The judges committee for one of the most-anticipated awards in the literary fiction world, the UK’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, has announced the longlist of 20 titles for the 2015 award.
According to The Guardian, Committee chair Shami Chakrabarti introduced this year’s nominees by saying, “I think we need to keep celebrating women’s fiction. We need to celebrate women generally and there’s nothing more powerful than stories. We need to celebrate stories by women, for women, as just one more way to redress gender injustice.”
This year’s longlist includes well-known writers such as Ali Smith (for How to Be Both), Sarah Waters (for The Paying Guests), and Anne Tyler (for A Spool of Blue Thread), as well as debut novelists like Emma Healey (whose Elizabeth is Missing won the Costa Award), Laline Paull (for The Bees, a thrilling dystopian tale set in a beehive), and PP Wong (whose “The Life of a Banana” explores how it feels to be “yellow on the outside and white on the inside”).
Another nominees of note is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which was a National Book Awards finalist and bestseller. Coincidentally, Mandel was named a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award today (along with Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation and Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen).
The prize is open to novels written in English and published in the UK and was created to reward “excellence, originality and accessibility” in writing. The judges read 165 books, which they narrowed down to 20. The list of six finalists will be announced on April 13, and the award ceremony will be held in London on June 3.
Chakrabarti spoke extensively on the need for and value in the Women’s Prize, as well as about gender issues in publishing.
“We are still nowhere near where we should be,” she said. “I also don’t think women are getting their due in other literary prizes. I am still surprised at some of the lists and comments made by judges and chairs of judges elsewhere, so I don’t think it’s time to end a women’s prize.
“Literature ought to be further on than it is, given how long women have been writing brilliant stuff,” she continued. “It’s just hilarious to me that we should target a women’s book prize … at a time when women are much further back than they should be, not just in publishing but in politics, economics, health care. I think there is still work to do and there’s an ocean of talent to be discussed and shared and celebrated, and this is one way of doing it.”
The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist
Outline by Rachel Cusk – British – 8th novel
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans – British – 4th novel
Aren’t We Sisters? by Patricia Ferguson – British – 8th novel
I Am China by Xiaolu Guo – Chinese/ British – 6th novel
Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey – British – 3rd novel
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – British – 1st novel
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Canadian – 4th novel
The Offering by Grace McCleen – British – 3rd novel
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman – British/American – 3rd novel
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill – Canadian – 2nd novel
The Bees by Laline Paull – British – 1st novel
The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips – British – 2nd Novel
The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert – British – 3rd novel
A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie – Pakistani/British – 6th novel
How to be Both by Ali Smith — British – 6th novel
The Shore by Sara Taylor – American – 1st novel
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – American – 20th novel
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – British – 6th novel
After Before by Jemma Wayne – British – 1st novel
The Life of a Banana by PP Wong – British – 1st novel