Hilary Mantel's eagerly awaited The Mirror and the Light (4th Estate), Bernardine Evaristo's Man Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton) and Candice Carty-Williams's acclaimed debut Queenie (Trapeze) are among the 16 titles competing for the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction.
The longlist for the prize, which this year enters its 25th year in celebrating "excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women in English", honours both new and established writers.
There are six debuts in the running. As well as Carty Williams' Queenie, which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, other debuts recognised on the longlist include primary school teacher Luan Goldie's Nightingale Point (HQ), about a block of flats on a London estate; American writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner's Fleishman is in Trouble (Wildfire), about a Manhattan couple undergoing a bitter divorce; Jing-Jing Lee's How We Disappeared (Oneworld), set in a military brothel in Japanese-occupied Singapore; and Claire Lombardo's family saga The Most Fun We Ever Had (W&N).
Vintage's lead debut for the year, Deepa Anappara's Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (Vintage), also has made it onto the longlist. The book, following nine-year-old narrator Jai, who is searching for missing children in his Indian slum, was the subject of a hard-fought auction 18 months ago on the eve of 2018's Frankfurt Book Fair and has since been promoted in an ambitious campaign featuring partnerships with restaurants Dishoom and events with independent bookshops. The author grew up in Kerala and, in May 2018, she won the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers (DRF) Prize for unpublished writers for the book.
The debuts are vying for the prize alongside a number of well-known names, Ann Patchett, a previous winner of the prize, nominated this time for The Dutch House (Bloomsbury), a story of a brother and sister set over 50 years; and Maggie O'Farrell, whose novel Hamnet (Headline), about the death of Shakespeare's 11-year-old son, published 20 years after her own debut.
Man Booker Prize-winner Anne Enright is longlisted for Actress (Jonathan Cape), a novel about fame, sexual power, and a daughter's search to understand her mother's hidden truth while double Man Booker winner Mantel's eagerly awaited The Mirror and the Light (4th Estate) and Evaristo's 2019 Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton) also made the longlist.
Jenny Offill's new novel Weather (Granta) is also in the mix, exploring times of meteorological and political turbulence, as is Girl by Edna O'Brien (Faber & Faber), focused on the plight of a schoolgirl abducted by jihadist group Boko Haram, and Jacqueline Woodson's slim volume Red at the Bone (W&N) that was described as "an epic in miniature" by Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage.
Broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes' retelling the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective, A Thousand Ships (Mantle), and Angie Cruz's Dominicana (John Murray), based loosely on her mother's experiences as an immigrant in the 1960s, are also contenders.
The judges of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction comprise [pictured from left] writer and activist Scarlett Curtis; Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train; businesswoman, philanthropist and public servant Martha Lane Fox in the role of chair; Melanie Eusebe, co-founder of the Black British Business Awards; and author and comedian Viv Groskop.
Fox, said: "Ahead of the longlist meeting I was anxious that the negotiations between judges might be as arduous as Brexit, but it was an absolute delight to pick our final 16 books. Entries for the Prize’s 25th year have been spectacular and we revelled in the variety, depth, humanity and joy of the writing – we hope everyone else will too."
Commenting on the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 longlist, Bea Carvalho, retail partner Waterstones Fiction Buyer, said: "It’s great to see promising new voices rubbing shoulders with some true giants of the genre on such a strong and varied longlist: the inclusion of 2020’s most high profile new publication, The Mirror and the Light, and The Dutch House gives the list real gravitas, and we’re delighted to see bookseller favourites such as Queenie and Fleishman is in Trouble represented too. We’re thrilled to have a new opportunity to talk about all 16 books with our customers."
While pre-orders for The Mirror and the Light continue to rush in ahead of its release on Thursday (5th March), Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other has to date sold the most copies of any competing book on the longlist with 69,904 copies in hardback under its belt to date. Carty-Williams' Queenie has sold 34,048 copies in hardback, and the paperback has sold 21,288 after a month on sale; Brodesser-Akner's Fleishman is in Trouble has sold 22,218 copies in hardback since last June; Enright's The Dutch House has sold 18,442 copies in hardback; O’Brien’s Girl has sold 10,937 in hardback; and Haynes’ A Thousand Ships has sold 7,903 copies in hardback since last May.
Last year, the Prize became the Women’s Prize Trust, following the withdrawal of core Baileys sponsorship in 2017.
The Women’s Prize Trust Showcase, a special fundraising event hosted by NatWest, will take place this evening (3rd March) to celebrate the announcement of the 2020 longlist and the week of International Women’s Day. The tickets for The 2020 Shortlist Readings at the Southbank Centre will go on sale next week.