Barbara Kingsolver Becomes The First Double Winner Of The Women’s Prize

By Olivia Emily

11 months ago

Plus: inside the 2023 shortlist with Louise Minchin and Irenosen Okojie

Barbara Kingsolver has bagged her second Women’s Prize For Fiction for her novel, Demon Copperhead, becoming the first author to ever win the prestigious prize twice. Unanimously chosen by the judges to win the 2023 prize, the news follows Kingsolver’s 2010 win for The Lacuna.

Authors Barbara Kingsolver, Jacqueline Crooks, Priscilla Morris, Laline Paull, Louise Kennedy and Maggie O’Farrell attend the 2023 Women's Prize For Fiction Winner's Ceremony

(L-R) Authors Barbara Kingsolver, Jacqueline Crooks, Priscilla Morris, Laline Paull, Louise Kennedy and Maggie O’Farrell attend the 2023 Women’s Prize For Fiction Winner’s Ceremony, taking place at Bedford Square Gardens, London. © Ian West/PA Wire.

Chair of Judges and author and journalist Louise Minchin says: ‘Barbara Kingsolver has written a towering, deeply powerful and significant book. In a year of outstanding fiction by women, we made a unanimous decision on Demon Copperhead as our winner. Brilliant and visceral, it is storytelling by an author at the top of her game.

‘We were all deeply moved by Demon, his gentle optimism, resilience and determination despite everything being set against him,’ says Minchin. ‘An exposé of modern America, its opioid crisis and the detrimental treatment of deprived and maligned communities, Demon Copperhead tackles universal themes – from addiction and poverty, to family, love, and the power of friendship and art – it packs a triumphant emotional punch, and it is a novel that will withstand the test of time.’

Since 1996, The Women’s Prize has been recognising women of any nationality for their English-language novels, published in the UK in the preceding year. The original inspiration for the award was the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist, a collection of six books written by men, despite the fact that 60 percent of the novels published that year were penned by women.

Over 30 years later, the Women’s Prize is one of the most prestigious literary prizes across the globe. The 2023 shortlist landed in April, whittling down the longlist of 16 books to only six exceptional titles, ahead of Kingsolver being announced as the winner at a live ceremony at London’s Bedford Square Gardens on 14 June 2023. In episode #118 of Break Out Culture, Ed Vaizey and Charlotte Metcalf delved into the shortlist with head judge Louise Minchin along with one of her five co-judges, award-winning novelist Irenosen Okojie MBE. Listen below, or click here to find the episode on different platforms.

The Women’s Prize 2023 Shortlist

Now in its 28th year, the Women’s Prize recognises a mixture of new and noteworthy authors in its 2023 selections. ‘This is an exquisite set of ambitious, diverse, thoughtful, hard-hitting and emotionally engaging novels; a glittering showcase of the power of women’s writing,’ says said broadcaster Louise Minchin on the announcement. Louise is the chair of the judging panel which, in 2023, is also made up of: novelist Rachel Joyce; journalist, podcaster and writer Bella Mackie; novelist and short story writer Irenosen Okojie; and Tulip Siddiq, MP.

My fellow judges and I feel it has been a huge privilege to read these novels, and we are delighted to be part of their journey, bringing them to the attention of more readers from across the world,’ says Louise.

According to the Women’s Prize, judges are asked to consider the Prize’s key criteria, ‘accessibility, originality and excellence in writing by women’, and to ‘forget about reviews, publicity spends, an author’s previous reputation, the sense of “who deserves it” and choose simply on the basis of novels that inspire them, move them, make them think – and that they admire and enjoy!’.

Commending writing from women across the globe (according to the Women’s prize, ‘Any woman writing in English – whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter – is eligible.’), this year’s shortlist is made up of four Brits, one American, and one Irish author. That said, the settings of the shortlisted novels are truly global; budding readers who decide to tackle the whole list will be whisked from former Yugoslavia to Jamaica, across the Indian Ocean and to Italy, over to Virginia and immersed in Ireland.

The Women’s Prize 2023 Shortlist is as follows:

  • Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks
  • Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris
  • The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
  • Pod by Laline Paull

A mixture of recognisable and unrecognisable names, no doubt. Half of this year’s shortlist consists of first time novelists (Louise Kennedy, Jacqueline Crooks and Priscilla Morris), while the other half have all been commended by the Women’s Prize before: Maggie O’Farrell won the prize in 2020 with Hamnet; Barbara Kingsolver won the 2010 prize with The Lacuna and was shortlisted in 2013 with Flight Behaviour; and Laline Paull was shortlisted in 2015 with her debut novel, The Bees.

Three of the novels capture turbulent, pivotal moments in modern history: The Trespasses explores The Troubles in Northern Ireland; Fire Rush pictures the Southall Riots of 1979; and Black Butterflies illustrates the Siege of Sarajevo from 1992–96. Timely crises are explored, too, including America’s opioid crisis in Demon Copperhead, and the climate crisis in Pod.

The shortlisted books stacked on a table

Expect to see shiny new editions of these books with the iconic green Women’s Prize label adorning their cover – and the same goes for the incredible books commended on the Longlist earlier this year (see below). The overall winner will be announced on 14 June; she will receive a cheque for £30,000 and a bronze statue known as a ‘Bessie’, created by Grizel Niven.

Watch the announcement video below:

The Longlist

This information was originally announced and published on 8 March 2023.

Judges of the Women's Prize 2023

‘This year’s longlist is a glorious celebration of the boundless imagination and creative ambition of women writers over the past year,’ said broadcaster Louise Minchin on the announcement. ‘Every one of these 16 books is excellent and original in its own individual way; they all offer fresh perspectives on history and humanity, exploring hard truths with empathy, sensitivity, directness, and sometimes infectious humour. There is something here for all readers! It has truly been a life-enhancing experience to judge the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist this year, and we are looking forward to celebrating these voices that need to be heard.’

The Women’s Prize 2023 Longlist is as follows:

  • Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris
  • Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova
  • Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh
  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks
  • Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • Homesick by Jennifer Croft
  • I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel
  • Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
  • Pod by Laline Paull
  • Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes
  • The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
  • The Dog of the North by Elizabeth McKenzie
  • The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
  • Trespasses by Louise Kennedy 
  • Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin

The Women's Prize 2023 longlist book stack

Watch the announcement video below:

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