Nina Stibbe and Roddy Doyle have been nominated for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, on a shortlist that is dominated by women.
The annual contest returns this year after last year’s prize was withheld because none of the books were deemed funny enough. This year’s shortlist includes four female writers and comes after the Comedy Women in Print Prize was launched amid criticism from Marian Keyes that the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse was very rarely won by a woman.
Stibbe, praised by judges as a “comic magician”, made the shortlist for the third time Reasons to be Cheerful (Viking), the third instalment of her series of novels detailing the life of Lizzie Vogel.
Also notching up a third nod is Lissa Evans with her eighth novel, Old Baggage (Transworld), described by the panel as “a brilliant evocation of the suffragettes’ great struggles and a great comedy”.
Veteran author Doyle, meanwhile, appears on the list for the first time with his “belly-achingly funny, surprisingly optimistic and heart-warming novel” Charlie Savage (Vintage), telling the tales of a middle-aged Dubliner.
Kate Davies is in the running with her debut novel for adults, In at the Deep End (The Borough Press), a “hilarious exploration” of a woman’s sexual awakening. She is joined by American novelist Jen Beagin with her second book Vacuum in the Dark (Oneworld), telling the adventures of a 26-year-old cleaning lady named Mona.
Completing the list is New Zealander Paul Ewen for Francis Plug: Writer in Residence (Galley Beggar Press), a “joyous” portrayal of the international literary scene which references the prize.
Pippa Evans joined the judging panel with fellow comedian Sindhu Vee, broadcaster and author James Naughtie, Everyman’s Library publisher David Campbell, and vice president of the Hay Festival and Director of National Trust Wales Justin Albert. They selected books which made them laugh out loud from 71 submissions at the family-run house of Champagne Bollinger in Ay, France.
The winner will be announced during the Hay Festival, which runs from 23rd May to 2nd June.
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