Organizers on Tuesday announced a shortlist that includes Cynthia Ozick's "Foreign Bodies," Ann Patchett's "State of Wonder" and Madeleine Miller's debut "The Song of Achilles."
Patchett won the prize in 2002 for "Bel Canto."
Also on the shortlist are "The Forgotten Waltz" by Ireland's Anne Enright, "Painter of Silence" by British writer Georgina Harding and "Half Blood Blues," a Booker Prize finalist by Canada's Esi Edugyan.
Writer Joanna Trollope, who chaired the judging panel, said it was "a shortlist of remarkable quality and variety."
The 30,000-pound (US$48,000) prize is open to any novel by a woman published in English. The winner will be announced May 30.