The Winner of Winners of the Women’s Prize

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 JonesAn American Marriage (2019)

Kamila Shamsie: Home Fire  (2018)

Naomi Alderman: The Power (2017)

Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies (2016)

Ali Smith: How to be Both (2015)

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)

Related post

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 (September 2020)

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading, Women of Colour

8 Responses to The Winner of Winners of the Women’s Prize

  1. Jennifer

    Thanks for the list Caroline. I’m pleased to see I’ve read a fair few of them. I think you should persevere with Half a Yellow Sun, but perhaps not just at the moment.

    • Caroline

      Thanks for the encouragement, Jennifer. I will persist, but not before I try to go to sleep I think.
      I think the whole list is pretty amazing, and there were all those great long lists too.
      C xx

  2. It’s a tricky decision. I’m not good with violence and the like in books nowadays – I have to be in the right frame of mind and steel myself. It’s hard, particularly if you know that the story needs to be told. I would say tryo to read if and when the time feels right.

    • Caroline

      I’m finding The Bloody Chamber quite hard going at the moment, and that’s a short story! But I will finish Half a Yellow Sun as two trusted readers say I should. The idea that the story needs to be told, perhaps needs to be read too, is a strong one. Thanks for that thought.
      Caroline

  3. It’s my favorite book of the decade. I love it with all of my heart. Give her the Nobel Prize already.
    http://empty-nest-expat.blogspot.com/2012/03/africa-day-global-minds-book-club.html

  4. Carole Jones

    Yes, thanks for the list. I’ve read more than I realised (largely because they were ‘Rdg Grp’ books) but ‘Half of a YS’ and ‘Kevin’ have stayed with me as powerful novels – for both craft and content – while several were … ‘meh’. I used to have a ‘violence’ problem: a certain Cormac McCarthy had me sitting up in the spare room – all night – with comfort food and ‘the Hobbit’! Now, I seem to switch to working out how it’s done (apart from when it’s gratuitous stuff, at which point the book is dumped), plus – Yes! – telling myself it’s a form of ‘bearing witness’.

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