When the sixteen books on The Women's Prize For Fiction Longlist 2018 were announced back in March, I decided to focus on six of them:
I'd already read "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman, which I thought was wonderful. In my TBR pile I had: The Idiot by Elif Batuman, Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. To those, I added The Trick To Time by Kit De Waal and The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower.
I'm halfway through "The Trick To Time", which is a beautifully written, deeply empathic book about grief and loss. I'm sad to see that neither it nor "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine" made the Shortlist. If these are the ones that DIDN'T make it, then the rest must be remarkable.
In the official announcement today, Sarah Sands, the Chair of the judges said:
“The shortlist was chosen without fear or favour. We lost some big names, with regret, but narrowed down the list to the books which spoke most directly and truthfully to the judges. The themes of the shortlist have both contemporary and lasting resonance encompassing the birth of the internet, race, sexual violence, grief, oh and mermaids. Some of the authors are young, half by Brits and all are blazingly good and brave writers.”
This leaves me with three of my selection in the final six:
I've taken a sneak peek at this one. It sounds fresh and fun and honest. It's a first-person account of a Turkish American going to college all the usual college trauma plus a serving of culture clash on the side.
The publisher blurb says it's:
A novel about the bluffs and blunders of youth and the pleasures and inadequacies of language, The Idiot is a sharply observed and very funny portrait of growing up. Following a Turkish-American student, Selin, as she swims through the academic circles of Harvard, moving from frustrated learning to campus romance, Batuman creates a compelling portrait of a young life in flux . As the Evening Standard affirms it’s, ‘a novel about being young and stupid that’s both wise and clever — and it’s a treat.’
This isn't a book I'd have selected to read purely for pleasure. It's another "Great American Novel / Roadtrip Reboot" dealing with the ugly side of an American culture I already struggle to understand.
Plus I hate the cover (which has now been relaced with something more muted and intellectual).
I bought it because I want to hear what Jesmyn Ward has to say and how she says it. She's strong academic, a multi-prize winning author and was the first woman to win two National Book Awards For Fiction.
The publisher's description is long-winded and flowery - one of those ones where marketing has no idea who will buy this so the shotgun the buy words - you can find it here
The reason this one wasn't already in my TBR pile was that I'd mentally labelled it as magical realism, which is never real and seldom magical and moved on.
Yet I kept seeing good reviews so I read some interviews with Imogen Hermes Gower (like THIS ONE) and liked her focus on the power of obsession and rumour and her vision of a very alien seventeenth-century London.
I don't gamble, but if I did, my money would be on this book to win the prize.