Which novel is the winner of winners? There have been 25 winners of the Women’s Prize for Fiction up to now. When asked to pick their choice of overall winner readers voted in their thousands, according to the Women’s Prize website. The most popular book from all 25 prize winners of the annual Women’s Prize for Fiction is Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, winner in 2007.
Half of a Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s haunting novel, originally won the Women’s Prize for Fiction (then the Orange Prize) in 2007. Set in Nigeria during the Biafran War, the novel is about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class, race and female empowerment – and how love can complicate all of these things. (Website)
Does this mean it’s the best book written by a woman in the last 25 years? Of course not. There is no such thing. But it does mean that this novel, along with many others is a good book.
The Women’s Prize for fiction
Why do I support a prize for women’s fiction? Examine the list of 25 winners (below) and notice that it includes many excellent titles, all by women of course.
I like the way the prize features novels by women in a literary landscape that favours men: from the books that get accepted for publication, to those that get reviewed, those that get dismissed (as ‘women’s fiction’}, to those that get bought. Each year a number of books by women have a spotlight shone on them: the long list, then the shortlist and then the winner.
To be honest I am not much concerned about which one wins, don’t enter the speculation as the announcement draws near, and didn’t vote for a winner of winners. I haven’t always read the winning novel. And I have been disappointed by some that have won. But there is always at least one excellent read on the longlist every year, and often more.
So each year I dedicate a post on this blog to the longlist and the previous winners, which usually adds up to nearly 40 books written by women that are worth noticing.
Half of a Yellow Sun
And I have an admission to make. I did not finish Half of a Yellow Sun when I first picked it up in 2007. The reason was simple. I loved the first part with its description of a Nigerian family and their life. But I had been told that it became very dark after that, even violent. Well, the war in Biafra was violent. But I have never wanted to subject myself to reading that would stir up emotions that I can’t control. So I am sorry to report that I stopped reading it at p146 (I know this because the bookmark still keeps the place). Perhaps now it has been voted the winner of the winners I should take my courage in my hands and try again? And because it is by an author I admire, and a woman from Lagos Nigeria, a woman of colour, I have found my copy and add it to my tbr pile.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, published in 2007 by Harper Collins, and winner of the winners of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. 435pp
All Winners of the Women’s Prize for Fiction
Maggie O’Farrell: Hamnet (2020)
Tayari Jones: An American Marriage (2019)
Naomi Alderman: The Power (2017)
Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies (2016)
Eimear McBride: A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2014)
A.M. Homes: May We Be Forgiven (2013)
Madeline Miller: The Song of Achilles (2012)
Téa Obreht: The Tiger’s Wife (2011)
Barbara Kingsolver: The Lacuna (2010)
Marilynne Robinson: Home (2009)
Rose Tremain: The Road Home (2008)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun (2007)
Zadie Smith: On Beauty (2006)
Lionel Shriver: We Need to Talk About Kevin (2005)
Andrea Levy: Small Island (2004)
Valerie Martin: Property (2003)
Ann Patchett: Bel Canto (2002)
Kate Grenville: The Idea of Perfection (2001)
Linda Grant: When I Lived in Modern Times (2000)
Suzanne Berne: A Crime in the Neighbourhood (1999)
Carol Shields: Larry’s Party (1998)
Anne Michaels: Fugitive Pieces (1997)
Helen Dunmore: A Spell of Winter (1996)
Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 (September 2020)