Reading the Bailey’s Prize Nominees

veblenThe Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction is an award given by the UK to the best novel each year written by a woman.  Authors may come from any country.  Each year the Bailey’s judges nominate a longlist of 20 books and a shortlist of 6 books.

Bailey’s Prize winners include some books I’ve really liked (The Lacuna, Small Island), but also a few books I didn’t get through (Bel Canto, May We Be Forgiven, and How to be both).  I’m much more interested in the longlist and the shortlist than in who actually wins the prize.  Many of my favorite books have been on the shortlist: Americanah, Flight Behavior, Where’d You Go Bernadette, The Lowland, and Burial Rites.

I already read a lot of fiction by women, but the longlist/shortlist is a good way to discover new authors and up the literary level of my reading.  This year’s list is fairly diverse and seems to have more first-time and less-known authors than previous lists.  From the Bailey’s website: “over half the longlist is occupied by debut novels alongside four previously shortlisted authors. Seven nationalities are represented including the first Zimbabwean author to be longlisted for the Prize.”

I have no specific goal in mind, I’m just interested in reading from this year’s list.  Since my reading for the first part of the year has been pretty light, this is a good way to dig into something deeper.

This year’s longlist is:

  • Kate Atkinson: A God in Ruins
  • Shirley Barrett: Rush Oh!
  • Cynthia Bond: Ruby
  • Geraldine Brooks: The Secret Chord
  • Becky Chambers: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
  • Jackie Copleton: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding
  • Rachel Elliott: Whispers Through a Megaphone
  • Anne Enright: The Green Road
  • Petina Gappah: The Book of Memory
  • Vesna Goldsworthy: Gorsky
  • Clio Gray: The Anatomist’s Dream
  • Melissa Harrison: At Hawthorn Time
  • Attica Locke: Pleasantville
  • Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies
  • Elizabeth McKenzie: The Portable Veblen
  • Sara Nović: Girl at War
  • Julia Rochester: The House at the Edge of the World
  • Hannah Rothschild: The Improbability of Love
  • Elizabeth Strout: My Name is Lucy Barton
  • Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life

The shortlist was announced on April 11th:

  • Cynthia Bond: Ruby
  • Anne Enright: The Green Road
  • Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies
  • Elizabeth McKenzie:The Portable Veblen
  • Hannah Rothschild: The Improbability of Love
  • Hanya Yanagihara:A Little Life

My thoughts so far?  Girl at War was very good.  A God in Ruins was excellent.  Small, Angry Planet was really entertaining but felt too light, not literary enough for this award. (I’m all for having science fiction represented in this award but this isn’t the book I’d have chosen.)  I’m reading The Portable Veblen and I’m absolutely in love with it.

I’m planning to read Pleasantville, and I hear very good things about Rush Oh! and The Glorious Heresies.  I like Geraldine Brooks so I may give The Secret Chord a try, but I’m not sure I’m interested in the subject matter.  A lot of people have read A Little Life, but it sounds a bit too dark for me.  I started The Improbability of Love and didn’t warm to it.

If you’re in London (which sadly I am not) you can actually go see the shortlist authors read their books on June 6th.  The winner will be announced June 8th.

What have you read on this list, or what are you planning to read?

Are there other awards you like to follow and read, like the Pulitzer, the  National Book Award, or the Man Booker Prize?  What are your favorites?


  18 comments for “Reading the Bailey’s Prize Nominees

  1. April 19, 2016 at 6:39 am

    I am trying to do something similar: I’m awaiting a book delivery containing Ruby and The Green Road. I absolutely loved The Glorious Heresies and, although The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was entertaining, I was frustrated by the fact that it spent far too long getting anywhere. I’m hoping to read The Portable Veblen too. It’s a really intriguing list.

    • April 19, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      We seem to agree on Angry Planet! Entertaining, yes, but for me it wasn’t prize-worthy. The characters were interesting but not deep, and the plot wasn’t really there. I look forward to hearing about your other reads!

  2. April 19, 2016 at 7:07 am

    I liked Girl at War (have to pull it together to write my review). I really want to read the portable veblen so I’m glad you are liking it. I look forward to seeing your review

    • April 19, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      I look forward to your review of Girl at War. Making the longlist but not shortlist seems right to me (although I think God in Ruins was robbed). Portable Veblen is just awesome.

  3. April 19, 2016 at 7:26 am

    I loathed The Improbability of Love, was bitterly disappointed that A God In Ruins and Rush Oh! didn’t make the shortlist, loved Small Angry Planet (it is my literary equivalent of a hot bath), was deeply impressed with The Glorious Heresies, wasn’t hugely impressed with Girl At War (the prose was underwhelming, although it tried really hard not to be), hope that A Little Life doesn’t win (mostly because it’s had enough time in the spotlight – I know that’s not a great reason for it not to win, but it’s not the best book on the shortlist) and am going to start Ruby soon. Love a good list, me! Let us know what you think of Veblen.

    • April 19, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks Elle! I think Girl at War wasn’t the best book I’ve read but still very good. I expected lots of horror and gore and appreciated the subtlety. I keep hearing great things about The Glorious Heresies and Rush Oh!

      • April 20, 2016 at 6:49 am

        I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t like Rush Oh! It’s such a big grin of a book.

  4. April 19, 2016 at 8:34 am

    The longlist and resulting shortlist are interesting – I really like Anne Enright and KAte Atkinson’s writing, and feel my to-be-read pile will grow rapidly.

    • April 19, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      I’ve never read Anne Enright, so I should! A God in Ruins was amazing, I like all of Atkinson’s books but this was my favorite.

  5. April 19, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    I follow the Bailey’s Prize and am very slowly reading my way through all shortlist of every year. The one book this year that I am most likely to skip is A Little Life. I know it has led to some really interesting discussions, but I just don’t feel compelled to read it at all. I’m most looking forward to reading The Glorious Heresies and Ruby.

    • April 19, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      Wow, every shortlist! That’s impressive. I’m curious about your favorites and ones you didn’t like so much? I’ve heard mixed things about A Little Life, it sounds overwhelming.

  6. Col
    April 20, 2016 at 1:24 am

    Of those on shortlist I’ve read one I enjoyed most was The Green Road though Glorious Heresies was also good. Improbability of Love was a mystery to me – I didn’t get on with that at all. Of the others I loved My Name is Lucy Barton! Great book.

  7. April 20, 2016 at 5:43 am

    I’ve only read The Glorious Heresies but I loved it!

  8. vendija723
    May 5, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    I’ve only read The Secret Chord and A God in Ruins I loved the Atkinson, but it was my least favorite Brooks novel.

    I teach middle school reading (11-14 year old reluctant readers), so I read a lot of YA novels. I’d like to get caught up on the Printz awards. The ones I’ve read have been really excellent.

  9. May 8, 2016 at 7:13 am

    I also have read The Secret Chord and A God in Ruins. Reading through the long list would be a great way to experience more contemporary women’s writing – I will try to sample some others at least. I’m definitely interested in The Portable Veblen, My Name Is Lucy Barton, and Rush Oh!

  10. ebookclassics
    May 21, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I keep forgetting that the Bailey’s shortlist can make a great reading list. I started reading The Secret Chord, but had difficulty getting into the story. I keep hearing great things about Geraldine Brooks and I may try again soon.

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