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Piranesi wins the 2021 Women's Prize for Fiction

On 8 September 2021, Susanna Clarke won the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction with her second novel Piranesi.

At an awards ceremony hosted by novelist and Women’s Prize Founder Director, Kate Mossem the 2021 Chair of Judges, Bernardine Evaristo presented Susanna Clarke with the £30,000 prize, endowed by an anonymous donor, and the ‘Bessie’, a limited edition bronze figurine by Grizel Niven. The Women’s Prize for Fiction – one of the greatest annual, international celebrations of women’s creativity, now in its 26th year – honours outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world.

Chair of judges and novelist Bernardine Evaristo, says:

“We wanted to find a book that we’d press into readers’ hands, which would have a lasting impact. With her first novel in seventeen years, Susanna Clarke has given us a truly original, unexpected flight of fancy which melds genres and challenges preconceptions about what books should be. She has created a world beyond our wildest imagination that also tells us something profound about what it is to be human.”

Set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction by women to the widest range of readers possible, the Women’s Prize for Fiction is awarded for the best full-length novel of the year written by a woman and published in the UK between April and March the following year. Any woman writing in English – whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter – is eligible.

The judges for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction are: Elizabeth Day, podcaster, author and journalist; Vick Hope, TV and radio presenter, journalist and writer; Nesrine Malik, print columnist and writer; and Sarah-Jane Mee, news presenter and broadcaster. Bernardine Evaristo is this year’s chair.

Reading group reviews

Reading Women is a reading group set up by two avid fans of the Women’s Prize for Fiction during lockdown who wanted to read all the former prize winners. The group has a wide range of members, including TV producers, an NHS admin worker, a management consultant and more. Over the summer, they read Piranesi as part of a shadowing project with us.

Maddy: “Haunting and descriptive creation of an alternative world, which I could have kept on exploring! Left me thinking about its lofty halls for weeks afterwards, and how it drip-fed its mysteries to the reader.”

Mark: “Charming and beautifully told, a portrait of a parallel world where the key themes are kidnap, memory lost and regained, wide eyed wonder and radical self reliance. A story that considers the best and worst of human nature and in which curiosity vanquishes.”

Rowan: “I found this book utterly enchanting, and from the moment I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I was torn between on the one hand desperately trying to unpick its central mystery, and on the other wishing to remain peacefully immersed in Clarke’s beautifully crafted world for as long as possible. Visually and conceptually it is a book that has stayed with me and that I hope to revisit time and time again.”

Stela: “Loved the concept of being trapped in another dimension of realty. A delightful read which asks more questions than it answers.”

Dave: “Piranesi is a mystery wrapped in an enigma hidden in a puzzle, but one with humanity at its core. Deeply philosophical and utterly gripping, Susanna Clarke explores the limits of human experience in all its beauty, sorrow and madness.”

Find out what reading groups thought of the other shortlisted books

Get involved

See the 2021 Prize longlist and shortlist. Discussion guides are available for reading groups for the shortlisted titles.

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WomensPrize.

Keep up with all the latest news on the Women’s Prize website.

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