What's On the Bookshelf: 5 debut authors from the Womens Prize longlist
Off to the book shop…
March is an exciting time for the book-reading community with the announcement of the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist. And while the team at the Emirates Literature Foundation do not envy the mammoth task the judges’ committee had in whittling down the 175 submissions to 16, they are incredibly grateful to have a curated list of brilliant reading recommendations.
In its 27th edition, the longlist is diverse in terms of the themes and genre of the stories and recognizes female authors of different ages from around the world. It sported many familiar names including Booker-shortlisted author Maggie Shipstead and returning Women’s Prize nominees, Catherine Chidgley, Charlotte Mendelson, Elif Shafak, Leone Ross and Rachel Elliott, as well as shining the spotlight of five debut authors! Read on to know more about them.
The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini
Allen-Agostini is not new to the world of words, she’s a stand-up comedian, an editor and has a collection of poetry and two Young Adult books under her belt, one of which won a CODE Burt award.
Her debut novel is set in Trinidad and sports a strong feminist message under the guise of arresting prose. The protagonist, Althea Lopez, is seeking solace from an abusive relationship in the arms of a co-worker. After witnessing the murder of a woman by a jealous lover, she is prompted into starting a new phase of life, free from violence and abuse.
Masterful execution of the misogyny and racism that is a societal reality in many parts of the world but must be precluded with a trigger warning for physical and emotional abuse.
Careless by Kirsty Capes
In the middle of the afternoon on a hot and humid summer day, when a 15-year-old foster child, Bess, learns she is pregnant and has no one to tell. She must do the right thing but who decides what the right thing is? Capes explores the themes of boundaries within familial and friendly relationships in a contemporary coming-of-age novel that is many things, but not a love story.
The author works in publishing and penned the book from her own experience from being in the care system to show that people who grew up in care are not defined by what happened to them. And it certainly seems to be making waves in the book world by being longlisted for the Women’s Prize and in the screen world with its rights being acquired by Neal Street.
Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
It’s the tale of two women who go missing two decades apart but are linked together by ancestors and ghosts. Moving between motorbikes, alleys, flats, mansions, nightclubs, zoos and forests, this novel draws the reader in and makes one feel like they are on a journey of exploration and discovery!
This unputdownable debut novel was also shortlisted for the 2021 First Novel Prize and if you enjoyed your time-travel in Saigon courtesy Kupersmith, we highly recommend her short story collection The Frangipani Hotel which is based on Vietnamese folktales told to the author by her grandmother.
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev’ by Dawnie Walton
Opal and Nev are an iconic interracial music duo that are on a meteoric upward trajectory until Opal’s political protest at a concert sets off a chain of events that changes everything. As a white male, Nev has the privilege of a new beginning and a long and successful career. Even as Opal comes to terms with the reality that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially women of colour.
Written by a former editor of Entertainment Weekly, this vast tale about family, pop culture and race spanning five decades was on Barack Obama’s list of favourite books of 2021 and should be on your TBR list for 2022
The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Cowley Heller
From debut writer, Miranda Cowley Heller, the drama boss behind HBOs The Sopranos, comes this evocative tale of middle-aged Elle who has a night of passion with her childhood love, Jonas.
This novel was deservedly Reese Witherspoon’s book club pick for July 2021, but it is not a typical summer read. It is a complex story about love in the face of moral ambiguity that deals with assault, infidelity and death with a gentle touch.
There is a long way to go till mid-June to find out if any of today’s reads made the shortlist but don’t fret, there’s a lot of other book-ish material to keep you occupied on the Emirates Literature Foundation blog. And make sure to follow them on their social media and YouTube channels for exclusive content from the Emirates LitFest 2022. And subscribe to the Boundless Book Club, their bi-monthly podcast for insightful reviews and delightful conversations.