Susanna Clarke Is Named Winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction goes to Susanna Clarke for her second novel, the fantasy ‘Piranesi.’

Bernardine Evaristo, left, with Susanna Clarke at the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction ceremony in London. Image: Women’s Prize

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

Evaristo: ‘Unexpected Flight of Fancy’
Bloomsbury author Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi (2020) has won the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, the news having been announced this evening (September 8) at London’s Bedford Square Gardens. Many Publishing Perspectives readers will know Clarke as the author of the 2004 Bloomsbury release, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which was sold into at least 34 countries and produced as a television series by the Curtis Brown Group’s Cuba Pictures with BBC and BBC America in 2015.

Like Jonathan Strange, Piranesi, which is Clarke’s second novel, has attracted considerable award program attention, having been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards‘ novel of the year honor and the British Science Fiction Association Award for a novel.

In its 26th year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction jury has been led by Bernardine Evaristo, as you’ll recall from our earlier articles. The purse for Clarke is worth £30,000 (US$41,327) and is endowed by an anonymous donor. The winner also traditionally receives the limited edition “Bessie” figurine made and donated by artist Grizel Niven.

Evaristo is quoted on the jury’s choice of Clarke’s book, saying, “We wanted to find a book that we’d press into readers’ hands, which would have a lasting impact.

With her first novel in 17 years, Susanna Clarke has given us a truly original, unexpected flight of fancy which melds genres and challenges preconceptions about what books should be. She has created a world beyond our wildest imaginations that also tells us something profound about what it is to be human.”

Bernardine 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.

To be eligible for contention for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, a full-length novel must be written by a woman and published in the United Kingdom  between April and March the following year. Any woman writing in English—whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter—is eligible.

The audiobook edition of Piranesi is read by Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Recapping the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021  Shortlist

This year’s Women’s Prize shortlist featured two British authors, two Americans, one Barbadian author, and one American-Ghanian writer. All six were new to the Women’s Prize shortlist.

Authors Patricia Lockwood and Cherie Jones were shortlisted for debut publications.

Author Title Imprint Nationality
Brit Bennett The Vanishing Half Hachette / Dialogue Books American
Susanna Clarke Piranesi Bloomsbury British
Claire Fuller Unsettled Ground Penguin Random House / Fig Tree British
Yaa Gyasi Transcendent Kingdom Penguin Random House / Viking Ghanaian-American
Cherie Jones How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House Hachette / Tinder Press Barbadian
Patricia Lockwood No One Is Talking About This Bloomsbury Circus American

The Women’s Prize—formerly known by its sponsors, Orange (1996 to 2012) and then Baileys (2013 to 2017)—named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie its “winner of winners” in a 25th-anniversary readers’ vote last year.

You may be interested to know that Adichie gives her keynote address Friday (September 10) at Iceland’s Reykjavik International Literary Festival on Friday at 2 p.m. CEST / 1 p.m. BST / noon GMT / 10 a.m. ET. Our story about the festival is here, and there should be a live stream from the Icelandic capital available at that hour here.

Although the Women’s Prize for Fiction has opted not to name sponsors in its name for several years, Baileys and National West are again this year backers of the program.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction’s 2021 shortlist of six titles. 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 women in publishing is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s publishing market 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 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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.