The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2016

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016 Longlisted Books1

8th March 2016: The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction announces its 2016 longlist, comprised of 20 books that celebrate the best of fiction written by women

Here they are, the 20 books longlisted for this year’s Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. In alphabetical order (of author’s surname):

A God In Ruins – Kate Atkinson

Rush Oh! – Shirley Barrett

Ruby – Cynthia Bond

The Secret Chord – Geraldine Brooks

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton

Whispers Through a Megaphone – Rachel Elliott

The Green Road – Anne Enright

The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah

Gorsky – Vesna Goldsworthy

The Anatomist’s Dream – Clio Gray

At Hawthorn Time – Melissa Harrison

Pleasantville – Attica Locke

The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

The Portable Veblen – Elizabeth McKenzie

Girl at War – Sara Nović

The House at the Edge of the World – Julia Rochester

The Improbability of Love – Hannah Rothschild

My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

My initial reaction is that the three books I thought were certs are all on there – A God in Ruins, My Name Is Lucy Barton and A Little Life. Very pleased to see all three.

I predicted six of the titles, which is my highest success rate ever! Very pleased to see Girl at War on the list as well as The Portable Veblen. I’ve enjoyed all those I’ve already read, which includes The Green Road which I haven’t posted my review for yet.

As for the rest of the list, I’m delighted to see Pleasantville – I loved Black Water Rising and have had the latest on my TBR pile for ages. I’ve also heard good things from people I trust about The Book of Memory, At Hawthorn Time and The Glorious Heresies.

As always with The Bailey’s Prize there are some books I hadn’t heard of before I saw the list. My absolute favourite part of this is reading those titles, there’s always one in there that surprises me with its brilliance. On looking through the blurbs, I can’t believe I hadn’t come across Ruby, it’s had so many fantastic reviews, and The Anatomist’s Dream is perfect for my PhD thesis so I’m very pleased it’s come to my attention.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the reading and debating the books with the rest of the shadow panel. I’m hoping you’ll join in the discussion on our blogs and Twitter too. Can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of the chosen titles.



My Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 Wishlist

It’s almost time! The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist will be announced next Tuesday, 8th March. Once again, I’ll be shadowing the prize and for the second year running, I’ll be doing so with a panel. I’ll introduce you to the members of that panel on Friday.

For now though, here are the books I’d like to see appear on Tuesday’s list. They’re a combination of books I’ve loved and those I’m keen to read based on what I’ve heard about them so far. I’ve had to cull this list significantly to keep it to 20 books so, as usual, anything’s possible with the real one!

To be eligible, books have to be written in English and first published in the UK between 1st April 2015 and 31st March 2016. Publishers can enter three full length novels per imprint plus anything eligible by writers who have previously won the prize.

I’ve reviewed the first eleven titles – click on the covers to go to my reviews – and read the next three as well (reviews coming soon).







My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

In this short but complex and fulfilling novel, Lucy Barton, a writer, recounts a time many years earlier when she had to stay in hospital, in NYC, for nine weeks. Initially she goes into hospital to have her appendix removed but an unexpected fever follows and she’s confined for longer than expected. Her husband hates hospitals and between looking after their two daughters and working, he has little time to visit Lucy. About three weeks after she’s admitted, Lucy’s mother arrives.

I had not seen my mother for years, and I kept staring at her; I could not figure out why she looked so different.

“Mom, how did you get here?” I asked.
“Oh, I got on an airplane.” She wiggled her fingers, and I knew that there was too much emotion for us. So I waved back, and lay flat. “I think you’ll be all right,” she added, in the same shy sounding but urgent voice. “I haven’t had any bad dreams.”


Tentatively, they begin to talk. Initially the conversation’s about Lucy’s older siblings before her mother starts to tell stories of people she knew in the past, moving on to people Lucy knew in childhood.

She talked in a way I didn’t remember, as though a pressure of feeling and words and observations had been stuffed down inside her for years, and her voice was breathy and unselfconscious.

Between these stories, Lucy begins to tell the reader of her upbringing. ‘We were oddities, our family’ she says. Poor, filthy, hungry and isolated; Lucy recalls being struck by her mother on occasion, sometimes for no reason at all. Her mother worked at the local library until she was told they could only hire someone with a proper education and her mother stopped reading. The consequence for Lucy and her siblings was that they grew up in a house without television, newspapers, magazines and books; this affected how they conducted themselves in the world – how do you know how to behave if you’re not aware of how things are done?

Lucy questions how bad things were when she was younger, from the seemingly safe distance of her very different adulthood:

But there are times, too – unexpected – when walking down a sunny sidewalk, or watching the top of a tree bend in the wind, or seeing a November sky close down over the East River, I am suddenly filled with the knowledge of darkness so deep that a sound might escape from my mouth, and I will step into the nearest clothing store and talk with a stranger about the shape of sweaters newly arrived. This must be the way most of us manoeuvre through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can’t possibly be true. But when I see others walking with confidence down the sidewalk, as though they are free completely from terror, I realize I don’t know how others are. So much of life seems speculation.

As the book continues, Lucy reveals more about her upbringing and particularly her father who’s cruel and uncompromising. She reveals how she came to be a writer and introduces a question about how much she’s telling us is ‘true’. She questions the validity of memories and, by talking about the writing process and the guidance she gained from another writer, raises ideas of stylised accounts. The novel’s as much about the things her and her mother won’t discuss as the things they do.

My Name Is Lucy Barton is a sharply observed novel about the relationship between a mother and a daughter, the events which shape us, and how reliable our memories are. It’s one of those novels in which both nothing and everything happens. The plotting is seamless – Strout makes the interweaving of Lucy’s past and current life look easy; the prose is taut, every word earning its place.

Despite her Pulitzer win in the USA (for Olive Kitteridge) and her Bailey’s/Orange Prize nominations in the UK (shortlisted for Amy and Isabelle, longlisted for The Burgess Boys), Strout isn’t well known in the UK, I suspect My Name Is Lucy Barton will be the novel to change that. If you haven’t read Strout’s work, I highly recommend everything she’s written and My Name Is Lucy Barton is an excellent place to begin.


Thanks to Viking Books/Penguin for the review copy.