Six debut authors, including bookseller Fiona Mozley, Gail Honeyman and Imogen Hermes Gowar, have been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.
Hermes Gowar’s longlisted historical novel The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was inspired by the artefacts its 30-year-old author was surrounded by while working in museums and became Harvill Secker's lead début fiction title for 2018 after the publisher won a 10-way auction. Only published last month, it is joined in the line-up by two first novels already recognised by major prizes: York bookseller Mozley’s debut Elmet (John Murray), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins), winner of the Costa First Novel Award.
The 16 nominations - more than two thirds of which are devoted to debuts and second novels - were revealed on Thursday (8th March), judged by Sarah Sands, editor of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Programme, TV journalist Anita Anand, writer and comedian Katie Brand, Catherine Mayer, co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party, and actress Imogen Stubbs.
Sarah Schmidt’s retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders, See What I Have Done (Tinder Press), already optioned for TV, is another of the first-time novels to have made this year’s longlist. It features alongside Elif Batuman’s debut The Idiot (Jonathan Cape), a book exploring the relationship between a Turkish American linguistics student and a cosmopolitan Serb, and Jessie Greengrass’ Sight (John Murray), in which a woman recounts her progress to motherhood, while remembering the death of her own mother and the childhood summers she spent in the company of her psychoanalyst grandmother.
Five second novels are also competing for the prize, including Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Hamish Hamilton) - the author's first work of fiction since The God of Small Things won the Booker prize almost 20 years ago. She is joined by Meena Kandasamy, who is longlisted for When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife (Atlantic), about a young woman who falls for and marries an abusive university professor, and Charmaine Craig, who will compete for the prize with Miss Burma (Grove Press), an epic novel based on her mother’s life, telling the story of modern-day Burma. Other second novels on the longlist are from recent bestselling debut writers: Three Things About Elsie (The Borough Press), the second novel from The Trouble With Goats and Sheep author Joanna Cannon and The Trick to Time (Viking), by My Name Is Leon author Kit de Waal.
Altogether Penguin Random House has five titles nominated, Hachette has five, HarperCollins two, while independent publishers make up four. Alongside Atlantic's and Grove Press', Bloomsbury Circus has Kamila Shamsie in the running, nominated for her seventh novel Home Fire and Jesmyn Ward, who is longlisted for her third novel Sing, Unburied, Sing.
The longlist is rounded off by Jennifer Egan’s historical novel Manhattan Beach (Corsair), A Boy in Winter (Virago) by Rachel Seiffert, who was longlisted for the Orange/ Baileys Prize for her second and third novels, and by Man Booker shortlisted author Nicola Barker’s novel H(A)PPY (William Heinemann), which won the Goldsmiths Prize 2017 for experimental fiction.
Altogether nine Brits have made the cut, four US writers, two Indian writers and one Australian.
The judging panel L-R Anita Anand, Sarah Sands (Chair), Imogen Stubbs, Katy Brand and Catherine Mayer
Sands, in the role of chair of judges, said the longlist came out of "a Chequers style meeting where different views were accommodated and peace reigned, at least for now”.
She added: “What is striking about the list, apart from the wealth of talent, is that women writers refuse to be pigeon-holed. We have searing social realism, adventure, comedy, poetic truths, ingenious plots and unforgettable characters. Women of the world are a literary force to be reckoned with.”
The 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction, this year was supported by three partners, Natwest, Deloitte and Baileys, and will be awarded on 6th June 2018 at an awards ceremony in central London. The winner will receive an anonymously endowed cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze figurine known as a ‘Bessie’, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven.