March 9, 2016
Debuts lead in the Baileys Prize longlist
by Zeljka Marosevic
The longlist for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced.
The annual award, which celebrates the best novels in English by women of any nationality, is this year dominated by debut fiction. Among the twenty titles on the longlist, eleven are by debut novelists, compared to just five out of twenty last year.
Debut novelists whose nationalities span the globe include Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies (Ireland), Rush Oh!, by Shirley Barrett (Australia), Petina Gappah’s The Book of Memory (Zimbabwe) and a handful of writers from Britain and the US respectively. Among the British debuts is The House at the End of the World by Julia Rochester and Rachel Elliott’s Whispers Through a Megaphone. American debuts include Sara Novic’s Girl At War and Elizabeth McKenzie’s The Portable Veblen.
The best-known books on the list are Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, Anne Enright’s The Green Road and Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. The latter was hotly-tipped to win last year’s Booker Prize so this may be Yanagihara’s chance to win Britain’s second biggest book prize.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction was co-founded by the English novelist Kate Mosse in 1995 in response to an all-male Booker shortlist. Speaking to The Guardian about the prize in 2013 Mosse outlined its continued importance and impact:
Every single bookseller says it sells books like no other prize, and then the idea is that therefore you shouldn’t do it any more? But also, it is about a celebration of women’s achievements, and to celebrate the best, so why would you stop? This is a literary prize, this is not politics, but saying visibly, internationally, that there are extraordinary women doing extraordinary things, is even more important now. In a world where you have a 15-year-old [Malala Yousafzai] shot for wanting to learn to read, because she’s a girl, saying very visibly ‘women’s creativity matters’ is really important.
The shortlist will be announced on the 11th of April.
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.