A flatlay of Penguin books shortlisted for the women's prize

Books shortlisted for the 2021 Women's Prize. Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

Claire Fuller and Yaa Gyasi are among the authors shortlisted for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction with their novels, Unsettled Ground and Transcendent Kingdom - both of whom make their debut on the shortlist.

Fuller's fourth novel depicts the lives of middle-aged twins Jeanie and Julius, who are left bereaved and orphaned after the death of their mother, Dot, without whom their remote and rural life is uncertain. 

In Transcendent Kingdom, meanwhile, Gyasi examines the US opioid crisis through her unreliable narrator Gifty, who struggles to balance her allegiance to both science and religion while caring for her mentally ill mother. The novel is Gyasi's second; her first, Homegoing, was a bestseller in 2016.

Bernardine Evaristo, chair of judges for the prize, said that the award recognised an “outstanding, ambitious, original”, and that the shortlist featured stories about “lives you haven’t read about before." 

"We did want to champion books that introduced the reader to little-told stories. These three books are about marginalised communities, and they are very fresh because of that,” said the Girl, Woman, Other author. “Unsettled Ground really digs deep into rural England and people who are left behind by the system. And Gyasi tells of a Ghanaian family in the deep south and how they struggle to cope when their lives are torn asunder – it’s another forgotten community.”

The winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction will be revealed on 7 July.

The 2021 Women’s prize shortlist

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue)

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree)

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Viking)

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (Headline)

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury)

Read more about the shortlisted authors:

Interview: What inspires Yaa Gyasi
What I'm Reading: Claire Fuller

Topics
  • Unsettled Ground

  • LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE 2021

    'So sharply, so utterly brilliant that I found myself holding my breath while reading it, dazzled by Fuller's mastery and precision'
    LAUREN GROFF, author of Fates and Furies
    __________________________________________________________________________

    What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant?

    What would you do to get it back?

    Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

    But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother's secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

    Unsettled Ground is a heart-stopping novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.
    ____________________________________________________________________

    'Her strongest yet... a powerful, beautiful novel that shows us our land as it really is: a place of shelter and cruelty, innocence and experience' THE TIMES

    'A gorgeously written celebration of the natural world as well as a moving portrait of a family struggling against time' LUCY TAN

    'An atmospheric thriller that's both heartbreaking and heartwarming' RED

  • Buy the book
  • Transcendent Kingdom

  • SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2021

    **From the bestselling author of Homegoing**

    'A BOOK OF BLAZING BRILLIANCE' Washington Post
    ______________________________________________

    As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two - and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away.

    Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother's life, she turns to science for answers. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty soon learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach farther than she ever thought. Tracing her family's story through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.

    Transcendent Kingdom is a searing story of love, loss and redemption, and the myriad ways we try to rebuild our lives from the rubble of our collective pasts.
    ______________________________________________________


    'A piercing story of faith, science and the opioid crisis...Transcendent Kingdom really sings. There's bravery as well as beauty here' Observer

    'Absolutely transcendent. A gorgeously woven narrative . . . not a word or idea out of place. THE RANGE. I am quite angry this is so good' Roxane Gay

    'I would say that Transcendent Kingdom is a novel for our time (and it is) but it is so much more than that. It is a novel for all times. The splendor and heart and insight and brilliance contained in the pages holds up a light the rest of us can follow' Ann Patchett

  • Buy the book

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