The Women’s Prize 2023 Shortlist Has Landed

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The longlist of 16 books has been whittled down to only six

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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 has now landed, whittling down the longlist of 16 books to only six exceptional titles, ahead of the ultimate prize winner being announced on 14 June. Here’s the 2023 shortlist.

The Women’s Prize 2023 Shortlist Has Landed

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
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Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks 

Fire Rush is a brilliant celebration of Black womanhood. It’s a story about dub reggae, friendships, love and loss, which spans London, Bristol and Jamaica,’ says Irenosen Okojie.

Trespasses Book Jacket

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy 

Trespasses is a novel set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It is ostensibly a love affair, but it also weaves in community and religion and politics. It is a deftly woven novel, which I think will astonish you,’ says Bella Mackie.

Black Butterflies Book Jacket

Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris 

Black Butterflies is a beautifully written book set against the backdrop of the Siege of Sarajevo; it’s about love and loss, and where your home truly is,’ says Tulip Siddiq.

Demon Copperhead Book Jacket

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver 

Demon Copperhead is a reworking of Dickens’ David Copperfield. It’s a story of a young boy who is destined to live a life with nothing and who, despite all the odds, rises above it,’ says Rachel Joyce.

The Marriage Portrait Book Jacket

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell 

The Marriage Portrait is an exquisite book. It takes you to a world that you won’t have lived in. It explores extraordinary themes of bravery, of pure evil, and I absolutely loved it,’ says Louise Minchin.

Pod Book Jacket

Pod by Laline Paull 

Pod is about a spinner dolphin who takes great risks to save her pod. It speaks to climate change and is also a wonderful celebration of family,’ says Irenosen Okojie.

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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