18 Jun Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction
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The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (previously called Women’s Prize for Fiction (2013), Orange Prize for Fiction (1996–2006 & 2009–12) and Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (2007–2008)) is one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary prizes, annually awarded to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English, and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year. The prize was established to recognise the contribution of female writers, whom Honorary Director Kate Mosse believed were often overlooked in other major literary awards, and in reaction to the all-male shortlist for the 1991 Man Booker Prize.
Here is the complete list of winners:
The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney
We all do stupid things when we’re kids. Ryan Cusack’s grown up faster than most – being the oldest of six with a dead mum and an alcoholic dad will do that for you. And nobody says Ryan’s stupid. Not even behind his back. It’s the people around him who are the problem. The gangland boss using his dad as a ‘cleaner’. The neighbour who says she’s trying to help but maybe wants something more than that. The prostitute searching for the man she never knew she’d miss until he disappeared without trace one night …The only one on Ryan’s side is his girlfriend Karine. If he blows that, he’s all alone. But the truth is, you don’t know your own strength till you need it.
How to be Both – Ali Smith
How to be Both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
Eimear McBride’s debut tells, with astonishing insight and in brutal detail, the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. Not so much a stream of consciousness, as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, and a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist, to read A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world first-hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation. Touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma, McBride writes with singular intensity, acute sensitivity and mordant wit. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is moving, funny – and alarming.
May We be Forgiven – A. M. Homes
Harry is a Richard Nixon scholar who leads a quiet, regular life; his brother George is a high-flying TV producer, with a murderous temper.They have been uneasy rivals since childhood.Then one day George loses control so extravagantly that he precipitates Harry into an entirely new life. In May We Be Forgiven, Homes gives us a darkly comic look at 21st century domestic life – at individual lives spiraling out of control, bound together by family and history.The cast of characters experience adultery, accidents, divorce, and death. But this is also a savage and dizzyingly inventive vision of contemporary America, whose dark heart Homes penetrates like no other writer – the strange jargons of its language, its passive aggressive institutions, its inhabitants’ desperate craving for intimacy and their pushing it away with litigation, technology, paranoia. At the novel’s heart are the spaces in between, where the modern family comes together to re-form itself. May We Be Forgiven explores contemporary orphans losing and finding themselves anew; and it speaks above all to the power of personal transformation – simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht
‘Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…’ A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book. Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery. From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.
The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver
The Lacuna is the heartbreaking story of a man’s search for safety of a man torn between the warm heart of Mexico and the cold embrace of 1950s McCarthyite America. Born in the U.S. and reared in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is a liability to his social-climbing flapper mother, Salome. Making himself useful in the household of the famed Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and exiled Bolshevik leader Lev Trotsky, young Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution. A violent upheaval sends him north to a nation newly caught up in World War II. In the mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina he remakes himself in America’s hopeful image. But political winds continue to throw him between north and south, in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach – the lacuna – between truth and public presumption. A gripping story of identity, loyalty and the devastating power of accusations to destroy innocent people, The Lacuna is as deep and rich as the New World.
The Road Home – Rose Tremain
Lev is on his way from Eastern Europe to Britain, seeking work. Behind him loom the figures of his dead wife, his beloved young daugher and his outrageous friend Rudi who – dreaming of the wealthy West – lives largely for his battered Chevrolet. Ahead of Lev lies the deep strangeness of the British: their hostile streets, their clannish pubs, their obsession with celebrity. London holds out the alluring possibility of friendship, sex, money and a new career and, if Lev is lucky, a new sense of belonging…
Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect. Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university professor. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. And Richard, a shy English writer, is in thrall to Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. As the horrific Biafran War engulfs them, they are thrown together and pulled apart in ways they had never imagined.
On Beauty – Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is a funny, powerful and moving story about love and family. Why do we fall in love with the people we do? Why do we visit our mistakes on our children? What makes life truly beautiful? Set in New England mainly and London partly, On Beauty concerns a pair of feuding families – the Belseys and the Kipps – and a clutch of doomed affairs. It puts low morals among high ideals and asks some searching questions about what life does to love. For the Belseys and the Kipps, the confusions – both personal and political – of our uncertain age are about to be brought close to home: right to the heart of family.
