First impressions of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018 longlist

The longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced last week – Wednesday 8th March, at midnight. I wanted to take some time to absorb and digest the list, laying out plans for my reading, so a week later here’s my initial thoughts on the books that made the cut.

Image courtesy of the Women’s Prize for Fiction

Looking at the longlist this year, overall I’m happy. There’s a mix of books I’ve read, books I thought would appear, books I’m longing to read and also books – and authors – I’ve never even heard of. Honestly, there’s also a few books I’m surprised to see, that I thought maybe wouldn’t be longlisted because there’s already loads of hype around them. That’s not to say they don’t deserve recognition and an (even) wider audience, but I prefer it when I discover new, hidden talent. And that’s really why I love the WPF – it gives me a kick up the bum to read the books I’ve had on my list a little to long and also allows me to discover new gems that might have gone unnoticed.

Out of the 16 longlisted books, I’ve already read two:

Both were impeccable, enjoyable and memorable reads.

Out of the 14 remaining books, I already have five on my TBR list:

  • Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal

Looking at the last nine books, I’ve heard of – but don’t really know anything about – five:

  • The Idiot by Elif Batuman
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  • Sight by Jessie Greengrass
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

So that leaves four that are completely shiny and new to me:

  • H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker
  • Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig
  • When I Hit You: or, a portrait of the writer as a young wife by Meena Kandasamy
  • A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert

One of the first things I do when I see the prize each year is to assess what I’ve already ticked off reading during the previous year, as well as what I already own. Then I go through the rest of the books on the list picking out the ones that interest me the most, reserving them from my library in the hope that I’ll get them out before the shortlist for the prize is announced.

This year, I’m most excited to read The Trick to Time, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, Manhattan Beach and Miss Burma. I’m really into reading historical fiction at the moment, so I think the latter three will help scratch that itch. There’s a couple I’m not too fussed about (I won’t name names at the moment), but if I can get them from the library and have some spare time I’ll try and give them a go.


Femmeuary Reads

I had such a great month of reading in February – I stuck to my pledge of only reading books by women, as part of Lauren and The Books’ Femmeuary (see this post if you have no idea what I’m on about). I managed to read five four star reads and one five star books – I’ve felt more motivated to read than I have in a long, long time. May this reading streak continue! 

How to be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax (Penguin) – 4/5  


This is a warm and witty look at mental health; accessible and informative it discusses twelve elements, from evolution to addiction. In tone and content, I found this quite similar to her previous books Sane New World and Mindfulness for the Frazzled, however I thought the structure of it was great and really enjoyed the discussions between the monk and the neuroscientist. At the end of each chapter, each topic is dissected, looking at how the mind works, mindfulness and more scientifically, the brain. If you’re looking for a light-hearted book at why we behave in certain ways, this one is for you.

The Road Home by Rose Tremain (Vintage) – 4/5


A book about courage, belonging, determination, love and family. I was nervous going into The Road Home, as last year The Gustav Sonata by Tremain was one of my favourite books and I hoped that this would live up to expectations. I’m pleased to say it did – I absolutely loved it. Rose Tremain creates characters that are intricate and three-dimensional, ones that you care about and also ones that at times you hate. There was only one plot point that jarred with me – no spoilers here, but on reflection I can see why Rose Tremain included it, however the point in question seemed so out of character for the book’s main man (Lev) that I thought I was a little unnecessary.

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand (Bloomsbury) – 4/5


Sophia Duleep Singh was born into Indian royalty. Her father, Maharajah Duleep Singh, was heir to the Kingdom of the Sikhs, one of the greatest empires of the Indian subcontinent. My Mum got me this book for Christmas and I’d saved it to read to coincide with it being 100 years since (some) women got the vote and woman’s suffrage. At times this is quite dense, but never unenjoyable, to read – it is rich with description and character, so much so that you get a true flavour of what Sophia was like, her priorities and her lifestyle. I learnt so much from this book. Ultimately it is about a strong, independent and revolutionary female that I’d previously not heard of.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray (Aster) – 4/5


A fresh look at alcohol addiction and the joy sobriety can bring, as well as understanding why society has a negative view of staying sober. This was in no way condescending, or preachy, instead Catherine Gray provides information – and her story – and lets you make your own mind up. It tells the tale of her booze-fuelled twenties and how hitting rock bottom allowed her to start living her life again. It is a super quick, and enjoyable read, which definitely made me question my health and my alcohol consumption. 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Blackfriars) – 4/5


This novel opens with such a punchy first line – “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” after reading this, I was hooked and raced through this novel in two short sittings. Everything I Never Told You is about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio; it explores family dynamics, racial tension, and the pressures children can face from parents. Ultimately, it is about discovering who we, and our families, really are and why we behave the way we do. Ng’s writing is beautiful, filled with tension and tenderness – I’ve now got her second book, Little Fires Everywhere high-up on my TBR list.

