Books

The Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist is your 2019 reading sorted

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi
Published
Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist 2019, photographed by Sam Holden Agency

Clear some space on your shelves for these great books…

Looking to read something, but only want the best? Well, the Women’s Prize has 16 brilliant novels for you to try.

The annual prize, which rewards excellent women’s writing from across the world, has just announced its 2019 longlist.

As well as some new writers, it features some well known names: former winner Madeline Miller makes the list with Circe, as does Man Booker Prize winner Anna Burns for Milkman and Sally Rooney for her Costa Novel Award 2019 winner Normal People.

It is also important to note that the 2019 list marks the first time a non-binary writer has been long listed, with Akwaeke Emezi, who is included for Freshwater.

Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 judges Dolly Alderton, Arifa Akbar, Kate Williams, Sarah Wood and Leyla Hussein. Image: Women's Prize for Fiction

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 judges Dolly Alderton, Arifa Akbar, Kate Williams and Sarah Wood with the 2019 longlist

Professor Kate Williams, chair of this year’s judging panel, said the long listed books were all “brilliant stories that sweep you into another world”.

“Each of them have been a privilege to read, and they have taken us into places a million miles from each other, exploring the lives of women and men in so many different but utterly compelling ways,” she added.

Williams was joined on the judging panel by author Dolly Alderton, journalist Arifa Akbar, anti-FGM activist Leyla Hussein and digital entrepreneur Sarah Wood.

Read on for more on the 16 books on the longlist…

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. Image: Hamish Hamilton
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. Image: Hamish Hamilton

The Silence of the Girls is one of two retellings of ancient myths on the 2019 longlist (the other is Madeline Miller’s Circe). In this novel, Barker tells the story of the Trojan War from the point of view of the Briseis, a queen who was enslaved by Achilles after he butchered her husband and brothers. This is a great take on a story that usually centres men.

Hamish Hamilton, £18.99

Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton

Remembered by Yvonne Battle Felton. Image: Dialogue Books

In 1910, Spring sits by the bedside of her son Edward, who lays dying. Whispers abound that he drove his streetcar into a shop window. To get to the truth, Spring has to tell Edward the story of how he came to be, which will force her to confront her past as a slave and the silences that have governed her life.

Dialogue Books, £14.99

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a darkly comic serial killer thriller that’s also a look at a sibling relationship. When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from Ayoola, she knows that her sister has killed yet another one of her boyfriends and needs help clearing up. As family, Korede is always willing to help, until Ayoola’s attentions turn to a doctor who Korede is in love with…

Atlantic Books, £12.99

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

This unusual novel is described as a satire and as a graphic erotic fantasy, and somehow it all works. Lucy has been writing her dissertation for nine years, but all of that changes when, after she and her boyfriend break up, she hits rock bottom. Thankfully, her sister in Los Angeles insists that Lucy dog-sit for the summer in Venice Beach, where Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer while sitting alone on the beach rocks one night. The truth about his identity, though, soon makes Lucy’s life take an unexpected turn…

Bloomsbury Circus, £16.99

Milkman by Anna Burns

The novel unfolds in an unnamed city during the Troubles in Northern Ireland

When she won the Man Booker Prize last year, Anna Burns became the first ever Northern Irish writer to win the award, and deservedly so. Milkman follows an unnamed 18 year-old girl (known as middle sister) who is being sexually harassed by a powerful man (known as the Milkman), during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This is a timely tale about how inaction can have enormous consequences.

Faber & Faber, £14.99

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater is a coming-of-age story with a difference. It follows Ada, who is born filled with Igbo spirits. When she goes to college, an assault leads to Ada fading into the background of her own mind and the various selves within her taking control, spinning her life into a dark and dangerous direction.

Faber & Faber, £10

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Ordinary People is a novel about London for our times, following two couples at a moment of reckoning in their lives. Set against the backdrop of Barack Obama’s historic election victory, this is a novel about parenthood, sex, grief and more. Evans previously won the Orange Prize for New Writers for her novel 26a.

