And the Women’s Prize winner is…

All six finalists for the Women's Prize for Fiction on stage with Kate Mosse

All six finalists for the Women’s Prize for Fiction on stage with Kate Mosse

Phoebe: A.M. Homes! Who we thought gave one of the most engaging readings of the evening at the Shortlist Readings we attending at the Southbank Centre on Wednesday.

A.M. was up on stage alongside her fellow finalists in the Women’s Prize for Fiction – Zadie Smith, Kate Atkinson, Barbara Kingsolver, Hilary Mantel and Maria Semple for a set of readings chaired by one of the founders, Kate Mosse.

The event felt a little like a cross between a girl’s school assembly and that bit in The Witches when all the witches are gathered for their annual conference in the posh hotel, just waiting to take their scratchy wigs off. But in a good way!


ticketThe one I liked the sound of the most was Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, not just because Semple’s reading was incredibly funny, but because her message really spoke to me. She explained how the idea of the story – that of a woman who becomes bitter and agoraphobic because she’s stopped creating (in her field as an architect) – precisely mirrored her own experience as a writer, and how a friend told her “A writer who doesn’t write becomes a menace to society.”

While I don’t have the confidence of the women on the stage who know they’re ‘real’ writers and authors because they’ve published novels, I share that feeling that if I don’t write – regardless of whether anyone reads my writing or not – I’ll atrophy.

Our incredibly mature reaction on hearing the news of Homes' victory

Our incredibly mature reaction on hearing the news of Homes’ victory

Anna-Marie: The Women’s Prize for Literature (née Orange, now Baileys) is my favourite annual literary honour. Every year I read/try to ignore the sighs and tweets around the announcement of the longlist: bookish commentators and online types slagging off the judges and titles they haven’t read based on the covers or other people’s reviews and – much worse – wondering whether the prize is obsolete or irrelevant and claiming that it’s made its point and we don’t need it anymore. I disagree. It’s always managed to be inspiring and reassuring, highbrow and commercial all at the same time. Year after year the WPFL gets us talking about books by women and – very importantly – buying them. Most of all though, it always offers up some solid reading inspiration/ideas that you can take or leave – and I definitely always take – and having already read three of the shortlist, I’m lining up Bernadette for the summer holidays. Look at that cover! Too cute.

Even if I don’t always (or ever) agree with the judges, I’ll agree with the prize, the party and everyone talking about it for as long as it needs to happen. CONGRATULATIONS A.M.H.!

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