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Home Fire wins Women's Prize for Fiction

June 6, 2018

Kamila Shamsie's tale of family and faith in the modern world beat out five other contenders for the prestigious award. Shamsie thanked the award's founders for promoting women's voices in literature.

Kamila Shamsie Women's Prize for Fiction
Image: Getty Images/I. Gavan

British-Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie won the Women's Prize for Fiction on Wednesday with her modern reworking of the ancient Greek myth of Antigone, Home Fire.

"Fiction does and can make a difference. Exceptional fiction helps us to be our best selves…it helps us listen," said novelist and prize co-founder Kate Mosse before announcing Shamsie's win.

Shamsie published her first novel, In The City by the Sea, in 1998 when she was just 25 years old. She has been nominated for a slew of prestigious literary prizes, including twice previously for the Women's Prize, and made the long list for last year's Man Booker Prize.

Home Fire tells the story of a woman who must care for her young twin siblings in London when their parents die, and of the conflict that arises between the sisters when their brother travels to Syria to join the "Islamic State."

Described by The Guardian as "elegant and evocative," Home Fire spans Britain, the United States, Syria and Pakistan to explore "the clash between society, family and faith in the modern world."

Founded in 1996 as the Orange Prize for Fiction, and later known as the Bailey's Prize, the Women's Prize seeks to "promote, honor and amplify women's voices." In her acceptance speech, Shamsie thanked previous winner Ali Smith, who won for 2014's How to Be Both, and praised the difference the award made for the careers of female writers.

Shamsie beat out US authors Jesmyn Ward with Sing, Unburied Sing and Elif Batuman with The Idiot, as well as fan favorite When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy, which examines the social isolation that comes with domestic violence. Also nominated was Imogen Hermes Gowar's The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, a fantasy story set in Georgian London.

Jessie Greengrass, who was nominated for her debut novel Sight, was unable to attend the ceremony, having given birth the night before the prize was announced.

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.