Saturday, 16 March 2013

Women's Prize for Fiction 2013 Long-list


Last year, I challenged myself to reading the entirety of the long-list for the Orange Prize.  Needless to say, I failed miserably (I think I got up to 12 in the end), but I read some fantastic books, including the eventual winner, Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles. So I was excited at the announcement of this year's long-list in the week and whilst I'm not going to challenge myself or put myself under any kind of pressure to read all of them, I hope to get through a decent number.  Here are my thoughts on the titles selected:

    

1. The Innocents by Francesca Segal - This is a rewrite of Wharton's 'The Age of Innocence' set in an insular Jewish community in London.  This title was already on my wishlist as I love to read about Jewish culture/history, so I went ahead and reserved it at the library.  I'm number 17 on the list, so I could be waiting a while.
2. N-W by Zadie Smith - I don't know how I haven't read this book yet as 1) I love Zadie Smith and 2) I'm from London, although the North East part rather than the North West. I'm number 1 on the reserve list for this title, so expect a review shortly.  I'm expecting this to make the short-list.
3. Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver - I'm a Kingsolver fan but something about the plot of this one (rural Appalachian mountains, young mother trying to find herself) doesn't appeal to me as much as her other stories have.  But I will read it (I'm number 18 in the list) as I'll be mighty shocked if this isn't short-listed, given that Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna were.

    

4. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - So excited for this book, lots of bloggers I trust have published early reviews stating that it is wonderful.  Who hasn't thought about getting a second chance at life?  My library has a copy on order but the reserve list is ginormous, so I've treated myself to the kindle edition.  I'll be reading this soon.
5. A Trick I Learned From Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge -  This is supposedly a sad yet funny story centered around a funeral home, but it doesn't really appeal to me.  I'll probably give this one a miss.
6. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - This is the one book on the list I've actually read, and I didn't like it. But then, I didn't really like Wolf Hall either.  Mantel has won so many prizes now I would like to see someone else get a look in.

  

7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - I know this book has had rave reviews State-side, but it doesn't appeal to me as I'm not a thriller reader.
8. The People of Forever are not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu - This is about three friends conscripted into the Israeli army.  I've requested it from Netgalley, fingers crossed I'm approved.
9. The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber - A novel in verse about Marlowe actually being Shakespeare - yes please!  I'm number 2 in the reserve list for this, can't wait!

   

10. The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan - I'd love to read this story of a Harvard college reunion, but unfortunately it's not in my library system.  
11. May we be Forgiven by A. M. Homes and 12. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti - I won't be reading these titles.

  

13. Ignorance by Michele Roberts - I've read too many world war two books to be overly excited by this one set in France.  I will read it if it makes the short-list.
14. The Forrests by Emily Perkins - This appears to be a book people love or hate.  I've reserved it so will get to find out soon for myself.
15. Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam - The subtitle of this one is 'Tommie is eleven, David Lamb is fifty-four. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?'  It's not in my local library system yet.

  

16. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman - Another book that was already on my wishlist thanks to rave blogger reviews.  I'll be reading this soon.
17. Honour by Elif Shafak - I already have a Netgalley copy of this story of a Turkish family living in London. I'm going to be reading this with Jo.
18. Where'd you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple - Like Gone Girl, this has had a big impact in the USA.  I will probably read it at some point.

  

19. Alife the Unseen by G.Willow Wilson - This is unlike any other book on the list as it's about Arabian hackers.  Therefore, I'm looking forward to reading it!
20. Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany - I would be mightily shocked if this made it to the short-list. I'm giving it a miss.

Have you read any of these books?
Do you intend to?

42 comments:

  1. I have read The Light Between Oceans and loved it. I have The Forrests and Alif the Unseen to read. Out of the rest, I'm probably only interested in reading Life After Life, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid and Mateship with Birds.

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    1. I'm excited for Light Between Oceans and Life After Life. I love Zadie Smith so I'm looking forward to her book too.

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  2. I'm going to attempt to read the longlist, just because I've not tried anything like that before. I'm not looking forward to reading Bring up the Bodies though. Mostly because it means I have to read Wolf Hall too and neither really appeal to me. I'm very excited for Life After Life and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, though, as they both look wonderful!

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    1. I'm going to be cheering you on all the way, Ellie!
      I wasn't a big fan of Wolf Hall but I was definitely in the minority, so you will probably appreciate it more than I did.

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  3. There are some great books here and some I'm still itching to read (my book club wants to do Bernadette this summer and I'm dying!). Can I just say it's really comforting to find another person that isn't crazy for Wolf Hall? I appreciate Mantel as an author, but I tried to read it several times and couldn't get over the strange first/third person language.

