters becomes the first trans woman nominated in the Women’s Prize, the program having previously clarified in October that “eligibility for the prize extends to ‘all women’ where a woman is defined as ‘a cis woman, a transgender woman, or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex.'”

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 Longlist
Author Title Imprint Nationality
Brit Bennett The Vanishing Half Dialogue Books American
Clare Chambers Small Pleasures Weidenfeld & Nicolson British
Susanna Clarke Piranesi Bloomsbury British
Amanda Craig The Golden Rule Little, Brown British
Naoise Dolan Exciting Times Weidenfeld & Nicolson Irish
Avni Doshi Burnt Sugar Hamish Hamilton American
Dawn French Because of You Michael Joseph British
Claire Fuller Unsettled Ground Fig Tree British
Yaa Gyasi Transcendent Kingdom Viking Ghanaian-American
Cherie Jones How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House Tinder Press Barbadian
Raven Leilani Luster Picador American
Patricia Lockwood No One Is Talking About This Bloomsbury Circus American
Annabel Lyon Consent Atlantic Books Canadian
Kathleen McMahon Nothing but Blue Sky Sandycove Press Irish
Torrey Peters Detransition, Baby Serpent’s Tail American
Ali Smith Summer Hamish Hamilton British
Evaristo: ‘So Many Brilliant Novels’

In a prepared comment, this year’s jury chair Bernardine Evaristo is quoted, saying, “We read so many brilliant novels for this year’s prize and had an energetic judging session where we discussed our passions, opinions and preferences.

“Sadly, we had to let some very deserving books go, but we’re confident that we have chosen 16 standout novels that represent a truly wide and varied range of fiction by women, reflecting multiple perspectives, narrative styles, and preoccupations.

“These novels fascinated, moved, inspired, and challenged us, and we’re excited at announcing their inclusion on the Women’s Prize longlist.”

Evaristo is joined on the judging panel by podcaster, author, and journalist Elizabeth Day; television and radio presenter, journalist and writer, Vick Hope; print columnist and writer Nesrine Malik; and news presenter and broadcaster, Sarah-Jane Mee.

Jurors for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction. From left, Vick Hope, Elizabeth Day, Bernardine Evaristo, Nesrine Malik and Sarah-Jane Mee. Image: Women’s Prize


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here.  More on the Women’s Prize for Fiction is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.