Recommendations

7 Amazing Audiobooks

There is a uniquely human magic about being told a story. It takes us back to childhood, when story-time was about discovering new worlds with characters brought to life by an excellent narrator. Audiobooks capture this magic and thanks to our friends at Audible, we have a list of some of the best. These titles are all Women’s Prize winners in their own right and their audiobooks add an extra dimension to their powerful storytelling.

Audible are proud to be one of the sponsors of The Women’s Prize for Fiction. There is an incredible array of past winners of the prize, novels that had huge impact and far-reaching success in their time and beyond. We thought we would celebrate this extraordinary family of past winners by sharing our recommendations on some amazing audiobook recordings available of Women’s Prize winners. Here is a selection from the Audible team – happy listening!


Small Island by Andrea Levy

Narrated by Andrea Levy

Small Island was a Women’s Prize winner in 2004, back when the prize was called The Orange Prize, and proved such a universally popular winner that it went on to win The Orange of Oranges Prize the following year.  Small Island is considered the definitive novel about the human experience of Caribbean immigration to Britain. 

Born in England to Jamaican parents who came to Britain in 1948, Andrea Levy wrote the novels that she had always wanted to read as a young woman – engaging books that reflected the experiences of black Britons and explored the intimacies that bind British history with that of the Caribbean.

The novel is considered a modern classic and has been made into a major BBC drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Ruth Wilson and Naomie Harris. There are two brilliant audio versions available on Audible but perhaps the most poignant and affecting is the unabridged version narrated by Andrea Levy herself. Andrea is superb at capturing the nuances of different characters and the musicality of her voice is beautiful.

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Narrated by Daisy Donovan

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell was the winner of the Women’s Prize in 2020, and the novel that stole everyone’s hearts in lockdown. It was a No 1 Sunday Times bestseller and there is a film in the pipeline with a screenplay by Chiara Atik and produced by Liza Marshall, Sam Mendes and Pippa Harris. A stunning new departure for Maggie O’Farrell’s fiction, Hamnet is the heart-stopping story behind Shakespeare’s most famous play. Hamnet is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written, and it is the story of the mother who loved him.

The audio version is narrated by Daisy Donovan,  whose pared-back style highlights the brilliant skill Maggie has in making a story of the past absolutely relevant and contemporary.

 

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Narrated by Adjoa Andoh, Naomi Alderman, Thomas Judd, Emma Fenney, Phil Nightingale

A powerful exploration of gender and the nature of authority, The Power is an imagined history of an era in which women around the world develop the power to emit electricity from their hands, quickly turning global society into a matriarchy. Told through the eyes of four witnesses to this change – English teenager Roxy, Nigerian journalist Tunde, Wisconsin politician Margot, and abuse victim turned religious guru Allie – Alderman looks at how power corrupts wherever it is found, and how violence and discrimination often follows as a result. 

Narrated by a cast including Bridgerton star Adjoa Andoh, the audiobook brings this extraordinary science fiction novel to life, whisking listeners from London’s criminal underground to a Moldovan dictatorship, a small town in Wisconsin to a convent in which a mysterious leader is gaining fanatical followers.

 

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Narrated by Tania Rodrigues

This modern retelling of Antigone is an urgent, compelling story of life in modern Britain, which asks whether it is possible to maintain your own unique cultural identity in an increasingly globalised society. When young British Muslim Parvaiz attempts to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining ISIS, he soon realises he has made a mistake and looks to his twin Aneeka and older sister Isma for help in returning home. Aneeka’s relationship with Eamonn, the son of the Home Secretary, creates an international scandal as the pair travel to Pakistan in an attempt to help, much to Isma’s dismay, and tragedy soon follows. 

Prolific narrator Tania Rodrigues’ assured performance pulls together a story spanning continents, taking listeners into the worlds of three very different siblings facing impossible challenges.

 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Narrated by Frazer Douglas

The Song of Achilles is a beautiful, effortlessly poetic retelling of the story of Homer’s Iliad. It’s this New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller that launched a thousand other novels retelling Greek legends but this, along with Miller’s incredible Circe, remains a stand-out. It is told from the perspective of Patroclus, a young man who becomes the lover of the great warrior Achilles. The result is a take on the story which is more intimate than the original blood-drenched epic  – but no less compelling. 

The thoughtful narration of Frazer Douglas only adds to that intimacy, and since originally the Iliad was always recited out loud, audio is the perfect medium for The Song of Achilles

 

The Book of Form And Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

Narrated by Kerry Shale

The Book of Form And Emptiness won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2022 and is a brilliantly inventive novel about loss, growing up and our relationship with things. It has unforgettable characters and is classic Ruth Ozeki – bold, humane and heartbreaking.

After the tragic death of his father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house and sound variously pleasant, angry or sad. Then his mother develops a hoarding problem, and the voices grow more clamorous. So Benny seeks refuge in the silence of a large public library. There he meets a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret; a homeless philosopher-poet; and his very own Book, who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.

The audio version is narrated by Kerry Shale and there is excellent characterisation in the voices so you get a sense of the cast of characters with different accents and quirks. His narration really brings the story to life.

 

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Narrated by Anna Fields

Bel Canto won the Women’s Prize in 2002 and is a brilliant mix of thriller, romantic comedy and a novel of ideas. It was a New York Times bestseller and widely acclaimed. Ann Patchett was inspired to write Bel Canto after reading about a real four-month hostage siege that took place in Peru in 1996. 

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honour of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerised the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening – until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends and lovers.

The Audible version is beautifully narrated by Anna Fields, a lyrical performance with subtle accents that never detracts from Ann Patchett’s brilliant words. 


What do you look for in a good audiobook? Have you listened to any Women’s Prize-winning novels? Visit us on social media and let us know your favourites!

The Women's Prize Podcast


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