Shami Chakrabarti, Chair of Judges said “There are universal themes about grief, loss, exploration of gender, but also contemporary issues like technology, surveillance, pornography. It is very, very accessible on the one hand, but also great art”. She described Smith as a James Joyce or Virginia Woolf of our time.
How to be both begins as a poem, changes to standard paragraphs, then goes back again to a poem. There are two versions of the novel, one starting with del Cossa, the other with George, as she struggles to make sense of the recent death of the mother who had taken her to see the artist’s frescoes. The plot remains the same but your understanding of the novel changes depending on the character order you're presented with.
The shortlisted titles were:
The award was won in 2014 by Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. Other winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun, Zadie Smith for On Beauty and by Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin. The prize, until 2012 known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, sets out to reward excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women from throughout the world.