Atkinson and Yanagihara make Baileys Women's Prize longlist

Atkinson and Yanagihara make Baileys Women's Prize longlist

Kate Atkinson and Hanya Yanagihara are among the 20 longlisted authors for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, announced today (8th March).

A God in Ruins (Doubleday) longlisted on this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, has already won the Costa Novel Award this year, two years after winning the prize for its prequel Life After Life.

American novelist Yanagihara’s debut A Little Life has also made the Bailey’s longlist. The title was the bookies' favourite to win the Man Booker prize last year, but ultimately lost out to Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld). Acclaimed Irish author Anne Enright has also been shortlisted for The Green Road (Jonathan Cape).

It is a strong year for debuts, accounting for 11 out of the total 20 longlisted novels on the list, compared with five out of 20 last year. Rush Oh!, a "quirky" novel about a 19th-century family of whalers by Australian screenwriter and director Shirley Barrett made the list, along with American Cynthia Bond's Ruby, chosen for Oprah Winfrey's book club - a debut about a young girl's escape from a violent past in small-town east Texas to 1950s New York City, woven with magical realism.

There are an equal number of British and American authors on the longlist this year, both with eight entries each, along with two Irish longlisted novels, and novels by an Australian and a Zimbabwean.

The eight British titles on the longlist - five of which are debuts - include Devon-bred Julia Rochester's darkly comic debut The House at the End of the World (Viking), Rachel Elliott's Whispers Through a Megaphone (Pushkin Press imprint One) about a woman who hasn't left her house in three years and cannot speak above a whisper and The Improbability of Love (Bloomsbury), set in the art world, authored by film director and Londoner Hannah Rothschild, who has written scripts for Ridley Scott. She is a trustee of the Tate, and became chair of the National Gallery last August. The final two debuts by British authors are A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton (Hutchinson) and Gorsky by British/Serbian author Vesna Goldsworthy (Chatto & Windus), about an oligarch who has been led to London by his love for Natalia, whom he first knew in Russia.

The other longlisted British authors include Melissa Harrison for At Hawthorn Time (Bloomsbury), Clio Gray for The Anatomist’s Dream (Mymidon) and Atkinson.

For the American nominations, after Yanagihara, Elizabeth Strout has been longlisted for her novel My Name is Lucy Barton (Viking), along with Sara Novic’s Girl At War (Little, Brown) and Elizabeth McKenzie’s The Portable Veblen (Fourth Estate) and Attica Locke for Pleasantville, (Serpent’s Tail). Becky Chambers, who first self-published her novel after raising funds to write it on Kickstarter has also got a place on the longlist for The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet (Hodder & Stoughton), along with other US authors Bond’s Ruby (Two Roads) and Australian/American Geraldine Brooks for The Secret Chord (Little, Brown).

The Book of Memory, about an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder, is by Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah (Faber). The two Irish shorlisted authors are Enright and Lisa McInerney's The Glorious Heresies (John Murray).

Margaret Mountford, chair of judges, said: “We had a hugely enjoyable and stimulating meeting, as there were a great many strong novels in contention. We are delighted with the quality, the imaginative scope and the ambition of our chosen books, a longlist which reflects the judges' interests and tastes. We hope readers will enjoy the variety of outstanding work on offer.”

The other judges are Naga Munchetty, broadcast journalist, Laurie Penny, writer and journalist, author Elif Shafak and Tracey Thorn, writer and singer.

Commenting on 2016's longlist, Chris White, Waterstones fiction buyer, said: "As ever, it's an interesting list with much to make an old bookseller smile. I'm particularly excited to see My Name is Lucy Barton on there: a wonderful novel which I wouldn't be at all surprised to see emerge victorious in June."

Maria Dickenson, managing director for Irish business Dubray Books, said: "We're delighted to see two Irish authors included, one established and one new, in our Laureate Anne Enright and Lisa McInerney. A win for one of them would be superb but failing that we'd love to see a win from Hanya Yanagihara. Elizabeth Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton is a real favourite with our booksellers at Dubray so that would be an interesting sleeper hit."

Sheila O'Reilly of Dulwich Books in London added: "The Bailey's longlist is a wonderful selection of great writing. With recognizable names such as Kate Atkinson and Anne Enright to a some of the best debut novelists of the past year including one of my favourite’s Lisa McInerney. 

"The longlist doesn’t have quite the same impact on sales as the shortlist and winner does. What the longlist does is raise the profile of the prize and begin the conversation about the best women writers in 2016.

"The industry and media coverage is still slanted towards male writers. I see the prize as a celebration of women’s writing and why not, does it still need to be justified? Probably but let’s steer the conversation away from the justification and onto the wonderful writing the Bailey’s celebrates."

Set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote international fiction by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction is awarded for the best full-length novel of the year written by a woman and published in the UK between 1st April 2015 and 31st March 2016.  Any woman writing in English – whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter – is eligible.

The winner will receive a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie’, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven. Both are anonymously endowed.

The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony to be held in The Clore Ballroom in London’s Royal Festival Hall on 8th June 2016.

Previous winners include Ali Smith for How to be Both (2015), Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2014), A.M. Homes for May We Be Forgiven (2013) and Madeline Miller for The Song of Achilles (2012).

Last month, Bailey's confirmed it would renew its sponsorship for the prize in 2017.