The shortlist for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced—featuring six writers who have never been shortlisted for the prize before.
Now in its twenty-sixth year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction aims to reward ‘excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women in English from throughout the world’. It is awarded annually to a woman author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English, and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year.
The winning author receives £30,000 (about R700,000) and a limited edition bronze figurine called the ‘Bessie’, both anonymously endowed. The winner and the other five shortlisted authors also receive a bespoke leather-bound edition of their novel.
During the announcement on 28 April 2021, Chair of judges and novelist Bernardine Evaristo said:
‘With this shortlist, we are excited to present a gloriously varied and thematically rich exploration of women’s fiction at its finest. These novels will take the reader from a rural Britain left behind to the underbelly of a community in Barbados; from inside the hectic performance of social media to inside a family beset by addiction and oppression; from a tale of racial hierarchy in America to a mind-expanding tale of altered perceptions. Fiction by women defies easy categorisation or stereotyping, and all of these novels grapple with society’s big issues expressed through thrilling storytelling. We feel passionate about them, and we hope readers do too.’
2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books)
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury Publishing)
- Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree)
- Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Viking Books)
- How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (Tinder Press)
- No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus)
The inspiration for the Women’s Prize—previously known as the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and then the Orange Prize for Fiction—came about after the 1991 Booker Prize, when none of the six shortlisted books was by a woman, despite roughly sixty per cent of eligible novels published that year being by women authors. Research showed that women’s literary achievements were often not acknowledged by existing major literary prizes.
During the online announcement, Evaristo and her panel of judges read excerpts from the novels, allowing the work to speak for itself. This year’s judges are: author and journalist Elizabeth Day, presenter, journalist and writer Vick Hope, columnist and writer Nesrine Malik, and news presenter and broadcaster Sarah-Jane Mee.
The twenty-sixth winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction will be announced on Wednesday, 7 July 2021. Plus, from 14 to 16 June 2021, readers can attend the 2021 Virtual Shortlist Festival for live readings and exclusive author interviews!
Watch the online announcement here: