Enica/ March 6, 2019/ Walker's Bookshelf

Women’s Prize for Fiction was previously known as the Orange Prize for Fiction (1996 and 2012) and Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (2014-2017). This award “celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world (Women’s Prize for Fiction).”

The 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist was recently announced
(Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2019). We have compiled a list of the titles that the library currently has, which you can either borrow or request. Happy reading! 📚

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Queen Briseis and the  women of  Lyrnessus watch helplessly from the  citadel as Achilles destroys the  city, slaughtering their husbands, fathers, sons. When Briseis is made Achilles’ slave as a prize of  war, the  one comfort in this horrifying new existence is Patroclus, Achilles’ comrade and friend. When Agamemnon attempts to claim Briseis as his own, it changes the  tide of the  Trojan War. In graceful prose, Man Booker Prize winner Barker (Noonday, 2016), renowned for her historical fiction trilogies, offers a compelling take on the  events of The  Iliad, allowing Briseis a first-person perspective, while players such as Patroclus and Achilles are examined in illuminating third-person narration. Briseis is flawlessly drawn as Barker wisely avoids the  pitfall so many authors stumble into headlong, namely, giving her an anachronistic modern feminist viewpoint. Instead, the  terror of  her experience of  being treated as an object rather than a person speaks (shouts) for itself. Patroclus tells her things will change, and if they don’t, to make them, to which Briseis, utterly powerless, replies, “Spoken like a man.” The  army camp, the  warrior mindset, the  horrors of  battle, the silence of the girls —Barker makes it all convincing and very powerful. Recommended on the  highest order. — Bethany Latham (Reviewed 7/1/2018) (Booklist, vol 114, number 21, p28)

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends. “Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.” Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit. A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it. Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening (publisher).

Milkman by Anna Burns

Burns (No Bones, 2002) became the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the Man Booker Prize with this raw, traumatic tale addressing timeless themes of brutality, resiliency, and resistance. It is set in an unnamed city at an indeterminate time, but Burns’ world is clearly the Belfast of the Troubles, even though it can double as any totalitarian society where people live in violent conditions and everyone seems to be suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. The narrator, with her distinctive, conversational voice, is also unnamed, an 18-year-old girl who is pursued, on many levels, by the milkman  of the title. He is a shadowy, older figure, creepy to boot, who, we learn early on, is not even a milkman . Instead of driving a milk lorry, he drives flashy cars, and sometimes, significantly, a “small, white, nondescript, shape-shifting” van. We are introduced to him while the young woman is caught walking-while-reading (Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe). The milkman  pulls up in his van and offers her a lift; when she refuses, he drives away, pretending not to be offended, but this sets in motion all that follows. Milkman  is a uniquely meandering and mesmerizing, wonderful and enigmatic work about borders and barriers, both physical and spiritual, and the cost of survival. — June Sawyers (Reviewed 11/15/2018) (Booklist, vol 115, number 6, p25)

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

It is not easy to corral traditional storytelling tropes into untraditional narrative formats without coming across as gimmicky or losing the reader along the way. In her mind-blowing debut, Emezi weaves a traditional Igbo myth that turns the well-worn narrative of mental illness on its head, and in doing so she has ensured a place on the literary-fiction landscape as a writer to watch. Ada, the protagonist, is a young Nigerian who never stood a chance. Right from birth, she has been controlled by evil ogbanje, spirits who mold a difficult child and who eventually create a young woman beset by multiple selves. Narrated by a chorus of the voices battling for control over Ada’s mind, the novel brilliantly explores the young woman’s slow descent into her own private hell. “The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin,” the voices say, hinting ominously at worse things to come. Emezi’s brilliance lies not just in her expert handling of the conflicting voices in Ada’s head but in delivering an entirely different perspective on just what it means to go slowly mad. Complex and dark, this novel will simultaneously challenge and reward lovers of literary fiction. A must-read. — Apte, Poornima (Reviewed 12/1/2017) (Booklist, vol 114, number 7, p25)

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Two couples navigating the mostly quiet varieties of domestic terror are at the heart of Evans’ (26A, 2005) deep and addictive third novel. Though Damian doesn’t feel he belongs there, he lives with his wife and their three children in the London suburb of Dorking. Their friends Michael and Melissa have the trappings of marriage—two kids and an old house in South London—without the rings and paperwork. Historical and pop-culture details enrich the story: the novel opens at a party celebrating the first election of Barack Obama, a John Legend album lends the book its title and gives it a sort of heartbeat soundtrack, and Evans brings to literary life the burned-down Crystal Palace that Michael and Melissa live in the shadows of. Although Michael would marry Melissa without hesitation, he’s also the first to force the couple’s private turmoil to the surface. Damian, meanwhile, isn’t sure that he grieves his father’s recent death, and he secretly pines for Melissa. Evans zooms out to build her characters’ culturally rich backstories as they struggle to recognize their older selves and the relationships that have aged along with them. A probing, entertaining, and self-affirming novel of men and women getting relatably lost in the crises and hauntings of early midlife. — Annie Bostrom (Reviewed 8/1/2018) (Booklist, vol 114, number 22, p16)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Married for just over a year, Roy and Celestial are still navigating their new dynamic as husband and wife. Then their lives are forever altered when they travel to Roy’s small Louisiana hometown for a visit, and Roy is falsely accused of a harrowing crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The strain on their relationship is intense during Roy’s incarceration, especially once Celestial’s career takes off while he struggles with loss and feelings of abandonment. Nearly halfway through Roy’s sentence, his conviction is vacated. In the aftermath of his unexpected release, the couple must confront difficult questions about the choices they’ve made as well as the expectations of others. For Celestial, it means reconciling the relationship with her husband with that of a longtime friend turned lover. Roy, on the other hand, faces the complexities of a life he no longer recognizes. Jones (Silver Sparrow, 2011) crafts an  affecting tale that explores marriage , family, regret, and other feelings made all the more resonant by her well-drawn characters and their intricate conflicts of heart and mind. — Strauss, Leah (Reviewed 11/1/2017) (Booklist, vol 114, number 5, p13)

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

When Chinese  American immigrant Bobby Han died, entrusting his Beijing Duck House restaurant  to the next generation, he couldn’t have fathomed how quickly his 30-year-old legacy would go up in flames. His younger son, Jimmy—dubbed “little boss” by the restaurant  staff, many of whom watched him grow up—wants out of the suburban Maryland family business, having already bought a swankier Georgetown establishment. Johnny, the older brother, has been avoiding family drama by teaching in Hong Kong, but his reprieve is short-lived. Their aging mother has lost all patience with her incompetent offspring, leaving plenty of room for her sly cousin, Pang, to play out his own machinations. Meanwhile, the Duck House’s two longest-standing employees, Jack and Nan, face tribulations of their own: Jack’s cancer-weakened wife has seemingly run off; Nan’s high-school-expelled son is caught in flagrante with the boss’s niece. Debut novelist Li’s prominent acknowledgment of her Princeton professors, including Chang-rae Lee, Jeffery Eugenides, and Lorrie Moore, distinctly showcases her literary pedigree in this raucous, bittersweet non-love story across cultures, generations, morals, and other seemingly impossible divides. — Hong, Terry (Reviewed 5/1 /2018) (Booklist, vol 114, number  17, p63)

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, mightiest of the Titans, was a peculiar child who had few of the gifts the demigods enjoyed, and she was despised by her parents and numerous sisters for her deficits. What she lacked in godlike ability, though, she compensated for with a gift for herbology and witchcraft. When she is rejected by her first love, the mortal Glaucos—who pines instead for the beautiful nymph Scylla—Circe  casts a spell that turns Scylla into a hideous sea creature. For her transgression, Circe  is banished by Zeus to an island, where she survives alone until Odysseus, “son of Laertes, the great traveler, prince of wiles and tricks,” lands upon her shores and is seduced by her. Drawing on the mythology of the classical world, Miller deftly weaves episodes of war, treachery, monsters, gods, demigods, heroes, and mortals into her second novel of the ancient world (after the Orange Prize—winning The Song of Achilles). Prometheus and Medea are among those who also make an appearance here. VERDICT This absorbing and atmospheric read will appeal to lovers of Greek mythology.—Jane Henriksen Baird, formerly at Anchorage Public Library, AK –Jane Henriksen Baird (Reviewed 03/01/2018) (School Library Journal, vol 64, issue 3, p129)

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Moss (Cold Earth) delivers a powerful and unsettling novel about an Iron Age reenactment that steadily morphs into something sinister. The narrator, 17-year-old Silvie, is forced by her domineering father, a history buff, to join a group of three college students—Pete, Dan, and Molly—and their experimental archaeology professor for a stay on a relatively isolated spot of land in the English countryside to gain insight into what it was like to live day-to-day in the Iron Age. Silvie wears a scratchy tunic and searches for edible berries and roots, becoming close with Molly. Quickly, though, Silvie’s dad’s darker side comes to the forefront, as he becomes obsessed with following the rules of the experiment; he is particularly captivated by people who were found in the bogs of the region with their hands tied or bearing wounds, perfectly preserved from the Iron Age and discovered centuries later. The story grows increasingly ominous as the men build a replica of a ghost wall —a wall  topped with skulls that a local tribe erected to ward off the invading Romans—before arriving at a terrifying, unforgettable ending. The novel’s highlight is Silvie, a perfectly calibrated consciousness that is energetic and lonely and prone to sharp and memorable observations: “Who are the ghosts  again, we or our dead? Maybe they imagined us first, maybe we were conjured out of the deep past by other minds”; “You’d think that dismembering something would get easier as the creature becomes less like itself, but with rabbits that’s not the case.” This is a haunting, astonishing novel. (Jan.) –Staff (Reviewed 11/12/2018) (Publishers Weekly, vol 265, issue 46, p)

Here is the entire 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist

  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  • Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • The Pisces Melissa Broder
  • Milkman Anna Burns
  • Freshwater Akwaeke Emezi
  • Ordinary People Diana Evans
  • Swan Song Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
  • An American Marriage Tayari Jones
  • Number One Chinese Restaurant Lillian Li
  • Bottled Goods Sophie van Llewyn
  • Lost Children Archive Valeria Luiselli
  • Praise Song for the Butterflies Bernice L. McFadden
  • Circe Madeline Miller
  • Ghost Wall Sarah Moss
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
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