Cover Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book of Form and Emptiness (Photo: Ian West/PA Wire)

She takes home the award and £30,000 for her novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, which “stood out for its sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy”

The Women's Prize for Fiction is one of the UK's most prestigious literary prizes awarded annually to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English. A panel of esteemed individuals, from editors and authors to journalists and broadcasters, make the difficult decision to select a single winner from an extraordinary shortlist of nominees. This year, the panel consists of Lorraine Candy, Dorothy Koomson, Anita Sethi, and Pandora Sykes, chaired by Mary Ann Sieghart, author of The Authority Gap: Why Women are Still Taken Less Seriously Than Men, and What We Can Do About It.

See also: 'Tomb of Sand' Wins International Booker Prize 2022 

On June 15, they announced the winner of the 2022 Women's Prize for Fiction: The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki.

The Book of Form and Emptiness tells the story of Benny Oh, a 14-year-old reeling from the sudden death of his father, who begins to hear voices from inanimate objects around his house. He eventually forms a relationship with The Book, whose distinct voice is enjoyable as it discusses everything from jazz and poetry to climate change and religion. It is a riveting and wonderfully perplexing book that is unlike any other as you are immersed in a surrealist world filled with sympathetic and familiar characters. 

This critically acclaimed novel marks American-Canadian author, college professor and practising Zen Buddhist priest, Ruth Ozeki's return to fiction after penning The Face: A Time Code, a short 135-page memoir recording the observations and feelings of staring at herself in the mirror for three hours. Her last work of fiction, A Tale for the Time Being, was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize and has won Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award and more. 

See also: 5 Must-Read Books by Southeast Asian Women

The Book of Form and Emptiness was selected from a shortlist of fantastic books, from epic sagas and thrilling romance to witty commentaries on issues of identity and mental illness, which all deserve a spot on your reading list. Find out more about these books below. 

1. The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

Released in August 2021, Elif Shafak's latest novel presents a spellbinding story about two young lovers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, whose clandestine romance begins under a beautiful fig tree on a beautiful Greek island. Decades later, their British daughter Ada Kazantzakis goes on a journey to trace their love story, plagued by violent wars and displacement.

In Island of Missing Trees, the critically acclaimed novelist intricately constructs an enchanting tale of family and identity that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

See also: Editor's Picks: World Book Day Edition

2. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

After years of being homebound, Maggie Shipstead's adventure novel about intrepid female pilot Marian Graves is an exhilarating read. A story that begins with a shipwreck in 1914 takes readers on a journey around the world across a whole century, from Prohibition-era Montana to wartime London and modern-day Los Angeles. The longest entry to the Women's Prize for Fiction this year, Great Circle is an ambitious 500-page novel that is at once an epic tale and bitingly cynical commentary of hope and freedom. 

See also: Karina Robles Bahrin on Winning the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2022

3. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

Sorrow and Bliss is "everything I have seen or felt, thought or read somewhere and found funny or sad, saved up and put into a single story," shares author Meg Mason. An intriguing story about a woman called Martha who suffers from a condition left deliberately unknown, we delve into her mind as she introduces us to the people in her life, including her supportive artistic parents, her beloved sister and her husband Patrick, whose children she refuses to bear. Witty and fast-paced, it is a refreshing exploration of mental illness and the different kinds of impact it can have.  

Related: Brigitte Rozario's Advice to Young Aspiring Writers

4. The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini

"The Bread the Devil Knead is about a Trinidadian woman turning 40 while in an abusive relationship and having an affair with her boss; it’s written mostly in Trinidad Creole; it’s surprisingly funny and light; and it ends in a message of hope and deliverance," summarises Lisa Allen-Agostini.

Set in the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago, the Port of Spain, where the author herself lived for many years, the story really kicks off when protagonist Alethea witnesses a woman murdered by her jealous lover and she begins to reflect on her past, present and future. Through this unforgettable heroine, Allen-Agostini tackles tough issues, such as domestic violence and colourism, with a distinct voice and searing honesty. 

See also: Award-Winning Novelist Tan Twan Eng on How to Write a Bestseller

5. The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Featured as one of our top recommendations for November 2021, this novel is a hilarious, profound and deeply emotional ghost story that takes the reader into the life of Tookie, a former convict who lands a job at a small and haunted independent bookstore in Minneapolis. As we follow Tookie's investigation into the murder of Flora the bookshop ghost, Pulitzer Prize winning-author Louise Erdrich's rich storytelling creates a world grappling with a furious reckoning with a deadly pandemic and important social movement in an interesting parallel to our reality. 

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