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    1. I'm glad to find someone who didn't love Wolf Hall too. It was my first Mantel and I'm not exactly encouraged to read anything else of hers...

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  4. I've read Gone Girl, The Forrests and Ignorance. I too am dependent on what the library has on its shelves so there will be several I won't be reading. I'm looking forward Life After Life which is still on order, also have The Innocents on hold and expect to have it this week and yesterday I found The Red Book (isn't that a gorgeous cover) sitting on the shelf so will start with that one. Alif the Unseen I'm not sure is the sort of thing I'll like but I might try it and I did enjoy Wolf Hall and will read Bring Up the Bodies at some point but not really in the mood for Tudor history right now.

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    1. You will get The Innocents before me, I'm jealous!
      If you liked Wolf Hall, you will like Bring Up the Bodies, they are very similar with the latter being a bit better.

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  5. I really couldn't stand Flight Behavior -- soooo preachy. Delighted to see so many other good books on that list -- The People of Forever are not Afraid and The Forrests in particular. Good luck with your reading of them!

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    1. That's a shame about Flight Behaviour, I usually love Kingsolver, especially her short stories.

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  6. I really loved The Light Between Oceans, and liked both Life After Life and Gone Girl very much. They are the only ones I've read so far. I'm quite interested in reading The People of Forever are Not Afraid, and the Homes book and perhaps Mateship with Birds. I've got Honour on my to be read pile so I ought to get round to that too. I've heard good things about Bernadette from trusted reviewers and have enjoyed Zadie Smith's writing in the past. So there's lots to go at on the list isn't there!

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    1. You're doing better than me, Lindsay, I've only read one.
      I'm pleased with the list this year, last year it was a bit historical fiction heavy so it's good to see more of a mix of genres.

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  7. Hi Sam,
    I have The Innocents and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid on my list. I can send you my copy of The Red Book if you would like it - I read and reviewed this, but it's not one I'll be keeping and re-reading (I think I said that in my post. If you'd like to email me your postal address, I'll send it - karenafinch at gmail dot com

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    1. The two titles you mention are two I'm very much looking forward to as well.
      And you have mail :)

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  8. Oooh I posted similarly recently although I did say I wanted to read them all...I have read 2.5 so far so maybe it's achievable? Particularly looking forward to Life after Life like you and am really enjoying Honour.
    The two I've read are Gone Girl and N.W both of which I would hugely recommend to everybody everywhere!
    Happy reading :)

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    1. It's definitely achievable and I will be cheering you on!
      Glad you are enjoying Honour, I'm going to read my library ones first and then turn to review copies. Good luck!

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  9. I'm most interested about two books in this year's list - Where'd you go, Bernadette? (which I loved immensely) and Life After Life (which I can't wait to read)! I think this year's list is really amazing!

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    1. Life After Life is supposed to be very good. I agree that it's a good selection of books this year.

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  10. Some of the books sound really interesting. The book club I belong to just read the Lights Between Oceans, and we all enjoyed it. Certainly at times you may not like some of the characters, it is a roller coaster of emotions. This month we are supposed to read Flight Behavior.

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    1. Glad you liked Light Between Oceans, you'll have to let me know what you think of Flight Behaviour.

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  11. I'm going to try to read several of them so I can participate in a little personal vote, but I'm not going to put any pressure on myself to finish them all.

    So far, I've read Bring Up the Bodies, which I loved. And I'm currently working on Lamb. So far, I'm enjoying the writing, but I find the subject rather disturbing. :( Depending on how it ends, it could get a good rating from me, though.

    If you check out my blog later this month, I'll probably have the review up...if you're interested. :)

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    1. I like guessing the shortlist and winner too - last year I got the shortlist all wrong but did correctly predict the winner.

      Lamb intrigues me, I know the subject matter is disturbing but it could still be a good book. I'll be watching for your review :)

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  12. I need to write my own post like this, but I'm curious why you won't read the Homes? I read a galley of Alif the Unseen quite some time ago, and if you have ever read fiction by Cory Doctorow, or Ready Player One, I think you'll find similarities there. I've definitely pushed it on my speculative fiction reader friends.

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    1. I just don't like Homes, it's an irrational prejudice as I've never actually read any of her books - I just think they sound a bit boring.

