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Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019

To celebrate the opening of our secondhand bookshop – The Dairy Bookshop – Delapré Abbey’s Commercial Officer, Eleanor Carter, reviews the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 and some past winners.

The 2019 Women’s Prize winner was announced yesterday with some excellent novels shortlisted and the prize being awarded to Tayari Jones for ‘An American Marriage’. The prize was launched in 1996 after it was noted that the vast majority of major literary prize winners were male, despite the fact that 60% of novels published were by women.

The shortlist is probably one of the best there’s ever been which just shows the quality of literature being produced by women currently. If you frequent the bookish pages of Instagram at all, you’ll be very familiar with all the books shortlisted as they’ve been spread across feeds for the past few months. ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller has been tempting me every time I walk into a bookshop so I can see it finding its way home with me soon! I think many were surprised not to see Sally Rooney making it off the longlist but I feel confident she has a major prizewinner to come in the future (she is only in her twenties after all!).

If you’re not familiar with the prize, here’s three to get you started…

2019 shortlist – Milkman – Anna Burns. This is a hot favourite for this year as it won the Man Booker Prize in 2018 and has been garnering a lot of attention ever since its release. I had to pick this up as it was literally everywhere but like a lot of novels with a large amount of hype surrounding it, I was bitterly disappointed and actually found the whole process of reading it rather unpleasant. However, having said that, Milkman is a great novel to show the diversity of celebrated fiction and how you can continue to reinvent the wheel. The structure is very different from anything I’ve ever read, none of the characters have names and it can be difficult to follow but if you feel like a challenge this summer, I’d certainly say you should find out what all the fuss is about.

2018 winner – Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie. I absolutely adored this book! I picked it up on a whim after I was given some book vouchers. I’d read good things about it and thought it was worth the purchase. The subject matter is difficult and very current in that it deals with Jihadists. The writer actually worried that during her research, she was going to get arrested as she was having to Google such in depth things on the topic. The novel is surprisingly easy to read given the subject and you find yourself compelled to read and developing sympathies in ways you never imagined when you begin. The ending is incredible and not what I expected at all. The book goes along at a nice pace all the way through but the ending is explosive and causes a surge of emotion for the characters you’ve grown to know. I would highly recommend reading this well-deserved winner.

2007 winner – Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is another book which deals with a sensitive subject matter and opens a window into a world we can be fearful to explore. This deals with the Nigerian Civil War which I knew nothing about prior to reading this book. It’s a fairly slow-paced book with a lot of detail and depth but I found it fascinating and utterly compelling. Some parts are heartbreaking and it makes it even more difficult to know the book is based on true events. The film adaptation is worth a watch too.

Women’s fiction is thriving and being celebrated the way it should be in the 21st century. Why not come along to our bookshop and dig out some fiction written by women? You might discover something new to enjoy this summer at Delapre Abbey!

The Dairy Bookshop is open 7 days a week, 11am – 4pm.