Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017: My hopes

With a week to go until the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist is announced (8th March), I thought I’d put together a post on the novels I hope to see on there.

The literary prize exclusively for women was set up in 1992; between 1995 and 2012 the prize was better known as The Orange Prize for Fiction and in June 2013 they announced a three-year sponsorship with Baileys, changing the name to The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. You can read more about the history of the prize, and why it’s important women are recognised and have a place in literature, here.

This year, the longlist will be slashed from 20 to 12, which will certainly make it easier for us to read all nominees and do some armchair judging of our own. Eligible titles are those published between the 1st April 2016 and the 31st March 2017 and written in English.

So, which novels do I think deserve a place on this year’s longlist? 

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Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi  

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.

Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss

Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed.

My Name is Leon – Kit de Waal

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one. Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss.

The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain

Gustav grows up in a small town in Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav’s father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav’s life is a lonely one until he meets Anton. An intense lifelong friendship develops but Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav’s are entwined until it is almost too late…

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890’s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.

The Good People – Hannah Kent

Based on true events in County Kerry, Ireland, 1825 – and set in a lost world bound by its own laws – The Good People is Hannah Kent’s startling new novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Three women, NÓRA, MARY and NANCE, are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.

The Muse – Jessie Burton  

A picture hides a thousand words . . .On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery. The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .

Have you read any of the books on my list? Which authors would you like to see on the longlist for 2017 and what have your favourite books of the past year been?

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Image courtesy of Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Key dates:

  • 8th March: Longlist announced
  • 3rd April: Shortlist announced
  • 5th June: Shortlist readings
  • 7th June: 2017 winner announced
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