June 7, 2013

A.M. Homes wins her first major literary award


The Women’s Prize was awarded to A.M. Homes yesterday for May We Be Forgiven, her darkly comic novel about the complicated relationship between Nixon historian Harold Silver, his brother, and his sister-in-law. It was published by Granta Books in the UK.

“I didn’t think I could win,” Homes told Felicity Capon in the Telegraph. “I thought Hilary Mantel could win, I thought Barbara Kingsolver could win, I thought Zadie Smith could win, I thought Kate Atkinson could win, I thought Maria Semple could win – but not me!”

The prize began in 1996, and it is awarded with $46,000 to the best novel written in English by a woman. Homes is the fifth American to win this prize.

Homes has written six other novels (including The End of Alice), two short story collections, and a memoir. Her novel was competing against Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, NW by Zadie Smith, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.

Every year there’s a little debate about whether there should be a separate prize for women. Feminist scholar Elaine Showalter said to Ron Charles of the Washington Post, “There is still a need for a literary prize for women — to highlight the diversity and excellence of women’s fiction and to compensate for the media attention disproportionately lavished on male novelists. It’s also an opportunity for women to claim the literary spotlight as readers, reviewers, and critics as well as writers. The prize generates great enthusiasm and excitement. I think some of the controversy is just jealousy about women writers getting so much publicity!”

In the same article, author Meg Wolitzer said, “The Women’s Prize remains a significant way to bring attention and readers to terrific work by women writers. The playing field isn’t level yet, and to pretend it is is a polite evasion that makes the writing and publishing lives of women more difficult.”

The Women’s Prize was formerly the Orange Prize and, with its new sponsor, will be called the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction next year.


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.