For a while, the Orange Prize was in jeopardy. Orange and the prize parted ways, but it became privately funded, and is now known as the Women's Prize for Fiction. Same idea, same focus, and I'm so glad it is still around!
The nominees for the longlist were recently announced, and you know how I love a good list! I'll break it down into three categories - book I've read, books I'd heard of but haven't read yet, and "never heard of this in my life" books. That last category is what I love about the Women's Prize for Fiction - I'm always reading female authors I've never heard of before.
Books from the Longlist I've Already Read
1. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson - I got an eARC of this book and immediately started telling all of my science fiction/fantasy reading friends to read it. It's a great story setting a teenage hacker in an unnamed Middle Eastern country during conflict and religious tension. And then he finds a magical book. I am surprised but thrilled to see this on the list.
2. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - She won the Booker prize, again, for her writing about Cromwell, so this was a given. Still not my favorite, but the Tudors are kind of old hat to me. Also on the Tournament of Books list, which is going on right now.
3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Trust me, I avoided it for a while thinking it had to be overrated, but it is one of the best written thrillers I've read. I listened to the audio, highly recommended. Also on the Tournament of Books list, which is going on right now.
4. May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes - I read this because of the Tournament of Books, but had read previous books by the author. I thought the writing was great - dark and humorous, but seem to like it more than some people.
5. The Forrests by Emily Perkins - I'm surprised to see this here and don't think it will make the shortlist. New author, I had a galley of it, just didn't think it knew what it wanted to be. Set in New Zealand though, which was a nice change.
6. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman - I didn't know this author was female, but I enjoyed the story of the lighthousekeeper (on a remote island in Australia) and his wife, and their sad story.
7. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple - The conflict of abandoned expectations and dot.com suburbia, plus a trip to Antarctica. Kind of zany and not ultimately successful in my mind. Also on the Tournament of Books list, which is going on right now.
Of the books I've read, I expect the Mantel, Flynn, Homes, and Semple to advance to the shortlist, and hope the Wilson will too.
Books I'd Heard of but Haven't Read Yet
8. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver - True to my pattern, it always takes me a few years to get to Kingsolver's books. A few, ha. I still haven't read the Poisonwood Bible.
9. Honor (Honour) by Elif Shafak - I actually have a copy of this already, because it is by a Turkish author and I'm reading a heck of a lot of Turkish lit this year. Score!
10. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti - This was on the Tournament of Books list, but I overlooked it somehow. From all accounts, I will either be completely annoyed or entertained by the style. Time will tell.
11. NW by Zadie Smith - Once I sit down and read Zadie, I usually like her, I just haven't taken the time with NW yet. I was more excited when I thought it was about the Pacific northwest, but London is interesting too.
12. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - I'm still hoping to rediscover the Atkinson I loved so much in Emotionally Weird, that has slipped beneath the surface a bit in her other books. This one sounds darker and worth a shot.
Books That Were Complete Unknowns
13. A Trick I Learned from Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge - funeral homes, familes, sounds a bit like Six Feet Under. I'm interested enough to try it.
14. Ignorance by Michele Roberts - The author is English-French, and the novel sounds like a period piece.
15. Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam - I was immediately turned off by the phrase "narcissistic middle aged man" in the description. Everyone knows that is my pet peeve in novels and in life. Unless it makes the shortlist, I'll skip it.
16. Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany - Seems to be Australian maybe, with the kookaburras. Never heard of the author, sounds like a quick read.
17. The Innocents by Francesca Segal - I'm almost never a fan of the "resetting" or "retooling" of classic novels, so I'd probably skip this one unless it made the shortlist.
18. The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber - Too bad this isn't Phillip Marlowe, or I might be more interested. The entire novel written in verse? Sounds like work. But it also sounds unique among the longlisted books. I'm torn.
19. The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu - A story of female friends who join the Israeli army, sounds different and I'm interested.
20. The Red Book by Deborak Copaken Kogan - Friends from Harvard, 20 years later, not too interested in this one, sounds more like a ladies who lunch kind of story.
There you are, my impressions on a very long longlist. I hope to have time to read a couple more before the shortlist is announced April 16, and definitely before the winner is crowned June 5th!