The Women’s Prize 2018 Shortlist – What do you need to know?

As many of you will know, the shortlist for the Women’s Prize 2018 was announced on Monday 23rd April.  It was so interesting to see what had been picked from the shortlist, and reading some of the reasoning behind those decisions.  Sarah Sands, the chair of judges, said of those chosen:  “The themes of the shortlist have both contemporary and lasting resonance encompassing the birth of the internet, race, sexual violence, grief, oh and mermaids. Some of the authors are young, half by Brits and all are blazingly good and brave writers.”

So with such a diverse range of themes, subject matter and author backgrounds it’s worthwhile taking a few moments here to give you some more information about each of the six selections.  If you’re intrigued about the list, or wondering if you should give any of them a go, then here’s hoping the following will give you a comprehensive guide to the Women’s Prize Shortlist 2018.

‘The Idiot’ by Elif Batuman


About the author: Elif Batuman is an American author, academic, and journalist. Born in New York City to Turkish parents, she grew up in New Jersey.  In February 2010, she published her first book, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, which details her experiences as a graduate student.  She has also published pieces in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and n+1. Her writing has been described as “almost helplessly epigrammatical.”

Genre: Historical Literary Fiction

Publisher: Vintage

Buzzwords: 1995. Harvard. Campus novel. First love.  How culture and language shape who we are.

First line: “I didn’t know what email was until I got to college.”

‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock’ by Imogen Hermes Gowar

About the author: Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History before going on to work in museums.  She began to write fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with.

Genre: Historical Literary Fiction

Publisher: Vintage

Buzzwords: 1785. High society. A courtesan and a ship merchant. Mermaids.

First line: “Jonah Hancock’s counting-house is built wedge-shaped and built coffered like a ship’s cabin, whitewashed walls and black skirting, beam pegged snuggly to beam.”

‘Sight’ by Jessie Greengrass


About the author: Jessie Greengrass was born in 1982. She studied philosophy in Cambridge and London, where she now lives with her partner.  She has a great love for detective stories, and knows who the murderer is in almost every novel Agatha Christie ever wrote.

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

Publisher: John Murray

Buzzwords: Being a parent and being a child.  X-rays, psychoanalysis, and the origins of modern surgery.

First line: “The start of another summer, the weather uncertain but no longer sharply edged, and I am pregnant again.”

‘When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife’ by Meena Kandasamy


About the author: Meena Kandasamy (born in 1984) has actively sought to combine her love for the written word with the struggle for social justice through poetry, translation, fiction and essays for the last fifteen years.  She grew up in Chennai, India where she lived most of her life before moving to London in 2016.

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

Publisher: Atlantic Books

Buzzwords: An abusive marriage. What love meant, means and will come to mean.  Modern marriage in India. Feminist.

First line: “My mother has not stopped talking about it.”

‘Home Fire’ by Kamila Shamsie

About the author: Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Karachi, where she grew up.  Shamsie is the daughter of literary critic and writer Muneeza Shamsie, the niece of celebrated Indian novelist Attia Hosain, and the granddaughter of the memoirist Begum Jahanara Habibullah.  For years Shamsie spent equal amounts of time in London and Karachi, while also occasionally teaching creative writing at Hamilton College in New York State. She now lives primarily in London.

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Buzzwords: Siblings. Loosely based on Greek mythology’s story of Antigone, a woman defying a king to secure her brother an honorable burial. Love and politics.

First line: “Isma was going to miss her flight.”

‘Sing, Unburied. Sing’ by Jesmyn Ward

About the author: American novelist born in 1977 in Mississippi.  She developed a love-hate relationship with her hometown after having been bullied at public school by black classmates and subsequently by white students while attending a private school paid for by her mother’s employer.  In 2005, Ward received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan.  Shortly afterwards, she and her family became victims of Hurricane Katrina.


Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Buzzwords: An intimate portrait of a family. Drugs. Prison. Ghosts.

First line: “I like to think I know what death is.”

I’ll be reading and reviewing all six books on my Youtube channel, so if you want to know any of my thoughts on the shortlist, be sure to keep an eye out for my review videos.

If you would like to purchase any of these books you can do so here.  If you use my link I’ll receive a small commission – thank you in advance if you do!

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