#FridayReads 2023-04-28 -‘The Bandit Queens’ and ‘I’m A Fan’ two books from the 2023 Women’s Prize For Fiction Longlist

Unlike the Booker Prize, which seems to me to specialise in a mix of Worthy But Boring and It Must Be Art Because I Don’t Get It books, the Women’s Prize For Fiction usually has a few books that I find myself wanting to read. This year, I picked out four books when the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist was announced.

It seems that my taste differs from the judges’ as none of them made it to the six-book Shortlist which was announced on 26th April.

I’ve already read ‘The Dog Of The North’ which was marketed as a sort of Redemption By Roadtrip novel but turned out to be, well… odd. Cleverly, nicely, engagingly, sometimes humorously odd but always, and ultimately disturbingly, odd.

Still, I like a bit of odd in my reading diet and I suspect I’m up for more of it when I get to ‘Children Of Paradise’.

I’ve decided to pick up the pace a bit and read two longlisted novels this week. They’re both a little edgy and they’re both debut novels. One is set in rural India and one in London. One is sort of a quirky thriller and one is a little off the wall.

I’m hoping that at least one of them will press my THAT’S A BEST READ button.

‘The Bandit Queens’ by Parini Shroff (2023)

I’m a sucker for a ‘solve the patriarchy problem by killing off the patriarch who is causing you problems‘ kind of book. It seems like good advice to me. If you can get away with it. I’m thinking of books like ‘How To Kill Men And GetAway With It‘ by Katy Brent or ‘Sweetpea’ by C. J. Skuse,

Setting the clash with the patriarchy in rural India freshens up the idea and adds in the possibility of making the clash a collaborative effort for change. It made me smile and it reminded me of the power of microloans to women in rural India.

I’m hoping for a fun read that also tackles real problems. Something that will make me smile, maybe hold my breath a little when things get tense and leave me with some ideas to mull over.

‘I’m A Fan’ by Sheena Patel (2022)

The publisher’s summary of ‘I’m A Fan‘ didn’t win me over. It sounded worthy in an inaccessible way. The cover art struck me as lazy, generic and eye-wateringly ugly. Then, I looked inside the book and saw an incredibly long paragraph and my inner pedant said ‘Oh, dear. We’re doing something new with form are we?’

So why is am I did I buy ‘I’m A Fan‘? Well, I read that first paragraph and all thoughts of inaccessibility and form-divergent styling were pushed to one side by my curiosity about what happens next.

Here’s the first paragraph (which is also the first chapter):

I stalk a woman on the internet who is sleeping with the same man as I am. Sometimes when I am too quick to look at her stories, I block her temporarily so she doesn’t know I absent-mindedly refresh her page fifteen times a minute while Netflix plays in the background on my laptop, my stomach flipping sick with delight when her profile picture is ringed red. She has tens of thousands of followers, is verified, and is the daughter of someone famous in America. An endless stream of white people fawn in the comments under her posts. She has opinions about household objects which I have never given a thought to before; firm taste in the types of beeswax candles to burn, lays exquisite cloth on her table in anticipation of dinner, knows where to buy limited edition pottery from well-regarded potters, she will happily spend $300 on a vase where she displays really, really organic fennel flowers, by which she says there is organic and then organic, buys a $500 ring for herself during a time of financial strife for the rest of the world and shows it off in a selfie. She uses a filter on Instagram which burns up her flaws, it thins down her cheeks and radioactively erases the two thick lines shaped like spooning ‘v’s which are carved in her forehead and erupt from her face more prominently when she raises her eyebrows. A sick sense of satisfaction rips through me when I see them. She orders take-out from the right restaurants, seems to know everyone in the higher echelons of society, is accepted into the kind of circles which seem out of reach to me. Sometimes I wonder if I ever met her, what would I say to her, would I tell her of our connection? Would I tell her I know where she lives, would I tell her how I guessed that she broke up with her boyfriend. Will I tell her I know why the tone of her stories changed because the man we are both sleeping with, the man I want to be with, shamed her for exploiting her privacy the last time they saw one another. Would I tell her that I know who her ex-husband is, I’ve seen his new family and he seems happy now, happier than the photos I’ve seen of the two of them, would I tell her I know who all her friends are and I watch their stories too, would I tell her I screenshot the photos she takes of herself and study her face so intently sometimes I fear I’ve picked up some facial expressions or tonal inflections from her because I listen to her speaking with her father on YouTube over and over before I go to sleep. Would I move in closer to smell her and feel what he felt when he felt her—would I taste the inside of your mouth to find out what was so compelling, would I press into you, I want to know exactly how your body moves when you are turned on—to know for myself why he cancelled fucking me to fuck you.

Patel, Sheena. I’m a Fan (pp. 8-9). Granta Publications. Kindle Edition.

2 thoughts on “#FridayReads 2023-04-28 -‘The Bandit Queens’ and ‘I’m A Fan’ two books from the 2023 Women’s Prize For Fiction Longlist

  1. I’ve just picked up The Bandit Queens (Kindle special today). If you hadn’t posted about it, it wouldn’t have caught my eye. So there you go, growing my TBR list again 🙂


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