The Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2013

So here are the six books that have made the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist 2013…


Life After Life – Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)
May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Holmes (Granta)
Flight Behaviour – Barbara Kingsolver (Faber and Faber)
Bring Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
NW – Zadie Smith (Hamilton)

Alas this year I couldn’t play ‘guess the shortlist’ as I knew it in advance so that I could do a feature for We Love This Book from ‘the man’s perspective’, along with my initial thoughts on the short listed books which you can see here on the website (not a Mantel bashing in site). You will also learn there that, yes indeed, I am going to read the whole of the shortlist, including re-reading A.M. Holmes and trying again with Zadie Smith, this year.

Obviously not having read them all I am in no real position to say which one I think will win, however I did randomly decide that it would be Kate Atkinson that would win this year, and so far the signs are good. I have decided that will be the last of the shortlist I read. I am going to start with Kingsolver, partly because it is the one I am the most daunted by and also because I am at Gran’s and she has a copy and I don’t, ha.

Who else is thinking of reading the short list? I am not going to suggest an official read-a-long but if anyone is reading them might be nice to have some support and people to swap notes with. Even if you aren’t planning on reading all of them what do you make of the list? Which have you read and which do you fancy reading?


Filed under Women's Prize for Fiction

19 responses to “The Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2013

  1. ifnotread

    NW was one of the best books I read last year. I intend to read Bring Up The Bodies and maybe Life After Life. I’m not too too impressed by the shortlist (gasp!)

  2. I’ve read Nw, Where’d You Go, and Flight Behavior. I’d love to see Kingsolver win.

  3. naomifrisby

    I’ve read all but Mantel on the shortlist and 17/20 on the longlist. All the shortlisted books are great but I can’t help but feel that the judges have played safe here.

  4. Im reading Life After Life at the moment and Im so pleased Kate Atkinson has been nominated,really is a brilliant book.

  5. I usually love Zadie Smith but I couldn’t get past the writing style of NW and gave up after 50 pages. Have borrowed the Kate Atkinson from the library and cannot wait till the weekend to get started!

  6. David

    I’d only read half of the longlist, so I’m thrilled to see five of them have made the shortlist. Thrilled as it means I only have one left to read (‘May We Be Forgiven). Ha!

    Personally, much as I loved the Maria Semple (it is a really delightful book) I’m surprised to see it on the shortlist and I’d have perhaps rather seen ‘The Forrests’ there instead. Of the other four longlisters I’d read I’m not surprised to see them left behind – Kitty Aldridge’s book (like her previous book) is incredibly ordinary and forgettable; I really didn’t like ‘Mateship with Birds’ but I readily accept that might just be me; ‘Ignorance’ is beautifully written but never really grabbed me; and ‘Lamb’ is a good debut but not quite in the same league yet as Mantel, Smith et al.

    At the risk of being dull, I’m going to say ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ is my favourite so far, as I think it succeeds on every level. ‘NW’ is certainly ambitious and has me very excited about where Zadie Smith will go next with her work, but it felt a bit like a debut in some ways (not in a bad way – more as in she was saying ‘look, I’ve perfected THAT, I don’t need to write another book in the same vein to prove it, now I’m going to try THIS instead’). ‘Life After Life’ is a real romp, completely engaging with some fantastic characters and never gimmicky, but it went down some what-if avenues that I wasn’t sure worked (the Hitler stuff) and the concept wasn’t wholly original even though she used it well. ‘Flight Behaviour’ I liked a lot, but then I’ve loved all the Barbara Kingsolver books I’ve read – I always come away from her books feeling I’ve learned something and had my view of the world subtly altered – but there were moments in this one where it teetered on the edge of being didactic (I think she just about avoided it) and the set-up felt very similar to that of ‘Prodigal Summer’.

  7. Victoria

    Its a good shortlist with a mixture of wellknown and lesser familiar names. I have already read the Maria Semple and Zadie Smith novels, and am currently halfway through the Barbara Kingsolver novel. I am intending reading the remaining novels on the list.

  8. I own two of the books already, but planning on buying three more of them. I’m not going to bother with Kingsolver – she’s just not my cup of tea. Its definitely a great list and I’m really looking forward to finding out who wins.

  9. It’s going to be a tight competition. I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette and loved it and was happily surprised that it got on the shortlist. Even though, I don’t think it’s going to win. I own NW and am preparing to read it. I’d like to read all of the books on the shortlist but Bring Up the Bodies will surely be the only one I won’t read because I haven’t read Wolf Hall yet. Only having read one on the list, Hilary Mantel might be the winner this time. I’ll get back to you on that prediction when I’ve read a few more on the list. 😉

  10. Ooh, I recently bought that Kate Atkinson but haven’t started it yet, maybe will do now I’ve seen this.

  11. Have already read two and a half, so tempted to keep on and read the other three, although not sure I can read Bring Up the Bodies without having read the first book. It will be tough to vote against Mantel’s ascending star.

  12. I plan to read the whole shortlist, but as I have to read Wolf Hall first before Bring Up the Bodies (plus The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland…) I’m not sure I will make it in time for the winner announcement. After reading your post, thought I would start with Flight Behavior as well. Kingsolver is the only author on the list I’ve read before so I’m very curious about the rest.

  13. Ruthiella

    I have read Bring Up the Bodies, Where’d You Go Bernadette and May We be Forgiven. Out of those three, I found that Bring Up the Bodies was the best (and you don’t have to have read Wolf Hall first at all. I think ButB is even better than Wolf Hall). I have Life after Life on my shelves…I may have to pick that to read next, since it is getting so much press and I love Kate Atkinson. I have never read any Kingsolver, but I think I would like to begin with The Poisonwood Bible first. I have read White Teeth by Zadie Smith, which I loved. I have had On Beauty on my shelves for years now and I really must get to that too!

  14. This is a great shortlist. My personal favourite is Where’d You Go, Bernadette, although I loved Flight Behaviour also. I agree with some other commenters that Bring Up the Bodies has a good chance of winning, but I prefer Wolf Hall. NW disappointed me, although I liked the ending. Of the two I haven’t yet read, May We Be Forgiven and Life After Life, I’m most looking forward to the latter. We’ve only just received copies at my library system and already there are nearly 200 people on the waiting list.

  15. Jen

    I’ve read the first ‘chapter’ of ‘Life After Life’ thanks to the new Random House App (yay!) and would like to give that one a go. It’s quite intriguing – I think it could be a contender. I’m also in the beginnings of ‘Where’d You Go Bernadatte?’ and as I’m reading it directly after ‘Gone Girl’ I think I need to put it aside for a more atmospheric (calmer?) read… Not sure which one to pick next though.

  16. I have just started We May Be Forgiven and what a great opening chapter and draws you in immediately. I also have both Life After Life and Bring Up The Bodies on my TBR. I may also read Flight. Behaviour at a later date as The Poisonwood Bible is one of my all time favourites.

  17. Bet

    Very late to this party, but can’t resist joining in: I normally love Zadie Smith but couldn’t get into NW. I read Flight Behavior and kept with it because I enjoyed the story, but when Barbara Kingsolver has a message, she beats her readers over the head with it, and I think that is a major flaw in this book. I am currently about half-way through Life After Life and I think this is Kate Atkinson’s BEST EVER!

  18. Elizabeth Taylor

    No one seems to have noticed that you keep misspelling A. M. Homes. Give her a break.

    • Oops. I was so sure it was Holmes I went and checked again. You’re right and I apologise, I can only think of Sherlock when any Homes or Holmes is mentioned it seems 😉

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