Barbara Neil

As powerful as Laura and Robbie Heath’s love for one another is, the sisters cannot break the silence that masks a terrifying but unconfirmed memory from their childhood, a silence that distorts their adult lives. Like a moth drawn to flame, Laura, a nightclub singer, exposes herself to sexual abuse to reenact her suffering. Robbie, a physiotherapist, offers her healing gifts to her patients, but armors herself against all emotional entanglements, cementing over her feelings and sexual desires to cut off any possibility of being hurt again. Overwhelmed by the chaos of her sister’s life and the strain of her rootless mother Esther’s dependence, Robbie flees her London home for Janvier, the lush Louisiana bayou estate of a charming old rouU, Raoul Patout, who requires her care to recover from a stroke. Just as Robbie is learning to trust the affection Raoul offers her and meet the demands of his own troubled family, Laura and Esther turn up unexpectedly at Janvier. The time has come for questions, and memory is ignited as the three women find that their silence can bind to a point of suffocation. In this hauntingly beautiful novel, Barbara Neil explores with unflinching honesty the estrangement a family will endure rather than accept the shame of the past. In doing so, she takes the reader to what Alice Miller, author ofThe Drama of the Gifted Child,has called “banished knowledge” and does so with the brilliance of language and her remarkable insight into this dark side of human experience.

Explore the other winners

Longlist announced - 10th March

Stay in the loop

Enter your email to be the first to know the latest news from the Women's Prize For Fiction


Vote for your favourite #WomensPrize winner

Cast your vote for your favourite #ReadingWomen book and decide who will be our Winner of Winners in our 25th year.

Favourite book Ended

  • A Spell of Winter
    7% 413 / 5.7k
  • Fugitive Pieces
    2% 160 / 5.7k
  • Larry's Party
    1% 98 / 5.7k
  • A Crime in the Neighborhood
    1% 72 / 5.7k
  • When I Lived in Modern Times
    1% 64 / 5.7k
  • The Idea of Perfection
    1% 58 / 5.7k
  • Bel Canto
    5% 294 / 5.7k
  • Property
    0% 34 / 5.7k
  • Small Island
    12% 735 / 5.7k
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin
    9% 544 / 5.7k
  • On Beauty
    5% 328 / 5.7k
  • Half of a Yellow Sun
    26% 1.5k / 5.7k
  • The Road Home
    2% 147 / 5.7k
  • Home
    3% 178 / 5.7k
  • The Lacuna
    3% 200 / 5.7k
  • The Tiger's Wife
    2% 128 / 5.7k
  • The Song of Achilles
    17% 1k / 5.7k
  • May We Be Forgiven
    1% 98 / 5.7k
  • A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
    3% 203 / 5.7k
  • How to be Both
    6% 347 / 5.7k
  • The Glorious Heresies
    2% 117 / 5.7k
  • The Power
    7% 413 / 5.7k
  • Home Fire
    7% 440 / 5.7k
  • An American Marriage
    8% 505 / 5.7k
  • Hamnet
    6% 347 / 5.7k
Win a set of all 25 Women's Prize winning books

Sign up to the Women's Prize for Fiction newsletter and win all 25 Prize winning books, including our 2020 winner Hamnet.

You'll be the first to hear about exciting author events and our latest news, and you can unsubscribe at any time.