2016 Bailey’s Prize Longlist
This morning the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist was announced. The Bailey’s Women’s Prize is one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary prizes. It is annually awarded to a female author for the best original novel written in English and published in the U.K. in the preceding year. The award in 1992 began after a group of journalists, reviewers, agents, publishers, and booksellers realized that the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist did not include any female writers despite the availability of talented women writers. By 1992 only 10 percent of novelists shortslisted for the Booker Prize were women despite the ratio of books published by men to women being 60/40. The Bailey’s Women’s prize was a way of bring “outstanding writers to the attention of readers.”
Previous 10 winners:
2015: Ali Smith for How to be Both
2014: Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing
2013: A.M. Homes for May we be Forgiven
2012: Madeline Miller for The Song of Achilles
2011: Téa Obreht for The Tiger’s Wife
2010: Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna
2009: Marilynne Robinson for Home
2008: Rose Tremain for The Road Home
2007: Chimamanda Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun
2006: Zadie Smith for On Beauty
Find out who made the first cut for this year’s prize.
Here is the list. Links will take you to Amazon page. All summaries are taken from Amazon:
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson: A GOD IN RUINS tells the dramatic story of the 20th Century through Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy–would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather-as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have.
An ingenious and moving exploration of one ordinary man’s path through extraordinary times, A GOD IN RUINS proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.
Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett: An impassioned, charming, and hilarious debut novel about a young woman’s coming-of-age, during one of the harshest whaling seasons in the history of New South Wales.
1908: It’s the year that proves to be life-changing for our teenage narrator, Mary Davidson, tasked with providing support to her father’s boisterous whaling crews while caring for five brothers and sisters in the wake of their mother’s death. But when the handsome John Beck-a former Methodist preacher turned novice whaler with a mysterious past-arrives at the Davidson’s door pleading to join her father’s crews, suddenly Mary’s world is upended. Swinging from Mary’s own hopes and disappointments to the challenges that have beset her family’s whaling operation, RUSH OH! is an enchanting blend of fact and fiction that’s as much the story of its gutsy narrator’s coming-of-age as it is the celebration of an extraordinary episode in history.
Ruby by Cynthia Bond: The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her, this beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city—the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village—all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.
Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen, where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby. Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks: A rich and utterly absorbing novel about the life of King David, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of People of the Book and March.
The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected. We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.
The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton: In the tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha and The Piano Teacher, a heart-wrenching debut novel of family, forgiveness, and the exquisite pain of love
When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?
Whispers through a Megaphone by Rachel Elliot: Miriam hasn’t left her house in three years, and cannot raise her voice above a whisper. But today she has had enough, and is finally ready to rejoin the outside world.
Meanwhile, Ralph has made the mistake of opening a closet door, only to discover with a shock that his wife Sadie doesn’t love him, and never has. And so he decides to run away.
Miriam and Ralph’s chance meeting in a wood during stormy weather marks the beginning of an amusing, restorative friendship, while Sadie takes a break from Twitter to embark on an intriguing adventure of her own. As their collective story unfolds, each of them seeks to better understand the objects of their affection, and their own hearts, timidly refusing to stand still and accept the chaos life throws at them. Filled with wit and sparkling prose, Whispers Through a Megaphone explores our attempts to meaningfully connect with ourselves and others, in an often deafening world – when sometimes all we need is a bit of silence.
The Green Road by Anne Enright: Spanning thirty years, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigans, a family on the cusp of either coming together or falling irreparably apart. As they grow up, Rosaleen’s four children leave the west of Ireland for lives they could have never imagined in Dublin, New York, and Mali, West Africa. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.
A profoundly moving work about a family’s desperate attempt to recover the relationships they’ve lost and forge the ones they never had, The Green Road is Enright’s most mature, accomplished, and unforgettable novel to date
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah: The story that you have asked me to tell you does not begin with the pitiful ugliness of Lloyd’s death. It begins on a long-ago day in August when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man.
Memory, the narrator of Petina Gappah’s The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, after being sentenced for murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?
Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between past and present, the 2009 Guardian First Book Award–winning writer Petina Gappah weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate, and the treachery of memory.
Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy: An enchanting love story―a tale of big money, fine art, and great books
On a rainy afternoon in London’s old Chelsea, a charming multi-billionaire Russian oligarch, Gorsky, walks into an ailing bookshop and writes the first of several quarter-of-a-million pound checks. With that money, Gorsky has tasked Nikola, the store’s bored and brilliant clerk, with sourcing books for a massive personal library, which which will be housed in the magnificent, palatial home Gorsky happens to be building immediately next to Nikola’s own modest dwelling. Gorsky needs a tasteful collection of Russian literature to woo a long-lost love―no matter that she happens to be married to an Englishman. His passion for her surpasses even his immeasurable wealth, and Nikola will be drawn into a world of opulence, greed, capitalism, sex, and beauty as he helps Gorsky pursue this doomed love. Charmingly written and inspired by The Great Gatsby, Gorsky is a vicarious thrill―an ode to cosmopolitan taste and a brilliant reimagining of a powerful classic.
The Anatomist’s Dream by Clio Gray: ‘Chop off my head and hawk it to the highest bidder. I’m the Anatomist’s Dream, did you know? That’s what they call me.’ … In a small salt-mining town, Philbert is born with a ‘taupe’, a disfiguring inflammation of the skull. Abandoned by his parents and with only a pet pig for company, he eventually finds refuge in a traveling carnival, Maulwerf’s Fair of Wonders, as it makes its annual migration across Germany bringing entertainment to a people beset by famine, repression and revolutionary ferment. Philbert finds a caring family in Herman the Fish Man, Lita the Dancing Dwarf, Frau Fettleheim the Fattest Woman in the World, and an assortment of ‘freak show’ artists, magicians and entertainers. But when Philbert meets Kwert Tospirologist and Teller of Signs he is persuaded to undergo examination by the renowned physician and craniometrist Dr Ullendorf, both Kwert and Philbert embark on an altogether darker and more perilous journey that will have far-reaching consequences for a whole nation.
At Hawthorn’s Time by Melissa Harrison: It is dawn on a May morning. On a long straight road between two sleeping fields a car slows as it arrives at the scene of an accident.
Howard and Kitty have been married for thirty years and now sleep in different rooms. They do not discuss it. It was always Kitty’s dream to move from their corner of north London into the countryside, and when the kids were gone they moved to the village of Lodeshill. Howard often wonders if anyone who lives in this place has a reason to be there.
Jack was once a rural rebel, a protestor who only ever wanted the freedom to walk alone in his own country. Having finished another stint in prison for trespassing, he sets off once more, walking north with his old battered backpack.
Jamie is a nineteen-year-old Lodeshill boy who works in a distribution center and has a Saturday job at the bakery. He spent his childhood exploring the land with his grandfather and playing with Alex who lived in the farmhouse next-door.
As the lives of these people overlap, we realize that mysterious layers of history are not only buried within them, but also locked into the landscape. A captivating novel, At Hawthorn Time is about identity, consumerism, changing boundaries and our own long, straight path into the unknown.
Pleasantville by Attica Locke: From Attica Locke, a writer and producer of FOX’s Empire, this sophisticated thriller sees lawyer Jay Porter—hero of her bestseller Black Water Rising—return to fight one last case, only to become embroiled in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win.
Fifteen years after his career-defining case against Cole Oil, Jay Porter is broke and tired. That victory might have won the environmental lawyer fame, but thanks to a string of appeals, he hasn’t seen a dime. His latest case—representing Pleasantville in the wake of a chemical fire—is dragging on, shaking his confidence and raising doubts about him within this upwardly mobile black community on Houston’s north side. Though Jay still believes in doing what’s right, he is done fighting other people’s battles. Once he has his piece of the settlement, the single father is going to devote himself to what matters most—his children.
His plans are abruptly derailed when a female campaign volunteer vanishes on the night of Houston’s mayoral election, throwing an already contentious campaign into chaos. The accused is none other than the nephew and campaign manager of one of the leading candidates—a scion of a prominent Houston family headed by the formidable Sam Hathorne. Despite all the signs suggesting that his client is guilty—and his own misgivings—Jay can’t refuse when a man as wealthy and connected as Sam asks him to head up the defense. Not if he wants that new life with his kids. But he has to win.
Plunging into a shadowy world of ambitious enemies and treacherous allies armed with money, lies, and secrets, Jay reluctantly takes on his first murder trial—a case that will put him and his client, and an entire political process, on trial.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney: “One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family”–
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie: The Portable Veblen is a dazzlingly original novel that’s as big-hearted as it is laugh-out-loud funny. Set in and around Palo Alto, amid the culture clash of new money and old (antiestablishment) values, and with the specter of our current wars looming across its pages, The Portable Veblen is an unforgettable look at the way we live now. A young couple on the brink of marriage—the charming Veblen and her fiancé Paul, a brilliant neurologist—find their engagement in danger of collapse. Along the way they weather everything from each other’s dysfunctional families, to the attentions of a seductive pharmaceutical heiress, to an intimate tête-à-tête with a very charismatic squirrel.
