Thy do women write? Yes, women’s stories are human. Women write to be seen and heard, for injustices to be brought out into the light and made into justice. Women write to understand themselves and their stories, comfort, and challenge the status quo. Women write to create fascinating imaginative intellectual worlds. Women write to add to the wisdom and depth of what it means to be human. Women have been ejected from history books for centuries, and their perspectives have been marginalised.
And despite the strides, there have been inequalities. Women remain poorer, less healthy, and less educated, with less access to leadership positions than men. In addition, women are continually under threat.
Estimates published by WHO indicate that about one in three (30 per cent) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Women create the conscience of nations through the values we impart to our children. Like all marginalised groups, women write about pain and reach out to one another through honest, transparent and brilliant writing.
The literary world has recognised this disparity between the sexes and has encouraged women to write. One such prize is The UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction awarded annually to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year.
Lisa Allen-Agostini, one of our T&T writers, was shortlisted for the prize in 2022.
Ruth Ozeki won the 2022 prize.
Notably, all the books are stories told from the margins, from the edge. Women’s writing brings people left behind, ignored, alone or abused back into the centre. As a celebration of International Women’s Day 2023, we reproduce The Women’s Prize summary of books that made the shortlist last year.
The Book of Form and Emptiness
After the tragic death of his father, 14-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house and sound variously pleasant, angry or sad. Then his mother develops a hoarding problem, and the voices grow more clamorous. When ignoring them doesn’t work, Benny seeks refuge in the silence of a large public library. There he meets a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret; a homeless philosopher-poet who encourages him to find his voice amongst the many; and his very own book, which narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
Blending unforgettable characters with everything from jazz to climate change to our attachment to material possessions, this is classic Ruth Ozeki – bold, humane and heartbreaking.
From her days as a wild child in prohibition America to the blitz and glitz of wartime London, from the rugged shores of New Zealand to a lonely ice shelf in Antarctica, Marian Graves is driven by a need for freedom and danger.
Determined to live an independent life, she resists the pull of her childhood sweetheart and burns her way through a suite of glamorous lovers. But it is an obsession with a flight that consumes her most.
As she is about to fulfil her greatest ambition, to circumnavigate the globe from pole to pole, Marian crash lands in a perilous wilderness of ice.
Over half a century later, troubled film star Hadley Baxter is drawn inexorably to play the enigmatic pilot on screen. It is a role that will lead her to an unexpected discovery, throwing fresh and spellbinding light on the story of the unknowable Marian Graves.
More of the shortlisted books next week