Hannah Rothschild has a chance to become the second two-time winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, though the House of Trelawney (Bloomsbury) author faces stiff competition from a 2020 shortlist which includes Matthew Dooley's Flake (Cape), the first graphic novel to make the final six in the award's 20-year history.
Jenny Offill's Weather (Granta)—about a women lurching lucklessly through Trump's America—is also on the list, meaning the American is the first author to ever be shortlisted for both the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse and the Women's Prize for Fiction in the same year.
Three of the six shortlistees are from independent presses, two from Granta—Weather and Michigan native Jessica Francis Kane's Rules for Visiting—plus Alastair Puddick's novel of "jealousy, muddy shoes and giant barbecues", 46% Better than Dave, published by London-based Raven Crest Books.
The sole debut on the list is County Meath native Oisín Fagan's Nobber (John Murray Press), set in the 14th century when a nobleman and his three retainers arrive in the small town of Nobber, Ireland at the height of the plague in order to buy property on the cheap.
David Campbell, publisher of Everyman's Library and one of this year's judges, said: "The judges were all very pleased to have been able in these harsh times, where humour has never been more important, to select such a very strong shortlist, and in the 20th anniversary of the prize."
With Rothschild, Offill and Francis Kane, women make up half the shortlist of the annual prize which seeks to find the best comic novels that "evoke the Wodehouse spirit of witty characters and perfectly-timed comic phrase". In 2018, the prize was withheld because none of the submitted books were deemed funny enough, which led to sharp criticism from a number of authors, including Marian Keyes, that the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse was very rarely won by a woman and the subsequent launch of the rival Comedy Women in Print Prize. The 2019 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse shortlist had four women and was won by Nina Stibbe's Reasons to be Cheerful (Viking).
This year's winner will be announced on 24th June and awarded the traditional jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année, the complete set of the Everyman’s Library P G Wodehouse collection and a pig to name after the winning novel. Past winners include Helen Fielding (2017), Rothschild (2016), Terry Pratchett (2012) and Howard Jacobson, who took home both the inaugural prize in 2000 for The Mighty Waltzer and in 2013 with Zoo Time.