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The advisory board for The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced the shortlist of three books for the 2021 edition of the annual award.

The annual literary prize, which is always presented in October each year, is sponsored by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, and worth 100,000 US dollars.

The announcement was made by the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Prize, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo during a virtual press conference held Friday, August 27, 2021.

There were 202 of prose fiction submitted but only 11 books made the longlist. The Nigeria Prize for Literature, Africa’s most prestigious literary award, rotates yearly amongst four literary categories: prose fiction, poetry, drama, and children’s literature.

The three novels shortlisted for this years’s award are Abi Dare’s The Girl with Louding Voice,   Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia’s The Son of the House and Obinna Udenwe’s Colours of Hatred.

The judges, while announcing the shortlist on 27 August, described the novels as full of suspense and intrigue. They stated that the novels “tell human and indeed universal stories of rural as against urban life, suffering and survival, loss and redemption, decline and renaissance, destruction and reconstruction, and death and rebirth.”

The three shortlisted novels revolve around strong female characters, different unravelling circumstances and experiences of women in the modern world.

‘The Son of the House’ is a profoundly unconventional novel that portrays the lives of two women in different worlds whose paths crossed during captivity. But they soon realised their path had earlier crossed at various points. The stories of Nwabulu, a one-time housemaid and now a successful fashion designer, and Julie, an educated woman who lived through tricks, deceits, and manipulations, are told through a mosaic plot structure against the backdrop of modernity and traditional patriarchy, poverty, and neglect.

‘The Girl with the Louding Voice’, tells the story of a girl-child from a first-person narrative mode. It unravels the plight of Adunni, a girl-child, who was forced out of poverty to marry at an early age to an elderly polygamous man. Her marriage to the man was for her to raise funds for her father’s survival. In essence, the novel also tackles the issue of early marriage, child sexual abuse, childlessness in marriage, and domestic violence, while at the same time, beaming the light on the urgent need for female bonding or sisterhood in transcending the constraints in the life of women.

The third novel in the shortlist of three is Colours of Hatred. This confessional tale centres on the protagonist, Leona of the Dinka tribe, who ended up killing her father-in-law. The novel is a thriller that explores love, hatred, war, revenge, oppression, extra-judicial killings, military rule, displacement, and exile with attendant tensions that leave lasting emotional scars through introspection and re-telling of the story.

The judges who will decide the winning novel, which will be announced in October 2021, disclosed that the selection of the three novels was unanimous.