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  13. I did like Wolf Hall so I'm still planning to read Bring Up the Bodies. I've read Gone Girl and while it was a thriller for sure, I'm still stunned to see it on these lists. I was looking forward to reading Flight Behavior, but now I'm not sure :(

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    1. If you liked Wolf Hall you will love BUTB, I thought it was better but still didn't like it, even though I wanted to.
      I'm still excited for Flight Behaviour as I like most Kingsolver books. So far the only one that hasn't blown me away is The Lacuna, but it was still a good read.

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  14. I've read two of these books, but have another 6 on my shelf waiting for me. I'm not too sure about this list, there are some interesting books but it feels more like a popularity contest rather than a literary award (I know they are the same thing but I want to discover great literature not be reminded on what's popular).

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    1. I'm quite pleased with the list. Last year's was heavily biased towards historical fiction so I'm pleased to see more unusual titles like Alif the Unseen make the long-list.
      The Orange Prize has always been quite populist, it's one of the reasons I like it over the Booker.

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  15. I couldn't finish Wolf Hall (very rare that I put a book down midway...actually, almost unheard of). Needless to say I'll be giving Mantel a miss!

    I LOVED The Forrests and Mateship with Birds - both incredibly different and both in mt top books of 2012. I was thrilled that they were both included.

    I've also read The Innocents. Hated it (you can see why if you want to check out my review... http://booksaremyfavouriteandbest.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/the-innocents-by-francesca-segal/

    I have a few more in my TBR stack, notably The Light Between the Oceans and The Red Book. Might wait for the shortlist to see what else to tackle before the winner is announced!

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    1. Glad someone else wasn't blown away by Wolf Hall. Bring up the Bodies was better, but I still didn't appreciate it in the way most other readers seem to!

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  16. I have started Honour this morning, and it looks promising Sam. I am glad to read this with you. I am hoping that my review copy would be approved for People who are Forever are not Afraid but I have reserved this through the library (will be paying 50p in the process) as well, just in case my copy is not approved. :( I saw Marlowe Paper sitting at the shelf yesterday and somehow it didn't appeal to me.

    I have pleaded to my library yesterday that they set their display for the longlist as soon as possible please! :D I have finished Alif The Unseen today and must warn it is a fantasy novel, fun but not sure if it will get into the shortlist.

    I look forward to read Flight Behaviour and Life After Life and don't mind Gone Girl, except the reservation queue is too long.

    Enjoy your longlist read Sam! Always so nice to have you to compare notes with. :)

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    1. I'm hoping to get approved too, especially as my library system doesn't have a back-up.
      I like fantasy at the moment so I'm looking forward to Alif the Unseen, it's good to see something unusual make the long-list.

      Looking forward to comparing notes :)

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  17. Ooh ooh, I love this post! I love book lists and award lists and LISTS! :) Out of the books on this list that I've read my favorites were probably Bring up the Bodies (sorry you didn't like it!) and Where'd You Go Bernadette. (Funny and smart and did I mention funny?)

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  18. The only one I've read is The Light Between Oceans, and it LOVED it. There was a lot of crying on my part too. So many of the books on this list are on my wishlist :)

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    1. So many people have loved it, it'll definitely be one of the first I read.

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  19. You've given me some great reading ideas, not that I needed more. The only one here I've read is Gone Girl, and I really liked it. I'm not much of a thriller reader either but this one is pretty different.

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    1. You can never have too many reading ideas! :P

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  20. I would love to read through this list, just to see what is considered the best fiction by women of the year and also get exposure to some new authors but...grad school...yeah. Maybe next year!

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  21. I managed to read 18 of the 20 longlisted titles last year, but I'm not feeling quite the same level of enthusiasm this year. All of the titles appeal to me (except Bring Up the Bodies, which I feel more like I *should* read than I *want* to read), but I've been enjoying a more relaxed reading schedule based on my whims!

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  22. If you're going to pick up one of the really popular ones, I would definitely suggest Where'd You Go Bernadette over Gone Girl. I'm really excited to read Life After Life and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid.

    I thought about reading a bunch of the nominees and winners of this prize, but decided to go with the Pen/Hemingway award winners instead. I think that most of the books included here get a lot of attention anyway - I probably would have read some of them without them making the long list!

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  23. My hold on Gone Girl just came in, so I'll probably read it soon. I'm not a thriller reader either, but so many people are raving about it that I feel like it will be worth it. Before I Go To Sleep was also categorized as a thriller, and I really enjoyed that one.

    Where'd You Go, Bernadette (at least the first 3/4) was GREAT. So funny! But I am a Seattle-ite and very familiar with a lot of what she writes about, so I'm probably a bit biased.

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