Last week the shortlists for the Costa Book Awards were announced, with five categories in total – Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry, and Children’s Book. The all female shortlist for the Novel award has sparked some discussion – namely whether it is still necessary for there to be a prize such as The Orange Prize for Fiction, which is exclusively for women writers. The prize was established 17 years ago by both male and female contributors to the industry – writers, reviewers, publishers, journalists – at a time when it was felt women weren’t getting fair treatment, in response to the Man Booker Prize shortlist in 1991, which included no women at all.
So, have times changed? Are women writing better books? Or are they just being more widely recognised for their achievements? Should women continue to have a prize exclusively for them, just because they can? And, in the end, when it comes to good fiction, do all these award ceremonies actually matter?
The winners of the five Costa categories will be announced on the 6th of January, and those five will then form the shortlist for the Book of the Year prize, to be announced on the 28th of January.