Three debut novelists have been nominated for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Elif Batuman’s The Idiot is about an unlikely, perhaps unrequited, university love story between Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, and an older student from Hungary, Ivan. Set in the 1990s, it plays out largely over email, with the reader unsure what is real and what is imagined.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jessie Greengrass’s The Sight, which features a nameless narrator ruminating on her pregnancy after the death of her mother.
Imogen Hermes Gowar’s The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is the last debut on the list, a novel set in Georgian London in the world of freak shows and brothels, where a mermaid is discovered and displayed.
Rounding out the list are Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Meena Kandasamy’s When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife.
‘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,’ said Sarah Sands, Chair of 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.’
The winner will be awarded £30,000 at a ceremony in Central London on 6 June.