The shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced and nearly got lost in the shuffle, as it was announced the day after Granta’s Best Young British Novelists list. Fortunately for it, there was something of a controversy, as Hilary Mantel was nominated for yet another prize for her book Bring up the Bodies. Some commentators felt that it was time to give other writers a turn but the Prize Chair, Miranda Richardson, forcibly defended the decision. I am with Miranda Richardson on this, not only because I think that she is a first-class actress but also because, if Hilary Mantel has written the best book (and there is no question that it is a brilliant novel), she should win the prize. Just because a football team has won a prize, it is not stopped from winning another. The other controversy was the same old one – why should there be a separate prize for women writers? Answer: too many of the top prizes seem to prefer men (see the Prize FAQ, first question) and, if men feel that they are done down, they can always set up their own prize. End of discussion.
Of the six books on the shortlist, I have read three – Bring up the Bodies, Zadie Smith‘s NW and Kate Atkinson‘s Life After Life (not to be confused with Jill McCorkle’s book of the same name). I had not heard of Maria Semple but plan to read her Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Barbara Kingsolver is one of those writers that I have always felt that I might read but probably would never get round to but this may make me change my mind, not least as I have a copy of The Poisonwood Bible in my library. She won the Orange Prize (predecessor of this prize) in 2010. A M Homes is one of those writers on the sadly very long list of writers I really must read but have not yet got round to. In short, this is a very strong list and while Hilary Mantel must be a strong favourite, she does have some good competition.