The Unseen World by Liz Moore (Windmill Books) – 5/5


Where do I start? This was, without doubt, my standout novel for the month. It follows Ada Sibelius, an intelligent young girl who has been raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab. Set in multiple eras (1980s and 2009), early on in the novel Ada realises David is forgetting things – the book is her quest to discover her father’s past and piece together his life. It is emotional, quirky and intense – it won’t be for everything, but for me it was incredible. A full review will follow shortly, once I’ve managed to put how much I enjoyed it into words.

Anticipated Reads: March

Here are the books that I’m most looking forward to reading in March (all blurbs are below):


The F Word by Lily Pebbles (Hodder & Stoughton) 

If there’s one piece of invaluable advice for women and girls of all ages, it is that there is nothing more important than creating and maintaining strong, positive and happy friendships with other women.

If Lily Pebble’s 1998 diary is anything to go by, female friendships are incredibly complex and emotional but they’re the mini love stories that make us who we are. For many women, friends are our partners in crime through life; they are the ones who move us into new homes, out of bad relationships, through births and illnesses.

The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal (Viking)

Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage – before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.

Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again?

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi (W&N)

It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her. Yet she hopes desperately they can mend their shattered relationship.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Tinder Press)

It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Over the years that follow, the siblings must choose how to live with the prophecies the fortune-teller gave them that day. Will they accept, ignore, cheat or defy them? Golden-boy Simon escapes to San Francisco, searching for love; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician; eldest son Daniel tries to control fate as an army doctor after 9/11; and bookish Varya looks to science for the answers she craves.

Bookworm A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan (Square Peg)

She was whisked away to Narnia – and Kirrin Island – and Wonderland. She ventured down rabbit holes and womble burrows into midnight gardens and chocolate factories. She wandered the countryside with Milly-Molly-Mandy, and played by the tracks with the Railway Children. With Charlotte’s Web she discovered Death and with Judy Blume it was Boys. No wonder she only left the house for her weekly trip to the library or to spend her pocket money on amassing her own at home.

In Bookworm, Lucy revisits her childhood reading with wit, love and gratitude. She relives our best-beloved books, their extraordinary creators, and looks at the thousand subtle ways they shape our lives. She also disinters a few forgotten treasures to inspire the next generation of bookworms and set them on their way.

Predictions: Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018

With just over a week to go until the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist is announced (8thMarch), I thought I’d put together a post on my predictions.

The literary prize, exclusively for women, was set up in 1992 and previously known as The Orange Prize for Fiction and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. It’s a prize that celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world. Last year The Power by Naomi Alderman won the prize.

This year, the longlist will consist of up to 20 titles – so I think I’ll wait until the shortlist is announced before I start doing my own armchair judging. Any woman writing in English – whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter – is eligible. Novels must be published in the United Kingdom between 1 April in the year the Prize calls for entries, and 31 March the following year, when the Prize is announced.

So, which novels do I think deserve a place on this year’s longlist? (n.b. I haven’t read all of these, but have heard exceptional reviews for all of them/ they’re high-up on my TBR pile!)


This year, the judges will be: Katy Brand, Catherine Mayer, Imogen Stubbs, Anita Anand and Sarah Sands. The longlist will be announced on March 8th –  are there any books that you think I’ve missed here? Any that you’d love to see on the list?


The wonderful Lauren, over from the Booktube channel Lauren and The Books, is hosting Femmeuary. In short, Lauren has coined February ‘Femmeuary’ to celebrate women – during the month she’s encouraging us to read, watch and consume any content that makes us proud, empowered and delighted to be a woman. If you’re still a little confused, you can see her announcement video here (she does a much better job of explaining the concept than I have…).

So, it goes without saying that during Femmeuary I’ll be reading books by, and about, strong, independent women (throw your hands up at me!). Just a few on my TBR are:

How to be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax

rubywaxA three-way encounter between a Monk, a neuroscientist and Ruby Wax sounds like the set up for a joke. Instead it’s produced one of the most fascinating, intriguing and informative books about minds and bodies and brains and mindfulness I’ve ever encountered. A triangulation on what it means to be human. 

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand


In 1876 Sophia Duleep Singh was born into royalty. Her father, Maharajah Duleep Singh, was heir to the Kingdom of the Sikhs, a realm that stretched from the lush Kashmir Valley to the craggy foothills of the Khyber Pass and included the mighty cities of Lahore and Peshawar. Sophia transcended her heritage to devote herself to battling injustice and inequality, a far cry from the life to which she was born.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Grey


Ever sworn off alcohol for a month and found yourself drinking by the 7th? Think there’s ‘no point’ in just one drink? Welcome! There are millions of us. 64% of Brits want to drink less. Catherine Gray was stuck in a hellish whirligig of Drink, Make horrible decisions, Hangover, Repeat. She had her fair share of ‘drunk tank’ jail cells and topless-in-a-hot-tub misadventures. But this book goes beyond the binges and blackouts to deep-dive into uncharted territory: What happens after you quit drinking? This gripping, heart-breaking and witty book takes us down the rabbit-hole of an alternative reality. A life with zero hangovers, through sober weddings, sex, Christmases and breakups.

