Commonwealth Writer's Prize Other

2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Shortlists Announced

I love the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and so was excited to see the 2011 shortlists revealed earlier this week. The frustrating thing is that most of the books are not available in the UK yet, but hopefully this will change now that they’ve made the shortlist for this book award.

The 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize shortlists are:

The books pictured are those available in the UK now (or in the very near future)

The shortlisted winners for the Africa Best Book are:
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)
Men of the South by Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa)
The Unseen Leopard by Bridget Pitt (South Africa)
Oil on Water by Helon Habila (Nigeria)
Blood at Bay by Sue Rabie (South Africa)
Banquet at Brabazan by Patricia Schonstein (South Africa)

The shortlisted winners for the Africa Best First Book are:
Happiness is a Four Letter Word by Cynthia Jele (South Africa)
Bitter Leaf by Chioma Okereke (Nigeria)
The Fossil Artist by Graeme Friedman (South Africa)
Colour Blind by Uzoma Uponi (Nigeria)
Voice of America by E. C. Osondu (Nigeria)
Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce (South Africa)

The shortlisted writers for the Canada and Caribbean Best Book are:
The Sky is Falling by Caroline Adderson (Canada)
Room by Emma Donoghue (Canada)
The Master of Happy Endings by Jack Hodgins (Canada)
In The Fabled East by Adam Lewis Schroeder (Canada)
The Death of Donna Whalen by Michael Winter (Canada)
Mr. Shakespeare’s Bastard by Richard B. Wright (Canada)

The shortlisted writers for the Canada and Caribbean Best First Book are:
Bird Eat Bird by Katrina Best (Canada)
Doing Dangerously Well by Carole Enahoro (Canada)
Mennonites Don’t Dance by Darcie Friesen Hossack (Canada)
Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod (Canada)
The Cake is for the Party by Sarah Selecky (Canada)
Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco (Canada)


The shortlisted winners for the South Asia and Europe Best Book are:
Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (UK)
The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore (UK)
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (UK)
The Long Song by Andrea Levy (UK)
Sex and Stravinsky by Barbara Trapido (UK)
Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett (UK)

The shortlisted winners for the South Asia and Europe Best First Book are:
Serious Men by Manu Joseph (India)
Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph (India)
The House with the Blue Shutters by Lisa Hilton (UK)
Children of the Sun by Max Shaefer (UK)
Grace Williams says it Loud by Emma Henderson (UK)
Sabra Zoo by Mischa Hiller (UK)

The shortlisted winners for the South East Asia and Pacific Best Book are:
Reading Madame Bovary by Amanda Lohrey (Australia)
That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott (Australia)
Time’s Long Ruin by Stephen Orr (Australia)
Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones (New Zealand)
Notorious by Roberta Lowing (Australia)
Gifted by Patrick Evans (New Zealand)

The shortlisted winners for the South East Asia and Pacific Best First Book are:
21 Immortals by Rozlan Mohd Noor (Malaysia)
A Man Melting by Craig Cliff (New Zealand)
The Graphologist’s Apprentice by Whiti Hereaka (New Zealand)
The Body in the Clouds by Ashley Hay (Australia)
Traitor by Stephen Daisley (Australia/New Zealand)
A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill (Australia)

I have read several of the shortlist:

Room by Emma Donoghue 

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell stars41

The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore 

The Long Song by Andrea Levy stars41

Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco 

Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones  

Grace Williams says it Loud by Emma Henderson  (not reviewed)

The shortlist is too long for me to attempt to complete it and since half the books aren’t available in this country that isn’t an easy task, but I hope that you can help me.

Have you read any of the books on this list?

Do you think that I’ll particularly enjoy reading any of them?

Who do you think deserves to win?

34 replies on “2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Shortlists Announced”

Judith, I agree that there are a lot of appealing covers there. Based on covers alone I want to read In the Fabled East – I wonder if it is as good as it looks!

When I see lists like this, I wonder what planet I live on. I can count on one hand how many books I’ve even HEARD of! The only one I’ve read is Room. You’ve made good headway though. I’m thankful to awards like this that bring books like this to my attention!

Sandy, You are at a bit of a disadvantage because no US books are on the lists, but don’t worry – I hadn’t heard of most either. It is why I follow these types of prizes – otherwise I’d miss out on knowing about a lot of wonderful books!

I’ve read just two of them, Room and The Long Song. I have had The Memory of Love on my wishlist for ages and of the rest I am most attracted to The House with the Blue Shutters and a close second, Reading Madame Bovary. I am going to remain strong and resist investigating any more…for a while at least!

