[The JRB Daily] Barbara Kingsolver becomes first two-time winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her ‘deeply powerful’ novel Demon Copperhead

Barbara Kingsolver has won the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel Demon Copperhead.

With the win, Kingsolver becomes the first two-time winner of the prize in its twenty-eight-year history.

Kingsolver won the prize in 2010 for The Lacuna, and was also shortlisted in 2013 for Flight Behaviour.

Demon Copperhead, which also won the Pulitzer Prize, is a reimagining of Charles Dickens’s novel David Copperfield. Set in the Appalachian Mountains in the United States, it tells the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks, a caustic wit, and a talent for survival.

The Women’s Prize is one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary awards, given 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 prize aims to ‘shine a spotlight on outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world’.

Kingsolver was announced as the winner at an awards ceremony in London. Chair of judges Louise Minchin presented the author with the £30,000 prize (about R700,000), the prize money being endowed by an anonymous donor, and the ‘Bessie’, a limited-edition bronze figurine.

Minchin says:

‘Barbara Kingsolver has written a towering, deeply powerful and significant book. In a year of outstanding fiction by women, we made a unanimous decision on Demon Copperhead as our winner. Brilliant and visceral, it is storytelling by an author at the top of her game. We were all deeply moved by Demon, his gentle optimism, resilience and determination despite everything being set against him.

‘An exposé of modern America, its opioid crisis and the detrimental treatment of deprived and maligned communities, Demon Copperhead tackles universal themes—from addiction and poverty, to family, love, and the power of friendship and art—it packs a triumphant emotional punch, and is a novel that will withstand the test of time.’

Minchin was joined on this year’s judging panel by novelist Rachel Joyce; journalist, podcaster and writer Bella Mackie; novelist and short story writer Irenosen Okojie; and Tulip Siddiq, Member of Parliament.

Also on the shortlist this year were Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris, Pod by Laline Paull, Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks, Trespasses by Louise Kennedy and The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell.

Last year’s Women’s Prize winner was American–Canadian author, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki, for her fourth novel The Book of Form and Emptiness.

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