The Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 Winner:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones


An American Marriage - Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019

 

It is our great pleasure to confirm Tayari Jones’s novel, An American Marriage, as the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019. 

"This is an exquisitely intimate portrait of a marriage shattered by racial injustice. It is a story of love, loss and loyalty, the resilience of the human spirit painted on a big political canvas – that shines a light on today’s America. We all loved this brilliant book."

PROFESSOR KATE WILLIAMS, Chair of Judges

 

Hinging on the devastating fallout from a young man’s wrongful incarceration, An American Marriage drives a stake through the heart of the modern American Dream. An insightful and moving depiction of middle-class, African American life that interweaves themes of identity, class and broken expectation, it is a resounding triumph.

 

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Already a huge hit in the United States, Tayari Jones’ bestselling novel portrays the devastating and long-lasting effects of a young black man’s incarceration for a crime he didn’t commit. Told partly through letters between Roy and his wife Celestial, the novel conveys, with great subtly and compassion, the way one unexpected and irreparable injustice can erode the new promise of a relationship and leave an indelible mark across generations. Moving from grief and anger, to slow-won acceptance, An American Marriage asks important questions about what anyone might sacrifice for love and holds up a mirror to the cracks in the modern American Dream. ‘It… warns us to awaken our compassion and empathy’, comments the New York Times. ‘This can be you, the story whispers. Forget that at your peril.’

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The Shortlist

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The Silence of the Girls is Man Booker Prize-Winning novelist Pat Barker’s electrifying revision of The Iliad’s mythology, as seen through the eyes of the voiceless women of war. Told from the perspective of former queen Briseis, given to Greek hero Achilles as a spoil of war, it’s a tale of lost identity, unsung bravery and the unseen casualties of conflict. Echoing the themes of her masterful Regeneration trilogy, The Silence of the Girls is a hard-hitting, startlingly vivid novel with a powerful message about who tells stories and why it matters. As the Irish Times oberserves, ‘angry, thoughtful, sad, deeply humane and compulsively readable, The Silence of the Girls shows that 36 years after her first novel was published, Barker is a writer at the peak of her powers.’

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Sharp, menacing and darkly funny, the first novel from Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite is a breath of fresh air. Not just an inventive take on the serial-murder thriller, the novel is also a tender examination of sibling relationships in an oppressively patriarchal society; a story that turns the tables on the woman-as-victim trope. Framed against the backdrop of a vividly drawn Lagos and written with a tongue-in-cheek malevolence that fans of Killing Eve will relish, My Sister the Serial Killer is as richly funny as it is disturbing. An addictive - and hugely satisfying - read.

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Anna Burns presents a darkly wry - but disquieting – coming of age in her third, Man Booker Prize-winning novel Milkman. The setting is a thinly-disguised Belfast of the Troubles; the drama focuses on its nameless, 18-year-old narrator and her affair with the somewhat sinister ‘Milkman’, a much older married man allied with the paramilitaries. ‘Milkman is both a story of Belfast and its particular sins but it is also a story of anywhere,’ noted the Irish Times. ‘It reminded me of China Mieville’s The City and the City where identity, names and seeing the Other are contentious acts. Milkman shares this level of ambition; it is an impressive, wordy, often funny book.’

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The drama of the everyday is at the heart of Diana Evans vibrant third novel. Opening on the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, Ordinary People captures the lives of two couples, navigating the landscape of black and mixed-race middle class domesticity, parenthood and the unravelling confines of the settled-for life. Evans writing is sparklingly light on its feet and brings pathos and humour to an insightful examination of modern life so filmic it even has its own soundtrack. As the Guardian writes, Ordinary People is an accomplished novel, brought to life by ‘the sheer energy and effervescence of Evans’s funny, sad, magnificent prose.’

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Already a huge hit in the United States, Tayari Jones’ bestselling novel portrays the devastating and long-lasting effects of a young black man’s incarceration for a crime he didn’t commit. Told partly through letters between Roy and his wife Celestial, the novel conveys, with great subtly and compassion, the way one unexpected and irreparable injustice can erode the new promise of a relationship and leave an indelible mark across generations. Moving from grief and anger, to slow-won acceptance, An American Marriage asks important questions about what anyone might sacrifice for love and holds up a mirror to the cracks in the modern American Dream. ‘It… warns us to awaken our compassion and empathy’, comments the New York Times. ‘This can be you, the story whispers. Forget that at your peril.’

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Having entranced readers with her Orange Prize-winning debut, The Song of Achilles, Madeleine Miller brings the tales of gods and monsters to life afresh in Circe, a spellbinding novel, alive with myth and magic. Reframing ancient Greek legend, Miller gives a new and powerful voice to the mysterious figure of Circe: god-born daughter, nymph, murderer and witch. Considering what it might mean to be a woman burning brightly in a man’s world, and spanning the cannon of classical mythos, Circe unspools a tantalising tale of survival, transformation and revenge. ‘Written in prose that ripples… she has turned an ancient tale of female subjugation into one of empowerment and courage full of contemporary resonances.’ - The Independent

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The Longlist

The Silence of the Girls
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Remembered
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My Sister, the Serial Killer
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The Pisces
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Milkman
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Freshwater
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Ordinary People
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Swan Song
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An American Marriage
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Ghost Wall
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Number One Chinese Restaurant
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Bottled Goods
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Lost Children Archive
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Praise Song for the Butterflies
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Circe
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Normal People
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