June 7, 2018

Kamila Shamsie wins Women’s Prize 2018

Kamila Shamsie has won the 2018 Women’s Prize for fiction with her novel Home Fire. Published by Bloomsbury in 2017, Home Fire was also shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Novel Award and longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. It is Kamila’s seventh novel, and her first win of the Women’s Prize, having been shortlisted twice before.

Home Fire is a story which Sarah Sands, the Chair of the Women’s Prize judges, praised for its ‘astonishing prescience’ and ‘the breadth of its ambition’. On picking it as the winner, Sands said: ‘It was extremely difficult, because of the richness and variety of the shortlist… But when we set out to decide what felt like the story of our times, [Home Fire] was the right choice.’

A reworking of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire tells the story of three siblings in a British Muslim family and what happens when one member joins the media arm of Isis.

In praise of Home Fire, Sands said: ‘Shamsie is funny and exact about the Muslim experience, what it means to be challenged on your identity, what it means choosing between public and private… Her nuance, her sympathies, really make you challenge your own lazy thinking on all this,’ she said. ‘The different characters were all so well-realised that you have sympathy for all of them – even the brother, that was the extraordinary thing. There’s no question what he did was wrong, but you feel sympathy, that it was a terrible misjudgment, that there’s no going back.

‘To humanise a political story in that way really does show what literature can do, that it can tackle a hard subject that otherwise would never have that sense of layered sympathy and understanding. It really advanced our understanding of the whole issue of identity.’

The novel should also be considered ‘a really good page-turner’, said Sands.

‘It is very readable, it’s extremely well written, it’s well plotted, it’s something that could easily be a brilliant television series or film. It’s not that you’re thinking, ‘This is a novel about politics, I need to plough through’,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t feel as if she is straining to recreate Antigone – you could read it without thinking about Sophocles at all. In a way, that just gives it a resonance.’

See a clip of Kamila’s announcement and speech here.