Teresa, I have seen The Memory of Love mentioned a few times, but none of the reviews have persuaded me that it is a must read. Reading Madame Bovary has attracted my attention on a few Australian blogs, but I haven’t read Bovary yet so I guess i need to read that first! I’m resisting too 🙂

I am so happy to see Habila’s Oil on Water on the list! Surprising to me that ALL of the Canada and Caribbean books are from Canada. The lists seem heavily weighted toward the bigger publishing countries in each area this year, is it always like this? I seem to remember more variety last year…

Amy, I’ll have to see if Oil on Water is in my library since you mentioned it. 🙂

I did think that it was unusual to see such a lack of diversity in these short lists, but have just checked the 2010 short list: and it isn’t much better. To be honest I haven’t really followed this prize at the short list stage before – only the finalists/winners. The finalists are normally from a much better range of countries, but have to admit that the winners seem to be mainly from UK/Canada/Australia/New Zealand. It would be nice to see a broader range of countries win – I wonder if the problem is at the writing, submission or judging stage?

I’ve only read a few from the list, but I’m trying to read as many of the Canadian ones that I can. I already have three of them in transit for me at the library, so I’ll let you know how they are.

I’m also surprised that it’s all Canadian books. I like the Commonwealth Prize because it helps me discover a lot of new books and authors, especially from the Caribbean, and I’m disappointed there weren’t any there.

Shannon, Yes. A lot of people have been disappointed by the lack of Caribbean titles. I rarely hear about Caribeean titles normally – relying on prizes like this to draw them to my attention. I wonder what the best Caribbean books are this year? Perhaps I’ll have to do some investigation….

Dorte, But one of those bloggers has to try the book for the first time….

I’m not going to risk spending money on a title that doesn’t have a good blogging recommendation behind it, but I’ll probably request a few of these titles from the library and give them a quick try. I have had a lot of success with the CWP in the past and so have more trust for this prize than most others.

That´s right, and when it comes to my work, I do try some of the new titles – but with British, and especially American novels, I can´t afford them until they are not new any more. But when publishers send me review copies once in a while, I am the one who tests the new book – just not based on prize lists.

I’ve just finished The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna . It’s a bit slow for those first 50p but I’m very pleased I stuck with it because it turned out to be a wonderful book which I highly recommend.

I have read just two only out of the entire list! but thank you for the detailed list as it gives me a start on looking at so many for me, totally new books and also some new authors.

Thanks for posting this! I am excited about so many of these titles having read only two (Room and Jacob De Zoet). I know some are available in the US, hoping my library carries them.

Gavin, I’m sure that a lot of these books (probably totally different ones) are available in the US. Enjoy your browsing – I hope your library has more than mine. 🙁

I find it very interesting how few of these books (other than the explicitly African lists) actually come from countries outside of the standard Anglo world. No Caribbean titles, 2 Indian titles and 1 Malaysian book. For an award that seems to aim for diversity, these are surprisingly, well, tame shortlists… It obviously may be that these are simply the better books, but I have to wonder what this implies…

Still, I really like the premise of this award, especially this quote from Wikipedia: “The aim of the Prize is to encourage new Commonwealth fiction, and to ensure that works of merit reach a wider audience outside their country of origin”. I never really knew about it until now (and truth be told, I haven’t read any of these shortlisted titles…), but it seems like it’s one worth following.

Biblibio, I agree with you – it is sad that so few countries are represented by this years shortlist. I think one of the main problems is that books in translation are not allowed – I’m sure that would yeild a much more interesting/diverse range of books.

On a positive note, very few books from Australia/New Zealand normally make it over to the UK so it is nice to at least have a few to look into.

Despite the problems I normally find the standard of books on the CWP lists to be very high and so you can normally ensure a fantastic read, even if it isn’t as diverse as it could be.

Simon, I highly recommend that you look into the lists of previous winners – I’m sure that you’ll find that you’ve read a few already and that many others are on your wishlist. It is definitely a prize worth following.

The thing that struck me was what a display of beautiful covers! Given a choice I would love to read most of them, I like to read about books from all four corners of the earth! Thanks for sharing.

Oh, no–now I want to read alll of these! The covers you chose to highlight are looveellyy. Sadly for me, it looks like even less of these books are available in the US–including, oddly enough Voices of America. I’ll have to try again later! Thanks for highlighting the short list. 🙂

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