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Women’s Prize for Fiction 2024 Shortlist - What Did Our Reading Groups Think?

We can’t wait to find out which of the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted books will be crowned as this year’s winner, our six reading groups selected to shadow the Women’s Prize for Fiction have been reading, discussing and reviewing those titles. Keep reading to find out what they thought.

The winner of the 2024 Women’s Prize for Fiction will be announced on Thursday 13 June 2024 at the Women’s Prize Trust’s summer party in central London, along with the inaugural winner of the 2024 Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction. The winner will receive a cheque for £30,000, anonymously endowed, along with a limited-edition bronze statuette known as the ‘Bessie’, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven.

You can watch along to the announcement live via the Women’s Prizes YouTube channel from 6:45pm on 13 June.

Find out what our groups thought about the Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction shortlist here

More information can be found on the Women’s Prizes website here.

The shortlist

The Literary Legends Book Group

Started in 2020, this group came together after finding each other on an online podcast fan group. They live hundreds of miles apart, and herald from four different countries. They were selected to read River East, River West by Aube Rey Lescure.

The majority of this group called this their “exact cup of tea”, full of complex characters and multiple timelines. Some of the group noted that this book was out of their usual comfort zones and found themselves surprised at how much they enjoyed it, even leading to a group discussion of which similar books they could recommend next!

They noted that “the strained relationships between the characters made for compelling reading, alongside the double standards and racial stereotyping each character comes up against.” Their discussions were varied and focussed on topics such as fortune, cultural identity and privilege and one member noted that the more they reflected on the book, the more they feel they enjoyed it.

Lighthorne Book and Pudding Club

Starting in 2022, the Lighthorne Book and Pudding Club is the original Book and Pudding Club. With 19 groups across their network, all united by their love of pudding, the Lighthorne faction represent their community and read Restless Dolly Maunder by Kate Grenville

The book that this group were selected to read sparked a large amount of discussion between members. Their feelings towards the lead character of Dolly were mixed with some being frustrated by her flaws, and others finding those same flaws endearing and human. They noted that they felt that it didn’t really matter whether it was entirely fictional or somewhat biographical, as the gentle, deep story was engaging.

One member said, “I loved this book. I enjoyed following Dolly from a child to an adult. I enjoyed how simple the story was and the setting – it was interesting to see how life was in Australia in that date. I felt sad for Dolly not being able to express her feelings towards her children as she didn’t have the connection with her mother when she was younger that for me was very heart breaking.”

Sub Plots and Side Books

Sub Plots and Side Books grew out of a need to reconnect people after the height of the pandemic. They meet virtually each month, and hold an annual in person meet. They have been reading Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad

This group noted that they rarely agree on a title, but in this case it ended up being one of the only titles that didn’t split opinion with nearly everyone enjoying it. Despite this, those that listened to the audiobook felt that the play passages from/around Hamlet felt far more effective an experience than if they had simply read the book.

They felt that the book was “beautifully crafted” and “illustrated the everyday problems that Palestinians face.” The book “didn’t feel overtly political, it was quite subtly done – but it probably resonated more because of the events of October 7th.” They wondered if they would have been as alert to the nuances of the book, if it wasn’t so central to current world events.

The Cocoa Book Club

Recently celebrating their first anniversary, the Cocoa Book Club was born at Red Lion Books, an independent book shop. The group read Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan

There was almost unanimous adoration for this book with members describing it as “captivating”, “beautifully written” and “sensitive”. They thought that it was powerful and refreshing to have a female, first-person narrator who was presented as a woman in war, a sister, daughter and doctor, rather than a purely romantic character. One reader noted, “when it comes to stories about people experiencing war, you never hear about the teenage girl down the street who wants to be a doctor, as it is a genre predominately filled by men.”

They all felt that they’d learned something historical from with one member saying; “the well researched history of the Sri Lankan Civil War, combined with strong characters, made this book a true masterpiece of historical fiction.”

In summary, one member said, “if I had the time and an unlimited word count, I would go on forever about how incredible this novel is and all the moments which impacted me as a reader.”

The GatherUps Book Group

With over 155 meetings under their belt, The GatherUps are a group of 7 members who meet monthly in Northern Ireland. They were chosen to read The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright

This title sparked wild discussion around the themes in the book focussing particularly on family, intergenerational relations, and vulnerability. Their debate covered different generations and their representation and how this set against their own experiences.

One of the members “liked the way the book chapters alternated between Nell and Carmel” and when they finished the book noted they “immediately wanted to reread it”.

The Undaunted Bookclub

Started in 2001 by a group of librarians at the V&A Museum, this group have grown into a large and diverse membership. They were selected to read Soldier Sailor by Claire Kilroy

The vast majority of this group loved this book, with one even tipping it to win the prize outright! Laying bare the “relentless, exhausting early years of parenthood”, the group called this “the most accurate portrayal of the early months of motherhood” they have read. One reader even went as far as to say that it helped her understand her mother, and love her better, too.

One member said, "this book feels important. It was not always easy to read, but I am glad to have read it. It would have been easier to look away from the stark reality this book conjured. It is a raw and honest account. Motherhood is brutal and no one really talks about it. "

A “compelling and powerful read”, the group unanimously agreed that it was “a book worth reading”.

Get involved

Are you interested in reading any of the shortlisted titles? Find out more about the shortlist here.

If you work in a library or workplace and would like to promote the shortlist, you can download a free digital pack from our shop.

What do you think of the 2024 shortlisted titles? Which have you read and what will be added to your TBR pile? Add your comments below, or click any title above to leave a review.

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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