The Women’s Prize, set up in 1996, celebrates ‘excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world’. Our first ever blog at CCB was about the Women’s Prize and it holds a special place in our hearts. Like last year, we are undertaking the Women’s Prize shortlist reading challenge, aiming to read as many of the shortlist as possible before the winner is announced. On the 5th June (the day before the winner is announced on June 6th) the CCB Book Group will gather to debate our favourites to win.
This year’s shortlist features one previously shortlisted author and three debut novels, chosen judges: Sarah Sands, Anita Anand, Katy Brand, Catherine Mayer and Imogen Stubbs.
The Idiot | Elif Batuman
Set in 1995, this is the story of Selin, a Harvard student, daughter of Turkish immigrants. Selin, a tall, highly strung Turkish-American from New Jersey, arrives at Harvard and finds herself dangerously overwhelmed by the challenges and possibilities of adulthood. Selin ponders profound questions about how culture and language shape who we are, how difficult it is to be a failed writer, and how baffling love is. At once clever and clueless, she shows us with perfect hilarity and soulful inquisitiveness just how messy it can be to forge a self as she comes to terms with a first love and is drawn into being a writer.
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock | Imogen Hermes Gowar
One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.
Sight | Jessie Greengrass
A compassionate and philosophical novel about the progress to motherhood, while remembering the death of her own mother, and the childhood summers she spent with her psychoanalyst grandmother. Woven among these personal recollections are significant events in medical history. What emerges is the realisation that while the search for understanding might not lead us to an absolute truth, it is an end in itself. Being a parent, being a child and seeing your parents for all their flaws; about growing up and trying to come to terms with existing in a world where your parents, your only constant in that world, are no longer there.
When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife | Meena Kandasamy
A provocative novel of an abusive marriage. The unnamed narrator, seduced by politics, poetry and an enduring dream of building a better world together, falls in love with a university professor. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of an obedient wife, bullying her and devouring her ambition of being a writer . This novel is a dissection of what love means when trust is undermined by violence.
Home Fire | Kamila Shamsie
Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about her siblings. Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide.
Sing, Unburied, Sing | Jesmyn Ward
A tragic story about an African American family challenged with dissolution. Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the State Penitentiary. An archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America that examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.
To find out more about our reading challenge drop into the shop or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.