We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.
Small Island – Andrea Levy
Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer’s daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve. Told in these four voices, Small Island is a courageous novel of tender emotion and sparkling wit, of crossings taken and passages lost, of shattering compassion and of reckless optimism in the face of insurmountable barriers – in short, an encapsulation of that most American of experiences: the immigrant’s life.
Property – Valerie Martin
Manon Gaudet is unhappily married to the owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation. She misses her family and longs for the vibrant lifestyle of her native New Orleans, but most of all, she longs to be free of the suffocating domestic situation. The tension revolves around Sarah, a slave girl who may have been given to Manon as a wedding present from her aunt, whose young son Walter is living proof of where Manon’s husband’s inclinations lie. This private drama is being played out against a brooding atmosphere of slave unrest and bloody uprisings. And if the attacks reach Manon’s house, no one can be sure which way Sarah will turn …Beautifully written, Property is an intricately told tale of both individual stories and of a country in a time of change, where ownership is at once everything and nothing, and where belonging, by contrast, is all.
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
Latin terrorists storm an international gathering hosted by an underprivileged country to promote foreign interest and trade, only to find that their intended target, the President, has stayed home to watch his favourite soap opera on TV. Among the hostages are a world class opera singer and her biggest fan, a Japanese tycoon who has been persuaded to attend the party on the understanding that she will perform half a dozen arias after dinner. The tycoon’s engaging and sympathetic translator plays a vital role in the subsequent relationships between so many different nationalities closeted together, interpreting not only the terrorists’ negotiations but also the language of love between lovers who cannot understand what the other is saying. Ultimately, it is the terrorist strike that does more to promote foreign relations than anyone could have hoped to achieve with the party.
The Idea of Perfection – Kate Grenville
Set in the eccentric little backwater of Karakarook, New South Wales, pop. 1374, it tells the story of Douglas Cheeseman, a gawky engineer with jug-handle ears, and Harley Savage, a woman altogether too big and too abrupt for comfort. Harley is in Karakarook to foster ‘Heritage’, and Douglas is there to pull down the quaint old Bent Bridge. From day one, they’re on a collison course. But out of this unpromising conjunction of opposites, something unexpected happens: sometimes even better than perfection.
When I Lived in Modern Times – Linda Grant
It is April 1946. Evelyn Sert, 20 years old, a hairdresser from Soho, sails for Palestine, where Jewish refugees and idealists are gathering from across Europe to start a new life in a brand new country. In the glittering, cosmopolitan, Bauhaus city of Tel Aviv, anything seems possible – the new self, new Jew, new woman are all feasible. Evelyn, adept at disguises, reinvents herself as the bleached blonde Priscilla Jones. Immersed in a world of passionate idealism, she finds love, and with Johnny, her lover, finds herself at the heart of a very dangerous game.
Larry’s Party – Carol Shields
Larry’s Party is about being a man in this part of the twentieth century, when so many supports have been removed, and covers the life of its protagonist, Larry, between the ages of 27 and 47, from 1977 to 1997, and illustrates how men have had to change; it looks at how you define masculinity in the post-feminist world. Two strands run through the book: work and goodness.
Fugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels
Jakob Beer is seven years old when he is rescued from the muddy ruins of a buried village in Nazi-occupied Poland. Of his family, he is the only one who has survived. Under the guidance of the Greek geologist Athos, Jakob must steel himself to excavate the horrors of his own history. A novel of astounding beauty and wisdom, Fugitive Pieces is a profound meditation on the resilience of the human spirit and love’s ability to resurrect even the most damaged of hearts.
A Spell of Winter – Helen Dunmore
Catherine and her brother, Rob, don’t know why they have been abandoned by their parents. Incarcerated in the enormous country house of their grandfather – ‘the man from nowhere’ – they create a refuge against their family’s dark secrets, and against the outside world as it moves towards the First World War. As time passes, their sibling love deepens and crosses into forbidden territory. But they are not as alone in the house as they believe…