Narrowing down a longlist of twenty books to a mere six is no meant feat, but the judges of this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction did just that and offered up a selection of familiar names, debut writers and a former winner.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest novel Americanah sees her return to the final seven years after scooping the prize (then known as the Orange Prize) with Half of a Yellow Sun, which was recently adapted into a film with Chiwetel Ejiofor. Coincidentally, there have been rumours that Americanah will receive the big screen treatment with Ejiofor’s Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave co-star Lupita Nyong’o. Yes please.
Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, which has been honoured or at least nominated by practically every awards committee in publishing, round up the known names in the category, leaving the remaining three places to be filled by newcomers.
Burial Rites by Australian writer Hannah Kent has been described as a Scandinavian crime novel with a twist, in that it’s set in Iceland during the 1800s and is based on actual events, while Audrey Magee’s The Undertaking was described by the Guardian as a “bold, honest novel about Nazi greed and moral blankness”.
Arguably the most interesting novel on the shortlist is A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. The novelist wrote the book in only six months but it took nine years for a publisher to pick it up, and the one that did is an extremely small press based in Norwich. The stream of consciousness story centres on a woman’s difficult relationship with her family, particularly her sick brother, and won the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, given to novels that “open[s] up new possibilities” for the form.
It’s unexpected to see three debut novels beat out fellow long-listers like Eleanor Catton, Margaret Atwood and Rachel Kushner, but also refreshing to have some variety to the awards front this year.
The prize, which comes with a £30,000 cheque for the winner, will be announced at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 4 June.