It was March 2011. I was up several times a night with the kids and then again a time or two with my constant companion, insomnia. Tired of reading and re-reading Fancy Nancy and sure that my adult brain would thrive if I could just pick up a book with chapters, I began reading the 20 books that made up the 2011 Orange Prize Longlist, finishing the soon-to-be-winning novel, Tea Obrecht’s fabulous The Tiger’s Wife just hours before the winner was announced. For two glorious months, I didn’t think about what to read, I just read and read and read.
I’m looking forward to doing the same this year with the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist (same prize, new name). There is such a wide range of experiences covered by the books on this list — from women’s experience in the Israeli army (The People of Forever Are Not Afraid) to hackers in the Arabian Gulf (Alif the Unseen) — that readers can read this list straight through and hopefully feel excited anew with each read.
It’d be great to have company on the journey on the way. Please post your comments about any of the longlisted titles you’ve read or plan to read below.
Let’s have a look at what we’ll be reading:
First Time Lucky
There are six debut novelists on this list: Ros Barber for The Marlowe Papers, a novel in verse about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays; Shani Boianjiu for The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, Bonnie Nadzam for Lamb, a modern day Lolita tale; Francesca Segal for The Innocents, one of my favourite reads of 2012; M.L. Stedman for The Light Between Oceans, about the moral quandary a lighthouse keeper faces when he finds an infant washed ashore; and G. Willow Wilson for Alif the Unseen.
Close to Home
Sheila Heti’s novel, How Should a Person Be?, about, well, Sheila Heti, is the sole Canadian author to make the list. It was panned by The Telegraph and in Entertainment Weekly, and named in the 100 Notable Books of the Year in the New York Times. If nothing else, it’ll be a good one to talk about with friends.
The Usual Suspects
This year no literary award longlist seems complete without Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, a sequel to her award winning Wolf Hall. Perennial favourite (and winner for The Lacuna) Barbara Kingsolver has been nominated for Flight Behavior, her novel about global warming. One of Heidi’s and my favourite novelists, Zadie Smith is up for NW*, about life in northwest London.
It seems Heidi and I have another reason to rave about Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, the only thriller to receive a nod this year. Popular mystery writer Kate Atkinson is up for Life After Life, a novel about a woman who lives and relives different versions of her own life. And former Arrested Development writer Maria Semple has been nominated for her comic novel, Where’d You Go Bernadette.
Under the Radar
One of the best parts about reading through a longlist is the number of books that you quite simply weren’t aware of. In this case, I’m looking forward to Elif Shafak’s Honour, about Turkish immigrants living in 1970s London; Michele Robert’s Ignorance*, a WWII drama; Emily Perkin’s family saga The Forrests; A.M Holmes’ tragicomedy May We Be Forgiven and Deborah Copaken Kogan’s The Red Book.
I’ll keep you posted as I read. Please do the same. For a photo gallery of the longlist, visit The Guardian. The shortlist of six will be announced on April 16, and the winner on June 5.
*Thank you, as always, to NetGalley for providing e-galleys of these titles.