Women's Prize for Fiction 2023 Longlist Announced
Last night marked one of the most notable dates on the Rare Birds calendar - the Women’s Prize for Fiction announced their 2023 longlist.
In the capable hands of judges’ Chair Louise Minchin, plus judges Rachel Joyce, Bella Mackie, Irenosen Okojie and Tulip Siddiq, comes a curated list of this year’s most defining, disruptive and innovative works of literature.
Whether you've gone 16/16 on this year's list or the titles have managed to slip under your radar, here's a breakdown of the who's who and what's what of the 2023 longlist.
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Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh
An unremarkable and often-times ignored baker’s wife falls under the spell of the shiny new couple who have just moved into her small town. As she immerses herself more and more into the couple's lives, under the town’s tranquil surface strange things start to happen. Widowers see spectres of their dead husbands. Six horses are found dead in a sun-drenched field.
A dark intoxication is spreading through the town, and when Elodie finally understands her role in it, it will be too late to stop.
Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova
Holly applies for a job as an usher at Paradise, one of the city’s oldest cinemas. Just another job, she shows up, sweeps the aisles and cleans the toilets. While here, she finds herself on the outside of the other oddball group of ushers who work there.
When she finally gains their approval and is welcomed into the fray, Holly transforms from silent loner to rebellious insider, uncovering the cinema's history and haunting its halls after-hours. Holly finally feeling like she belongs. That is until violence strikes, and the foundations of Paradise fracture from within.
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
Winter, 1561. Lucrezia is the 16-year old Duchess of Ferrera, whisked away on a trip to a remote villa in the country by her husband, the Duke.
The tranquility of her retreat is shattered when Lucrezia comes to the chilling realisation that her husband intends to kill her. What is Lucrezia to do to ensure her survival against one of the country’s most powerful men?
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Supplanting the grit and heart of Charles Dickens’ Victorian London into Kingsolver’s American South, we follow our protagonist in a fight for survival after being born into a world where luck isn’t on his side.
Reckoning with poverty, foster-care, addiction, love and loss, this is the story of of Demon in his fight to not be left behind.
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
The daily news is plagued by news of car bombings that even her seven-year-old students can’t be kept from. A chance encounter in a Belfast pub that could lead to love has no hope of remaining untouched by violence.
This story follows Cushla, a schoolteacher in Belfast wanting to live an ordinary life in extraordinary times.
Pod by Laline Paull
Written from the perspective of Ea, a dolphin who doesn’t belong in her pod due to her deafness, we follow her story as she exiles herself into the deep ocean. Trying to find peace in solitude, her loneliness is disrupted by a chance encounter with a group of arrogant bottlenoses will irrevocably alter the course of her life.
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
For Geeta, life as a widow is more peaceful than life as a wife… Until the other women in her village decide they want to be widows, too.
Geeta was rumoured to have killed her husband - a rumour she never bothered to squash due to the reputation she can safely hide behind.
But when she reluctantly helps one woman rid of her abusive husband, this sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of the women in her village.
Homesick by Jennifer Croft
A coming-of-age story following two homeschooled girls, Amy and Zoe, in Oklahoma. As Zoe wrestles with a debilitating illness, Amy flourishes in her studies, taking special interest in the power of language and the healing nature of words.
Amy encounters first loves in the form of languages and her Russian tutor, Sasha. But when she earns a place at university aged 15, the trajectory of her life is altered when tragedy strikes.
The Dog of The North by Elizabeth McKenzie
Freshly divorced, Penny must return to Santa Barbara to deal with her grandfather, who has been put into a home by his cruel wife. Her grandmother has been found wielding a weapon called ‘the scintillator’, and with something even worse in her shed. With no help from her still-missing parents, Penny must navigate the curveballs life has thrown at her
Enter her saving grace: The Dog of The North. Penny sets out in the Dog, a renovated van that might just be the key to Penny finding the answers, and herself along the way.
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
Miriam flees her hot-tempered husband with her two daughters, Joan and Mya, back to her hometown of Memphis.
Joan was a child when she last visited the bustle and colour of Beale Street. Memphis has changed since Joan’s grandparents lived there. Streets once filled with the beat of protest and blues, now echo with gunfire. But Joan still looks for the beauty in this city, in its people – and she realises that to make a future for herself, she must find her own song to sing.
Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes
Medusa is the sole mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her Gorgon sisters, she begins to realise that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt. And her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.
When Medusa attempts to avenge herself after witnessing a terrible act committed by Poseidon, she is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. The power cannot be controlled: Medusa can look at nothing without destroying it. She is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness.
Until Perseus embarks upon a quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon…
Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks
Yamaye lives for the weekend - the epicentre of her friendship group being the underground nightclub, The Crypt.
The trajectory of her life changes one day when she meets and falls in love with Moose who offers her the chance of escape.
When their relationship is brutally cut short, Yamaye goes on a dramatic journey of transformation that takes her first to Bristol – where she is caught up in a criminal gang and the police riots sweeping the country – and then to Jamaica, where past and present collide with explosive consequences.
Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin
After the final departure of America’s soldiers from Vietnam, siblings Anh, Thanh and Minh flee for Hong Kong in one boat, and their parents and four younger siblings flee in another boat. Only one reaches its destination.
Left without a family and a home, Anh, Thanh and Minh navigate refugee camps and resettlement centres until, by a twist of fate, they arrive in Thatcher’s Britain. Here they must somehow build new lives with only each other to turn to, but will that be enough in a place that doesn’t seem to want them?
Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris
Sarajevo, spring 1992. Each night, nationalist gangs erect barricades, splitting the diverse city into ethnic enclaves; each morning, the residents – whether Muslim, Croat or Serb – push the makeshift barriers aside.
Zora, an artist and teacher, is focused on her family, her students, her studio in the old town. But when violence finally spills over, she sees that she must send her husband and elderly mother to safety with her daughter in England. Reluctant to believe that hostilities will last more than a handful of weeks, she stays behind.
As the city falls under siege and everything they loved is laid to waste, black ashes floating over the rooftops, Zora and her friends are forced to rebuild themselves, over and over.
I’m A Fan by Sheena Patel
We follow the story of an unnamed narrator’s involvement in a seemingly unequal romantic relationship.
What follows are startling observations of the connections between power struggles at the heart of human relationships to those in the wider world, offering a devastating critique of social media, access and patriarchal systems.
Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
Glory follows the story of a country seemingly trapped in a cycle as old as time, reminding us that the glory of tyranny only lasts as long as its victims are willing to let it.
Glory centers around the unexpected fall of Old Horse, a long-serving leader of a fictional country, and the drama that follows for a rumbustious nation of animals on the path to true liberation. Inspired by the unexpected fall of Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, by coup, Bulawayo's bold, vividly imagined novel shows a country imploding, narrated by a chorus of animal voices who unveil the ruthlessness and cold strategy required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, and the imagination and bullet-proof optimism to overthrow it completely.