Women’s Prize for Fiction launches digital book club

One of the positive side effects of the coronavirus lockdown is suddenly having a wealth of extra time on our hands. Your commuting time has been swapped for finding an exercise routine you love , getting that extra hour of shut-eye  and you also may have found yourself getting back into reading

If you find yourself in the latter group, Women’s Prize for Fiction has launched a digital book club to celebrate its 25th year. 

The new club encourages keen readers to read all past 24 winners of the prize, or pick three novels from the list of winners that centres on a similar theme, and share what they are reading to social media with the hashtag #ReadingWomen.

In a statement, the prize said: “#ReadingWomen aims to unite the experiences and opinions of readers across the country during lockdown and beyond through a digital book club, which calls for people to read the incredibly varied 24 past winning novels of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Readers can also choose to focus on three previous winning books, centred around a specific theme such as ‘Love’, ‘Nationhood’ and ‘Identity’.”

Women’s Prize for Fiction winners through the years

  • A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore (1996)
  • Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (1997)
  • Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1998)
  • A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne (1999)
  • When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant (2000)
  • The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville (2001)
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2002)
  • Property by Valerie Martin (2003)
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004)
  • We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shiver (2005)
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2006)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007)
  • The Road Home by Rose Tremain (2008)
  • Home by Marilynne Robinson (2009)
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (2010)
  • The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (2011)
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012)
  • May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes (2013)
  • A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride (2014)
  • How to be Both by Ali Smith (2015)
  • The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (2016)
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman (2017)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2018)
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2019)

The Women’s Prize for Fiction website will act as a hub for all #ReadingWomen content, with new reading guides for each of the 24 novels, extracts from the books in the form of widgets provided by Nielsen, author interviews and audio interviews with previous judges.

As well as new website content, the Women’s Prize for Fiction podcast – which interviews high-profile guests on their reading habits – will allow listeners to follow the #ReadingWomen challenge alongside the guests.

Novelist and playwright Kate Mosse, founder and director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, said in a statement: “The aim of the Women’s Prize was to celebrate the classics of tomorrow, today. Our #ReadingWomen initiative is a wonderful way both to celebrate the winners of the past and to bring novels of excellence, originality, accessibility and brilliance to a new generation of passionate readers.”

To kickstart the digital book club, the prize is hosting a social media giveaway and asking readers to nominate a ‘hero’ who is in need of some book therapy during the lockdown period. Simply like that week’s post and leave a comment including the name of their nominee for a chance to win a set of three previous prize winners.

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 judges pick their favourite previous winning novels

Martha Lane Fox, 2020 Chair of Judges, picked Ali Smith’s How to be Both (2015)

“The writing in this wonderful book seems to lift off the page and fly. Ali Smith writes a complex, nuanced story about grief with breath-taking ease setting it in the present day and in Renaissance Italy. You can find your copy starts in either time and you can read it from any angle but however you do, you will find yourself asking the biggest questions about life, death, fact, fiction, gender and identity. I loved it, was moved by it and given a new understanding of what writing can do.

Scarlett Curtis picked Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2018)

“Home Fire is a book I’ve recommended so many times I’ve lost count! It’s a gripping tale of family, immigration, politics, religion and love. Kamila Shamsie reworks Sophocles’ Antigone in this brilliant novel that you truly won’t be able to put down. The characters have stayed with me for years and Shamsie’s most powerful achievement may have been revealing just how ancient and timeless our modern struggles really are.” 

Viv Groskop picked May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes (2013)

“A.M. Homes is one of those writers you discover and become obsessed with. When I first read this book, I had to immediately read everything else she had ever written and I ordered her entire backlist. May We Be Forgiven is a hilarious, disturbing and dysfunctional family saga about what happens when one man inherits his brother’s life. Her humour is pitchblack and her satirical gaze on suburban American life is completely merciless. I love her.

Paula Hawkins picked Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (1997)

“Hailed by John Berger as ‘the most important book I have read in forty years’, this debut novel tells the story of a Polish Holocaust survivor coming to terms with the horrors he lived through as a child. It was a surprise winner in 1997, fending off competition from the likes of Margaret Atwood and Annie Proulx – I have been meaning to read it for years.

Melanie Eusebe picked Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007)

“This book is both beautiful and devastating. I simply love it. Each word feels like it has been carefully curated for maximum impact. I couldn’t put it down, I carried it around with me everywhere I went, hoping to catch a few spare moments in my day to immerse myself in it once again. Once you pick it up you are thrown into a story and characters brought to life with such elegant prose, that I literally got lost in it from the moment I picked it up and I still feel its residue to this day.”

This year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist  was announced on March 2 with the winner originally set to be announced in June – this has now been pushed back to September due to the coronavirus pandemic.


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