Will you be taking part in Femmeuary? If so, I’d love to hear what you’ll be reading.

January Reads: Overcoming my reading slump

At the start of the year I vowed to get over my reading slump and back into my books. I know I’ve said it a lot, but the last part of the year felt really lacklustre with my reading – there was lots I wanted to read, but nothing that I could really muster the attention span for. BUT, I’m pleased to report that I AM BACK ON IT.

Before the new year rung in, I organised my books (helped of course by a new bookshelf…) and dug out a few new releases I wanted to read during January.

The Child Finder by Rene Denfield (W&N) – 3/5


This was an easy, and enjoyable, crime read – it follows Naomi Cottle who finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. A little predictable in places, but it was a nice, easy book to start the year on.

The Confession by Jo Spain (Quercus) – 4/5


This is an explosive psychological thriller; a real cat and mouse read that leaves you flitting between perspectives, characters and storylines. I was addicted from the first page – my full review, for the blog tour, can be read here.

Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit (Orion) – 3/5


The premise of this book is better than the actual storyline – how far would you go for your family, to ensure their safety? It is definitely more of a slow-burning literary thriller, than a fast-paced fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thriller. It left me wanting more and in truth, just a little disappointed.

After You by JoJo Moyes (Penguin) – 3/5


I took this on holiday with me as I wanted a light-hearted, easy read. Having read Me Before You in one sitting about five years ago, I thought it was about time I got round to reading After You. This was a great holiday read, and I enjoyed it, but it definitely didn’t pack as much of a punch as the first in the series.

The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes (Black Swan) – 3/5


It took me a little while to get into this historical novel, but nonetheless it was a quirky, enjoyable read with a pithy, curious woman at its heart. This is a dark, gory tale about The Coroner of Dublin’s daughter and her inquisitive mind. It had a good amount of twists and turns to keep me interested, but it lacked a bit of oomph – I didn’t feel particularly invested in the characters.

Blog Tour: The Confession by Jo Spain (Quercus Books)

#BlogTour #TheConfession #BookReview

Welcome to my stop on The Confession blog tour.

About the Book:


Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear. It looks like Harry’s many sins – corruption, greed, betrayal – have finally caught up with him.

An hour later the intruder, JP Carney, hands himself in, confessing to the assault. The police have a victim, a suspect in custody and an eye-witness account, but Julie remains troubled.

Has Carney’s surrender really been driven by a guilty conscience or is this confession the first calculated move in a deadly game?

Published in hardback: 25th January 2018 / EBook: 11th January 2018
Author: Jo Spain
Publisher: Quercus Books

My thoughts:

This is an explosive psychological thriller; a real cat and mouse read that leaves you flitting between perspectives, characters and storylines. I started reading this late one night and was completely addicted, I had to force myself to put it down so I could get some sleep.

From the first page, we know who the killer is, but it isn’t until the last that we find out why. I loved this concept, as it flipped the usual murder mystery on it’s head – Jo Spain delved into the back-stories and lives of the characters, unravelling their pasts to help us understand what really happened. It provided the book with a dark storyline that reels you in.

At the heart of this novel is Harry McNamara, his wife Julie and their dysfunctional marriage. It highlights that often it is not all as it seems on the surface; we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. Throughout, the characters are well-developed, wonderfully dark, complex and so dislikable. With many twists and turns, I found myself second guessing what had happened, realising at the end I was completely wrong – when I reached the last page I had to take some time to absorb it all.

The Confession is such a great read; it grips you from the get-go and pulls you in. I promise, if you like thrillers you’ll be up all night wanting to read just a little bit more…

About the Author:


Jo Spain’s first novel, top ten bestseller With our Blessing, was one of seven finalists in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition 2015. It was named as an Irish Times crime fiction book of the year by Declan Burke. Beneath the Surface (2016) and Sleeping Beauties (2017), the second and third in the DI Tom Reynolds series followed, to further critical acclaim. Her standalone thriller, The Confession, will be released January 2018.

A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four young children. Jo previously worked as a policy advisor in the Irish parliament and as vice-chair of the business body InterTrade Ireland.

Jo’s debut novel is set against a background of the infamous Irish Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby homes. The author’s own father was born in one such home in Dublin and the novel’s backdrop was constructed based on the in-depth research she undertook while attempting to trace her family roots.

Her favourite writers include Pierre LeMaitre, Fred Vargas, Louise Penny, Jo Nesbo, Ann Cleeves, B.A. Paris, Elizabeth Haynes and Agatha Christie.

You can read the other posts on the blog tour here:

The Confession Blog Tour Poster Final.jpg