The £30,000 Bailey Women’s Prize for fiction often has a far more readable list of nominations than either the Costa or the Man-Booker – celebrating, as it does, "excellence, originality and accessibility".
Here are the books on the longlist…not too long, either for the avid reader to gobble up…
In KTW order of merit:
(drum roll please:)
Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin, Anne Michael’s Fugitive Pieces, Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Andrea Levy’s Small Island.
I loved How to Be Both by Ali Smith. It’s almost two stories, intertwined, with more than 500 years separating the characters - one a Renaissance painter, secretly female, the other a modern teenager living in the UK and desperately in need of some love. Smith suggests you can read them in either order, but I would strongly suggest you start with 'camera' not 'eye' as you're far less likely to give up! "As always, Smith is being playful and inventive 's work. How to be both, almost eludes description, which I’m sure was the very effect Smith was aiming at. It’s well worth the slight struggle although not my favourite; The Accidental will remain that.
Sarah Waters, in The Paying Guests, combines many thematic ingredients class, gender, economic dependence, morality, suspense, and of course lesbian romance. This story is perhaps less well plotted than her others; she so well known for her amazing twists that I felt quite let down when I finally realized there wasn’t really going to be one. Even so, powerfully written.
Anne Tyler is a perennial favourite of mine, right since I read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. http://www.nytimes.com/1982/03/14/books/funny-wis-and-true.html. So far my favourite is probably Patchwork Planet, so I can’t wait to get started on A Spool of Blue Thread, her twentieth novel to see if it can top my personal poll.
Also on the list is Emma Healey's Elizabeth is Missing . This is what my agent calls a ‘high concept novel’. In other words it defies the traditions and orthodoxes of crime fiction but is, none-the-less, a complete page turner, which, like everyone else, I couldn’t put down.
This year's judges include the prize's first winner Helen Dumore, Channel 4 News's Cathy Newman, columnist and broadcaster Grace Dent and Laura Bates, who founded The Everyday Sexism Project. Chair, Shami Chakrabarti, said this year was "particularly strong" for women's fiction. The judges must now whittle these 20 books down to a shortlist of six, before choosing an overall winner to be announced on 3rd June 2015. http://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/2015/baileys-womens-prize-for-fiction-announce-2015-longlist-3 I wish them a clear head as they deliberate between these fine pieces of fiction.