Bernardine Evaristo's Booker-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton) and Hilary Mantel's final novel in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror & The Light (Fourth Estate), have been shortlisted for 2020's £30,000 Women's Prize for Fiction.
Evaristo and Mantel compete on the six-strong shortlist alongside Angie Cruz, Natalie Haynes, Maggie O’ Farrell and Jenny Offill.
Cruz is shortlisted for Dominicana (John Murray), a story of a teenage migrant in 1960s New York, loosely inspired by her mother; Haynes for her retelling of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective, A Thousand Ships (Mantle); O'Farrell for her first historical novel, Hamnet (Headline), reimagining the story of Shakespeare's son, who died aged 11; and Offill for her third novel, Weather (Granta), reflecting on modern life.
Other Booker-winning contenders on the longlist who did not make the final cut were Margaret Atwood and Anne Enright; also missing out were all six debuts formerly in the running, including Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Wildfire) and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (Trapeze).
Mantel, whose novel The Mirror & The Light shifted more than 100,000 copies in a week, has been shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction three times before now, for Beyond Black, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Evaristo meanwhile won the Orange Prize Youth Panel award in 2009, for her novel Blonde Roots.
Martha Lane Fox, who was chair of the judges pictured, said choosing the shortlist had been "tough", reporting "passions ran high" during the judging process. Assisting her on the panel were writers Scarlett Curtis, Viv Groskop and Paula Hawkins, and Melanie Eusebe, co-founder of the Black British Business Awards.
"We are all living in challenging, sad and complex times so incredible stories provide hope, a moment of escape and a point of connection now more than ever," said Fox. "Choosing the shortlist was tough—we went slowly and carefully and passions ran high—just as you would want in such a process. But we are all so proud of these books—all readers will find solace if they pick one up."
For its 25th year, the prize has been celebrating the milestone with a digital book club, #ReadingWomen, asking readers to take on the challenge of reading each of the previous Women’s Prize-winning novels ahead of a public vote choosing a "Winner of Winners".
The prize is next planning to host a "deep dive into the six shortlisted books" and a "behind-the-scenes look at the judging process" via video conferencing platform Zoom on 6th May with Women’s Prize founder director Kate Mosse. Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s shortlist readings have been postponed and will now be held at the Southbank Centre on 8th September 2020. Tickets can be purchased from the Southbank Centre website from 27th April.
The award ceremony has been postponed from June to September.
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