The Rathbones Folio Prize Shortlist 2021

I have to admit that when FMcM got in contact and asked me if I was interested in working with them to help talk to you all about The Rathbones Folio Prize Shortlist, I couldn’t quite believe it!

This literary prize, which awards a £30,000 prize for the best fiction, non-fiction and poetry in English from around the world, always adds lots of books to my Reading List. In 2021, six of the eight titles are written by British and Irish writers, and what I also think is brilliant is that independent publishers and small presses make up five of the Shortlist.

2021 judge Roger Robinson says: “It was such a joy to spend detailed and intimate time with the books nominated for the Rathbones Folio Prize and travel deep into their worlds. The judges chose the eight books on the shortlist because they are pushing at the edges of their forms in interesting ways, without sacrificing narrative or execution. The conversations between the judges may have been as edifying as the books themselves. From a judges’ vantage point, the future of book publishing looks incredibly healthy – and reading a book is still one of the most revolutionary things that one can do.”

The Rathbones Folio Prize Shortlist

The 2021 shortlist features Amina Cain’s Indelicacy – which is a feminist fable about class and desire. We also see the exploration of the estates of South London through both poetry and photography in Caleb Femi’s Poor, and also a formally innovative, genre-bending memoir about domestic abuse in Carmen Maria Machado’s In The Dream House. In Monique Roffey’s The Mermaid of Black Conch, we read a feminist revision of Caribbean mermaid myths.

In her darkly comic novel As You Were, poet Elaine Feeney tackles the intimate histories, institutional failures, and the darkly present past of modern Ireland, while Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost In The Throat finds the eighteenth-century poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill haunting the life of a contemporary young mother, prompting her to turn detective. Doireann Ní Ghríofa is published by Dublin’s Tramp Press, which also publishes Sara Baume’s handiwork – it details the author’s daily process of making and writing, and shows what it is to create and to live as an artist. In her acclaimed debut My Darling From The Lions, poet Rachel Long’s examines sexual politics, religious awakenings and family quirks with wit, warmth and precision.

The winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize will be announced in a digital ceremony with the British Library on Wednesday 24 March.

Who Are The Judges?

Roger Robinson, chair, won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2019 and RSL Ondaatje Prize in 2020 and is currently on the shortlist for the Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry. He has performed all over the world and was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the Black-British writing can-on. His latest collection‘A Portable Paradise’ was a ‘New Statesman’ Book of the Year. As well as leading workshops and touring extensively with the British Council he is lead vocalist and lyricist for King Midas Sound and has recorded solo albums.

Sinéad Gleeson was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2020 with Constellations: Reflections from Life which won the Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards and the 2020 Dalkey Literary Award. Her short stories have appeared in a number of collections and she is the editor of four anthologies of short stories, most recently published The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories. She is now working on a novel.

Jon McGregor is the author of four novels and a story collection. He has been longlisted for the Booker prize three times, was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize in 2019, and his books have won a Betty Trask Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award and the International Dublin Literary Award. He was named 2002 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 2002 and in 2010, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Nottingham. His new novel, Lean Fall Stand, will be published in 2021.

What is The Rathbones Folio Prize?

The Folio Prize was established in 2013 as the first major English language book prize open to writers from around the world. It is the only prize in which all the books considered for the prize are selected and judged by an academy of peers. When new sponsors, Rathbone Investment Management, came on board the prize was expanded to include all works of literature, regardless of form. Previous winners were George Saunders in 2014, Akhil Sharma in 2015, Hisham Matar in 2017, Richard Lloyd-Parry in 2018, Raymond Antrobus in 2019 and Valeria Luiselli in 2020.

I would love you to join in the online conversation about The Rathbones Folio Prize using #RathbonesFolioPrize and #WritersPrize – if you want to find out more, head to or @RathbonesFolio and tell us what you think about the Shortlist!

I’ll be talking about the Shortlist in the run up to the announcement on March 24th, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Thank you so much to Megan Thomas at FMcM for all her help and for my copies of The Rathbones Folio Prize Shortlist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s