Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie voted best Women’s Prize for Fiction winner

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie said the prize “first brought a wide readership to my work”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun has been voted the best book to have won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in its 25-year history.

The Nigerian-born author, who won the prize in 2007, was chosen in a public vote from a list of all 25 winners.

Other past winners include Zadie Smith, the late Andrea Levy, Lionel Shriver, Rose Tremain and Maggie O’Farrell.

The one-off award marks the anniversary of the prize, formerly known as the Orange Prize and the Bailey’s Prize.

Half of a Yellow Sun is set in Nigeria during the Biafran War, exploring the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class, race and female empowerment. Published in 2006, it has received global acclaim.

It was made into a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton in 2013.

Adichie said: “I’m especially moved to be voted Winner of Winners because this is the prize that first brought a wide readership to my work – and has also introduced me to the work of many talented writers.”

She has received a silver edition of the prize’s annual statuette, known as the Bessie. Author and playwright Kate Mosse, the founder and director of the UK-based prize, congratulated Adichie and said she was “thrilled” Half of a Yellow Sun had won.

“Our aim has always been to promote and celebrate the classics of tomorrow today and to build a library of exceptional, diverse, outstanding international fiction written by women,” she said.

“The Reading Women campaign has been the perfect way to introduce a new generation of readers to the brilliance of all of our 25 winners and to honour the phenomenal quality and range of women’s writing from all over the world.”

More than 8,500 people voted, and were invited to share their thoughts with the prize’s digital book club, accessing newly created online reading guides and author interviews.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie voted Women’s prize ‘winner of winners’

Thirteen years after she won the Women’s prize for fiction, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel about the Biafran war, Half of a Yellow Sun, has been voted the “winner of winners” of the literary award in a public vote.

The one-off prize, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the award, was judged by members of the public, who were asked to name their favourite of the 25 winners. Adichie’s novel, which follows the lives of several characters caught up in the civil war in Nigeria in the late 1960s, beat titles including Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. More than 8,500 people voted, according to the prize.

Now a household name and international bestseller thanks to novels including Americanah and her essay and TED talk We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie was just 29 when she won the Women’s prize for her second novel in 2007. Then known as the Orange prize, that year’s contest pitted the Nigerian writer’s work against Booker winner Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss and Anne Tyler’s Digging to America. The chair of judges in 2007, Muriel Gray, called Half of a Yellow Sun “astonishing, not just in the skilful subject matter, but in the brilliance of its accessibility”.

The author, who is currently in Lagos, Nigeria, said she was “especially moved to be voted ‘winner of winners’ because this is the prize that first brought a wide readership to my work – and has also introduced me to the work of many talented writers.”



Kate Mosse who is smiling and looking at the camera: ‘Great books live beyond their time’ … Kate Mosse. Photograph: Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images


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‘Great books live beyond their time’ … Kate Mosse. Photograph: Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

Kate Mosse, who founded the Women’s prize prize in 1995 after the judges of the 1991 Booker failed to include a single woman author on their shortlist, said she was “thrilled” that Adichie had won an award that was intended to show that “great books live beyond their time”.

“One of the things that’s so fantastic about Chimamanda being the winner of winners is that a lot of younger readers are now coming to that novel, who probably didn’t read it when it came out. It’s felt like a really celebratory thing to be doing over this very strange year,” said Mosse.

Mosse has reread all 25 winners of the prize over lockdown, and described Adichie’s contender as “a book that speaks to anybody, whoever they are, wherever they come from, whatever their point of view is, and I think that there are not that many books which do that”.

Adichie’s novel tackles colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class, race and female empowerment. “But it’s beautifully told because you’re there rooting for characters, and in the end, that’s what history is. It’s about the real people who stood on that spot … It’s a really, really fine novel, and it was a great pleasure to reread it,” said Mosse.

Related: Women’s prize at 25: what it is like to win by Zadie Smith, Naomi Alderman and more

Adichie,

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