Both The Women’s Prize for Fiction and its youngest judge, writer Scarlett Curtis, turn 25 this year. As the longlist is announced, she reveals what books mean to her.
WORDS HAVE SHAPED MY LIFE
Reading has always been where I go for everything – comfort, fun, a social life. I was sick when I was young and I was out of school – the only reason I got an education is the fiction I read: Little Women, Anne Of Green Gables, Black Beauty. There is nothing that has shaped who I am as much as the books I’ve read. I have bad anxiety, and reading has been a coping tool.
JUDGING IS A DREAM COME TRUE
I’m never going to be able to work again because this is all I dreamed of doing. Having said that, it’s been – even for an avid reader – a big step up. I normally read a book a week, but there have been around 60 books in the past few months.
A WOMEN-ONLY PRIZE IS ESSENTIAL
I was this geeky 16-year-old who checked the Booker and Pulitzer lists, so I read everything by Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen. When I started following the Women’s Prize it was like, ‘Oh wait, I don’t only have to read about men having mid-life crises.’
WE SHOULD ALL BE READING WOMEN
Part of why I’m so happy to judge this year is the #ReadingWomen campaign. I read The Catcher In The Rye when I was 12 and felt such an affinity with the male character but the opposite rarely happens. Something like The Catcher In The Rye is considered this universal work of art whereas something like Little Women is considered only for girls.
THERE ARE STORIES I ALWAYS TURN TO
I’m a freakishly obsessive Virginia Woolf fan. I had a breakdown when I was 17 and her books made me realise other people had been through this stuff. So if I want to feel known I turn to Virginia Woolf, but if I want to be distracted it’s Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. I’m very into cosy murder. Dawn by Octavia E Butler is also the greatest science fiction book ever.
The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction will be announced on 3 June.