Susanna Clarke has been chosen as the winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction with Piranesi, a book I haven’t read yet but that I definitely want to. I don’t tend to pay much attention to literary prizes, to be honest. However, the enthusiasm that so many readers show for the Women’s Prize usually makes me at least want to know who has won and what the book in question is about.
Having taken a quick look at the prize’s website, I discovered that I’ve read three of the previous winners and am interested in reading not only Piranesi, but also other four in the future. None of the books ended up on my wish list because they were the winners of this particular prize. It was either the premise or the general work of the authors that first appealed to me.
Winners I Read
A fictional story about the events surrounding the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, Hamnet was a worthy winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. The feelings of the characters are tangible and duly intense. Agnes’s suffering in particular is poignantly portrayed. Set mainly around 1596, this book about grief, parenthood, love and family life also has some chapters set in previous decades, which allows readers to learn more about the characters and better understand their actions.
Although The Power has an interesting premise, it slightly disappointed me. This speculative fiction book, which won the prize in 2017, revolves around what happens throughout the world when girls start to have the power to electrocute people with their hands. Unfortunately, it lacks character development, mainly because it consists of too many points of view for its length.
Despite delving into gloomy topics, the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016 is often effortlessly funny. Through the story of five characters (Ryan, Maureen, Jimmy, Tony and Georgie), whose paths cross after Maureen inadvertently kills a man, Lisa McInerney delved into dysfunctional families, Ireland’s religiosity, prostitution and drug dealing. The characters are the best asset of the book, as they feel genuine. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy its follow-up, The Blood Miracles, nowhere near as much.
Winners I Want to Read
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
There seems to be a dreamlike quality to Piranesi. The main character lives in a house full of wonders, which include labyrinths, statues and upper halls from where he can see the clouds. Although he sees his friend, the Other, two times a week, Piranesi spends most of his time by himself. One day messages start appearing on the pavements.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018 has been on my wish list for a couple of years. After the death of her mother, Isma had to focus on raising her two younger siblings. When she finally manages to go study in America, she continues to worry about them. While her sister lives in London, her brother, who wanted to become a jihadist, has disappeared.
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
Ali Smith won the prize in 2015 with a book set in two different time periods. How to Be Both is about a Renaissance artist of the 1460s and a teenage girl from the 21st century. How are the two connected?
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
After cherishing Circe by Madeline Miller, I was certain that I had to read The Song of Achilles, which was the winner of the Women’s Prize in 2012. This Ancient Greek myth retelling focuses on Achilles and his relationship with Patroclus while they fight in the Trojan wars.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which won the prize in 2007, is about the end of colonialism, class, race and ethnic allegiances. It mainly focuses on four characters: a boy from a deprived village, a professor at a university, the lover of the professor and an English teacher.
Which Women’s Prize for Fiction winners have you read? Are you happy with this year’s winner? Tell me in the comments!