Wainwright & Women’s Prize Predictions

A quick second post from me today since tonight is the announcement of the winners of the Wainwright Prize and tomorrow, September 9th, will be the announcement of the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Wainwright Prize

I’d read 10 of the nominees before the shortlists were announced (see my mini-reviews and predictions). Since then I’ve managed to read one-third each of the two other books on the UK nature writing shortlist (I correctly predicted four of the seven on it), The Frayed Atlantic Edge by David Gange and On the Red Hill by Mike Parker. This is the first year that I’ve read nearly an entire Wainwright shortlist before the announcement. Even though I’m only partway through it … for its interdisciplinary approach – folklore, geology, history, nature writing and more, all wrapped up in a rollicking, well-written travelogue as he kayaks down the western coasts of the British Isles – I feel Gange should win, but the judges pretty much never pick what I think is the best book.

I’ve only read one of the books from the new global conservation shortlist, so I can’t make any kind of informed prediction. However, as it was my top nonfiction book of last year, I’d be delighted to see Irreplaceable by Julian Hoffman win.

 

Women’s Prize

It feels like an age since this shortlist was announced. I think the reason for delaying the winner announcement from early June to September was for there to be a chance of the ceremony going ahead as normal (though of course it will be online after all); it also gave people a chance to read the Mantel. If I’m being cynical, it was to drum up more interest and publicity in this 25th anniversary year, but I think that may have backfired – I was quite excited early on (see my thoughts on the longlist; my wish list correctly predicted four of the six on the shortlist), but long ago wearied of hearing about the Prize. It seems forever ago that I read some of the nominees.

I don’t think Cruz or Haynes has a chance of winning, but I could see a case for any of the other four taking the Prize. I’d love for it to go to Jenny Offill’s sharp, timely Weather; I’d be perfectly happy for it to go to Bernardine Evaristo’s stylish, multivocal Girl, Woman, Other; I’d not be surprised at all if it went to Hilary Mantel’s accomplished epic, The Mirror & The Light, though I think her work more suited to the Booker Prize; and I personally did not rate Hamnet (which has something of a pandemic theme) but would still be glad to see some recognition for Maggie O’Farrell. Evaristo or O’Farrell thus seems like the safest bet to me.

26 responses

  1. I, like you, wasn’t fussed on Hamnet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With all this time the judges have had to deliberate, they might end up going for the novel that seems most relevant to the Covid situation. Whereas if they were going purely on literary merit, they’d pick Mantel, and if they were going for enduring timeliness, it would be Evaristo or Offill.

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  2. I struggled with the David Gange – it sounded so good but I found it stodgy. I think Lamorna Ash is going to win!
    Mantel’s book is just amazing (as is the entire trilogy). She’s a genius in my eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m reading the Gange slowly, but finding it very rewarding. It’s so hard to call this year! Just an hour or so and we will find out…

      Whether she wins the Women’s Prize or not, I think Mantel will be taking home the Booker triple crown. I loved Book 2 of the trilogy and have often recommended it as a standalone, but have struggled with the others (I DNFed #3).

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  3. I’m with you on Irreplaceable – definitely one of my books of the year. But I loved Hamnet too…. and Evaristo … and Mantel. But Mantel has enough plaudits already, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you about Mantel. In my mind it’s a toss-up between the other two. I’d love to see O’Farrell win a major prize because I love the rest of her oeuvre.

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  4. If I had to call the Women’s Prize winner, I’d call it for O’Farrell. (Evaristo has had her mega-win, and Mantel, though magnificent, is more of a Booker Prize horse.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s sound logic. It would feel ironic for me if O’Farrell won for what is her weakest and least representative book, but I’d still be glad to see her get the attention. I think I am still not fully clear on whether the judges of this prize go for the best book by a woman (Mantel), or the best women’s book (Evaristo). Either way, the result almost always feels arbitrary, like Suzanne Berne beating Barbara Kingsolver and Toni Morrison!

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      1. I think the Prize itself is often confused on this matter…

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Are there any specific criteria?

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      1. O’Farrell is my bet too – though it’s such a shame to see readers who have never read her writing her off because they didn’t like Hamnet! Why couldn’t she have won with This Must Be The Place?

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      2. I often feel that writers win for the ‘wrong’ book, but I guess at least they are being recognized?

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      3. I don’t think so? Just publication dates, by a woman, and in English.

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  5. Well, I was wrong on both counts re: the Wainwright, though Hoffman was “highly commended” (i.e. the runner-up).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really need to read The Frayed Atlantic Edge, it’s been on my wishlist for a while!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been working through it slowly, but it’s very good and makes me want to go back to Orkney and Shetland.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Although I agree 100% that Maggie O’Farrell should get recognition for this book, I doubt she will win…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say a win for her is looking pretty likely based on what I’m seeing on Twitter… All will be revealed in 6 hours or so!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fingers crossed. It is a masterpiece, if you ask me!

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  8. This whole conversation makes me very curious about Hamnet… masterpiece or meh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was disappointed with it in comparison to the other O’Farrell books I’d read and other historical fiction I read around the same time. But obviously many other readers have felt differently, and I’m delighted for her to get major prize recognition. So all you can do is try it (if it appeals) and see what you think. It’s known as “Hamnet and Judith” in your part of the world 🙂

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  9. Well now we know that it did go to Hamnet. I’m reading it at the moment and love it so will be curious to go back to your review and see what it was that didn’t work for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. How different juries and planners, publishers and media departments are all handling this strange year, each in their own way, has made it very easy for me to lose track of certain prizes and events. Not that anyone could have arranged for it to be more streamlined, but I rather wish everything had simply been pushed ahead to the fall so that, at least, people would know when to start paying attention once more (and, likely, choose not to anyhow) LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apart from the Women’s Prize’s very delayed announcement, I feel like the others have been mostly on their usual time schedules? Which means that after the Booker race is over it’ll be 2021 prize season before we know it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Naomi mentioned that one of the major CanLit ones is being delayed a few months too. Mostly I think I haven’t been noticing delays particularly, because it just feels like things will/should be delayed?

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    2. I’d prefer people stuck to the normal schedules to give us regular events to look forward to! Pushing things back to the “after” time doesn’t seem to be working, after all. Six months becomes 12 months becomes…

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