The shortlist for this year’s The Goldsmiths Prize was announced in late September. The prize is a British literary award, presented in association with the New Statesman. Established in 2013, it aims to celebrate and promote unconventional, experimental works of British and Irish fiction that explore new possibilities for the novel form.
This year’s shortlist is heavily dominated with books by women writers who are competing for the annual prize of £10,000, previous winners of which include eminent names like Ali Smith (How to Be Both) and Eimear McBride (A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing). The winner will be announced at a ceremony in central London on November 9. Here’s the breakdown of the shortlist:
Solar Bones by Mike McCormackThis daring novel, set in 2009 after the Irish financial crash, breaks the mould of the conventional novel form and is written in a single, long, continuous sentence for over 200 words. While that might seem gimmicky or willfully unconventional, the stream of consciousness narrative compliments the contemplative, meandering chain of thought of our protagonist, Marcus Conway. A civil engineer by profession, Marcus reflects back on his life as the narration follows him as he ruminates about the financial crisis, his family and local politics. With slightly apocalyptic undertones, this novel provides compelling insight into a man’s uninterrupted stream of thought which is at once pensive and engaging.
Transit by Rachel Cusk
In this novel, which is the follow-up to her previous book Outline, we follow a creative writing teacher, Faye, who is now divorced with two sons, and looking to make a new start in London. Blurring the line between fact and fiction this novel, like its predecessor, is composed of a series of stories, linked only by virtue of being narrated by our protagonist. With its coolly detached tone, fluent prose and incisive observations about how other people live, Transit is an exquisitely written novel.
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBrideThis is a beautifully written coming-of-age story of Eilis, a young Irish girl during a year at London Drama School and her torrid relationship with an older actor. McBride combines her stream of consciousness style and poetic prose, which is accessible and riveting. This tale of passion and desire immerses us in Eilis’s head, with all her insecurities and self-doubt. The Lesser Bohemians excels in vividly painting our most intimate human experiences – both harrowing and serene – at its most explicit.
Hot Milk by Deborah LevyAlready shortlisted for the Man Booker’s, this unanimously raved about novel is a profound exploration of primal impulses, female rage and the intense bond between children and parents. Set in Spain, the book follows a mother and a daughter as they seek medical advice for the enigmatic paralysis that has confined the former to a wheelchair, leaving the daughter struggling to understand the roots of the illness. The dreamlike writing and vivid sense of place makes this novel a captivating read.
Martin John by Anakana Schofield Since this book made it to most publications’ Top Books of 2015 lists, it didn’t come as a total surprise when it was nominated for The Goldsmith Prize. This dark comedy takes us inside the head of a mentally sick man whose character is repulsive and polarizing. Written in a jagged experimental form which aids the complicated train of thoughts and behaviors of our protagonist and his evil mother, this novel is a genuinely disturbing and different read.
Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika
This humorous novel is the story of a seventy-five year old vivacious Nigerian woman in San Francisco and her unparalleled zest for life. As she is temporarily confined to a rest home after an accident, she reassesses her life and past experiences, coming to terms with aging and consequences of her decisions. The writer’s bold decision to base her story around a septuagenarian character itself is a brave and novel undertaking on her part and she does it full justice with her sensitive yet charming depiction of aging and the nature of memory.