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The judges of the 2021 Fiction Prize reveal the 17 longlisted novels that reflect talented women’s perspectives, narrative styles and preoccupations

2021 longlist

  • Lottie Stoddart - Caldera
  • Rose McDonagh - Mountain
  • Punam Mehta - Me and Many
  • Sally Egan - The Cameo Thief
  • Sally Skinner - The Mirador
  • Susie Coreth - Colours of the In-between
  • Elena Casas - Nobody's Wife
  • Clare Howdle - Dusk in the Bones
  • Briony Cameron - The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye
  • Natalie Reilly-Johnson - A Safe Space
  • Megan Davis - The Messenger
  • Julie Bull - Girls Like Us
  • Nancy Crane - Venus and Psyche
  • Natasha Tripney - Wonder Stuff
  • Emily Coutts - The Perfectionists
  • Charlotte Wightwick - The Anatomist's Wife
  • Sarah Connell - Where Are You Now?

The College’s annual Fiction Prize has gained an unrivalled reputation in the publishing industry. This year’s prize received an unprecedented number of entries. When the deadline was reached, there were an incredible 758 entries - the biggest year ever since the Prize was founded 11 years ago. Thanks to the generosity of Fellow Emerita and judge, Dr Isobel Maddison, editor and ghost-writer, Gillian Stern, and 2020 shortlisted author, Laure Van Rensburg, we were able to offer fourteen sponsored entries for low income writers.

The authors selected for the 2021 longlist now face a tense wait as the judging panel agree a final shortlist of authors, to be announced later this year.

The 2021 judging panel welcomed back literary agent Tim Bates, from our valued sponsor, Peter Fraser Dunlop. Also on the panel is Ansa Khan Khattak, Commissioning Editor at Picador and Dr Isobel Maddison, Fellow Emerita of Lucy Cavendish College where she was College Lecturer and Director of Studies in English. Returning to the panel once again are editor and ghost-writer Gillian Stern, Fellow Emerita Lindsey Traub, and poet, crime writer and Honorary Fellow of the College, Sophie Hannah. Chair of the panel is political journalist, broadcaster and Honorary Fellow of the College Jackie Ashley (after leaving the College as its eight President).

Jackie Asley commented on this year’s longlist: “With a record 750 entries for the Fiction Prize this year it’s not surprising that there are plenty of real gems in this year’s longlist.  In the year of Covid we have seen a variety of themes, from murder to ghosts and from dementia to childhoods revisited. The quality of the writing is as high as ever and we warmly congratulate all those who have made it through to this stage of the competition.

Tim Bates added: “It’s been another wonderful year for the Prize. It’s a great pleasure, yet again, to discover such a deep pool of unpublished talent. We’re very proud of the quality of this year’s longlist, which represents a very diverse range of styles and voices, from commercial thrillers and historical romps, to stylish literary fiction and a couple of intriguing and unusual contemporary voices. I’m certain that several of this talented group will go on to achieve great success.

Many shortlisted authors in previous years have been offered agency representation and have gone on to be published.

Gail Honeyman (2014 shortlist) has topped the fiction charts with her novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (published 2017) a deft observation of everyday life. Catherine Chanter (2013 winner) became a published author with her feminist, post-apocalyptic The Well which has now been published in the UK by Canongate and translated into twelve languages. Catherine has now published a second novel, The Half Sister. Frances Maynard (2016 shortlist) published The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr, a funny, heart-warming and award-winning piece of fiction. She went on to publish Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance in 2019. Emily Midorikawa (2015 winner) and Emma Claire Sweeney published A Secret Sisterhood to wide acclaim. Lesley Sanderson published her gripping thriller The Orchid Girls (2017 shortlist) in 2018 and has since published The Woman at 46 Heath Street, The Leaving Party and I know you lied. Sara Collins’ debut, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, (2016 shortlist) a gothic romance, was published in 2019 in the UK and US. It won the 2019 Costa First Novel Award, has been sold for translation into more than fourteen languages, and has been optioned for television. Laura Marshall’s psychological thriller Friend Request (2016 shortlist) was published in 2017 and has gone on to receive numerous awards. Laura has since published another acclaimed crime thriller, Three Little Lies, and is currently working on her third novel. Claire Askew published her crime debut All the Hidden Truths (2016 winner) and has now also written and published What You Pay For and Cover Your Tracks. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s dazzling debut Swan Song (2016 shortlist) was published by Penguin Random House/Hutchinson in 2018 and among many accolades was longlisted for the Women's Prize For Fiction in 2019. The rights have been sold for television to Balloon Entertainment (Skins, Clique), with Kelleigh adapting the novel as a limited series. Louise Hare debut novel This Lovely City (shortlisted in 2017) was published by HQ in February 2020. Nicola Garrard's 29 Locks (shortlisted 2019) a gritty coming-of-age novel that tells the story of 15-year-old Donny, an ex-gang member from Hackney, will be published by HopeRoad in June 2021. Susan Stokes Chapman’s Pandora (shortlisted 2020) will be published by Harvill Secker in 2022. 

About Lucy Cavendish

The College was founded as a women's college for students aged twenty-one and over and which transformed their life chances and gave them professional careers. The College has now embraced Cambridge University widening participation campaign and decided to open those opportunities to new groups of under-represented women of all ages (generally 18+) from October 2020, and from all ages and genders from September 2021, and to welcome and support particularly those who have a passion and commitment to address the global challenges that characterise our societies in the 21st Century. Our undergraduate and postgraduate students come from over sixty countries, and a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds. Many have changed careers or overcome significant challenges in order to reach University. The College is particularly strong in Medicine, Law, Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, Psychology, the Social Sciences and English.

Contact information Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, T: 01223 768426, E:

To find out more about the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize click here.