Readersforum's Blog

March 13, 2013

Hilary Mantel faces six newcomers in contest for women’s fiction prize

Some of the books on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist.

Some of the books on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist.

Previous Orange Prize winners Zadie Smith and Barbara Kingsolver also on list of 20 nominees

By Mark Brown

Among the contenders for the leading prize for fiction written by women is a bestselling thriller and a how-to-live-your-life memoir so divisive it had some reviewers wanting to throw it across the room. Also in the running are novels by literary heavyweights Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith and Barbara Kingsolver.

They are all longlisted for what was the Orange prize until the phone company withdrew last year to concentrate on cinema sponsorship.

For one year only it will be called the Women’s Prize for Fiction, funded by several companies and individuals including Cherie Blair, Martha Lane Fox and Joanna Trollope.

This year 140 writers entered and 20 were longlisted. Most prominent is the all-conquering Mantel, winner of the Man Booker and Costa prizes for Bring Up the Bodies. Last week she won an award thought of as the “British Nobel” – the £40,000 David Cohen prize for lifetime achievement. Her successes have provided ammunition for voices who say she has won enough. “I think it’s important to not think like that,” said Natasha Walter, a member of the judging panel. “You’ve got to choose what makes this set of judges most passionate and try not to think about the prizes that have gone before.”

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