Segal's The Innocents up against Mantel for Women's Prize

Francesca Segal

Francesca Segal

A novelist who brought to life the quirks and peculiarities of Jewish life in north west London is in the running for the top prize given to female writers in the UK.

Francesca Segal is one of 20 novelists shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction – formerly the Orange Prize – which comes with a £30,000 cheque and the chance of increased publicity and book sales.

Ms Segal, who has already won Costa Prize for first novel, is on the longlist for The Innocents, a modern Jewish love story loosely based on Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence.

Also in the running for the 18-year-old prize, which is being judged by actress Miranda Richardson and a panel that includes former editor of The Lady Rachel Johnson, is Israeli author Shani Boianjiu. Ms Boianjiu's book, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, follows a trio of Israeli teenagers drafted in their country's army. The book was described as "a passionate debut novel" by the Observer. The 25-year-old author was born in Jerusalem and served in the Israeli army.

Deborah Copaken Kogan, a Jewish American author who while working as a photojournalist in Israel covered the first intifada, is nominated for her latest novel, The Red Book, about four university friends 20 years later.

Michèle Roberts' latest book, Ignorance, which focuses on two friends – one of them with Jewish roots - in a French village as the Nazis invade, is also in the running.

The shortlist is announced on April 16, with the prizewinner named at a ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on June 5.

"The list we have ended up with is, we believe, truly representative of that diversity of style, content and provenance, and contains those works which genuinely inspired the most excitement and passion amongst the judges," said Natasha Richardson.

One of those nominated is likely to figure highly in the odds for taking home the award: Hilary Mantel, who has already won the Man Booker Prize, the David Cohen Prize and the overall Costa Prize, is also on the shortlist.

Last updated: 10:14am, March 13 2013