Chatto & Windus, £14.99

Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott

Based on true events, Swan Song is the story of the glamorous and influential women befriended by Truman Capote: his Swans. When the author published a story in which he revealed all their secrets, only thinly masking their identities, the Swans were torn apart. Swan Song imagines why Capote wrote and published the story, and how all the Swans reacted.

Hutchinson, £12.99     

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are ripped apart when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Unmoored, Celestial turns for comfort to the couple’s closest friend, Andre. But then Roy’s conviction is overturned and he returns home, ready to pick up life where he left off. This is a profound book about love and connection, set against the backdrop of America’s battle with racism.

Oneworld, £8.99

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

Behind the popular Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland, are simmering tensions, heartache and grudges from decades of bustling restaurant life. This wonderful novel is the story of a family – both the family that owns the restaurant and the found family of staff that work there. When disaster strikes, everyone must confront the conflicts and loyalties that lie beneath the restaurant.

Pushkin Press, £14.99     

Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn

Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn. Image: Fairlight Books
Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn. Image: Fairlight Books

Set in the communist Romania of the Seventies, this novella follows Alina, whose brother-in-law’s defection to the West means she and her husband become persons of interest to the secret services. As the strain take a toll on their marriage, Alina turns to her aunt for help – the wife of a communist leader and a secret practitioner of the old folk ways.

Fairlight Books, £7.99     

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. Image: 4th Estate
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. Image: 4th Estate

Lost Children Archive is Luiselli’s first novel in English. Set in New York, it follows a family who set out on a road trip to the Apacheria, the regions of the US that used to be Mexico. Meanwhile, thousands of children are journeying north, travelling to the US border from Central America and Mexico. Luiselli intertwines these two journeys to create a powerful and urgent story.

4th Estate, £14.99

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden

A heart wrenching novel, this follows Abeo Kata, the daughter of a government employee and a stay-at-home mother who lives a comfortable. But when the family’s idyllic lifestyle takes a turn for the worse, Abeo’s father places her in a religious shrine, where she spends 15 years being subjected to unspeakable crimes before being rescued. Broken and battered, she must struggle to overcome her past to learn to trust and love again.

Jacaranda Books, £16.99     

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

Miller’s first novel since her Women’s Prize-winning The Song of Achilles sees her tell the story of a misunderstood goddess. Banished by Zeus to the remote island of Aiaia, Circe explores her witchcraft, learning who she is. Along the way, she encounters the craftsman Daedalus, the wily Odysseus and the messenger god Hermes.

Bloomsbury, £16.99

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. Image: Granta
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. Image: Granta

Teenager Silvie and her parents are living in a hut in Northumberland as an exercise in experimental archaeology. Her father is a difficult man, obsessed with imagining and enacting the harshness of Iron Age life. Haunting Silvie’s narrative is the story of a bog girl, a young woman sacrificed by those closest to her.

Granta Books, £12.99

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Rooney, described as the “voice for a generation”, tells the story of affluent Marianne and poor Connell, who become unlikely friends and then lovers. A love story that is also a commentary on power, class and vulnerability, Normal People is Rooney’s second novel.

Faber & Faber, £14.99     

Images: Sam Holden Agency for Women’s Prize for Fiction / provided by publishers

Topics

Share this article

Author

Sarah Shaffi

Recommended by Sarah Shaffi

  • Books

    10 must-read books by black female authors for 2019

    From Candice Carty-Williams and Sara Collins to Reba Barron, here are the black writers you need to know about

    Posted by
    Sarah Shaffi
    Published
  • Books

    9 books that will always spark joy, according to female authors

    Books to inspire, amuse and treasure

    Posted by
    Sarah Shaffi
    Published
  • Books

    This publishing house is only releasing books by female writers in 2020

    “In an ideal world you wouldn’t have to... But you do.”

    Posted by
    Moya Crockett
    Published

Other people read

More from Books

More from Sarah Shaffi