Veblen (named after the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term “conspicuous consumption”) is one of the most refreshing heroines in recent fiction. Not quite liberated from the burdens of her hypochondriac, narcissistic mother and her institutionalized father, Veblen is an amateur translator and “freelance self”; in other words, she’s adrift. Meanwhile, Paul—the product of good hippies who were bad parents—finds his ambition soaring. His medical research has led to the development of a device to help minimize battlefield brain trauma—an invention that gets him swept up in a high-stakes deal with the Department of Defense, a Bizarro World that McKenzie satirizes with granular specificity.
As Paul is swept up by the promise of fame and fortune, Veblen heroically keeps the peace between all the damaged parties involved in their upcoming wedding, until she finds herself falling for someone—or something—else. Throughout, Elizabeth McKenzie asks: Where do our families end and we begin? How do we stay true to our ideals? And what is that squirrel really thinking? Replete with deadpan photos and sly appendices, The Portable Veblen is at once an honest inquiry into what we look for in love and an electrifying reading experience.
Girl at War by Sara Novik: Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.
New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.
Moving back and forth through time, Girl at War is an honest, generous, brilliantly written novel that illuminates how history shapes the individual. Sara Nović fearlessly shows the impact of war on one young girl—and its legacy on all of us. It’s a debut by a writer who has stared into recent history to find a story that continues to resonate today.
The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester: Part mystery, part psychological drama, Julia Rochester’s The House at the Edge of the World is a darkly comic, unorthodox and thrilling debut
When I was eighteen, my father fell off a cliff. It was a stupid way to die.
John Venton’s drunken fall from a Devon cliff leaves his family with an embarrassing ghost. His twin children, Morwenna and Corwin, flee in separate directions to take up their adult lives. Their mother, enraged by years of unhappy marriage, embraces merry widowhood. Only their grandfather finds solace in the crumbling family house, endlessly painting their story onto a large canvas map.
His brightly coloured map, with its tiny pictures of shipwrecks, forgotten houses, saints and devils, is a work of his imagination, a collection of local myths and histories. But it holds a secret. As the twins are drawn grudgingly back to the house, they discover that their father’s absence is part of the map’s mysterious pull.
The House at the Edge of the World is the compellingly told story of how family and home can be both a source of comfort and a wholly destructive force. Cutting to the undignified half-truths every family conceals, it asks the questions we all must confront: who are we responsible for and, ultimately, who do we belong to?
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild: Wickedly funny, this totally engaging, richly observed first novel by Hannah Rothschild is a tour de force. Its sweeping narrative and cast of wildly colorful characters takes you behind the scenes of a London auction house, into the secret operations of a powerful art dealer, to a flamboyant eighteenth-century-style dinner party, and into a modest living room in Berlin, among many other unexpected settings.
In The Improbability of Love we meet Annie McDee, thirty-one, who is working as a chef for two rather sinister art dealers. Recovering from the end of a long-term relationship, she is searching in a neglected secondhand shop for a birthday present for her unsuitable new lover. Hidden behind a rubber plant on top of a file cabinet, a grimy painting catches her eye. After spending her meager savings on the picture, Annie prepares an elaborate birthday dinner for two, only to be stood up.
The painting becomes hers, and as it turns out, Annie has stumbled across a lost masterpiece by one of the most important French painters of the eighteenth century. But who painted this masterpiece is not clear at first. Soon Annie finds herself pursued by interested parties who would do anything to possess her picture. For a gloomy, exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious sheikha, a desperate auctioneer, and an unscrupulous dealer, among others, the painting embodies their greatest hopes and fears. In her search for the painting’s identity, Annie will unwittingly uncover some of the darkest secrets of European history—as well as the possibility of falling in love again.
Irreverent, witty, bittersweet, The Improbability of Love draws an unforgettable portrait of the London art scene, but it is also an exuberant and unexpected journey through life’s highs and lows and the complexities of love and loss.
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout: Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.
Of all those books, I’ve only read two: The Green Road which I thought was just okay (that review is here) and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara which I loved but may not be for everybody (find that review here). Book Worm reviewed My Name is Lucy Barton a little while back (find that review here).
We want to hear from you. What do you think about the long list? Have you read any of them and if so what did The you think? Are there any authors or books you think are missing from the list?