Best of the best: a look at the past decade of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

Best of the best: a look at the past decade of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, is celebrating its second decade with a Best of the Best celebration.

Next week, the best of the best novel of the past 10 winners will be announced at Best of the Best Live in London.

Here, we take a look back at what the judges said about each of the winning books from the past decade of the prize, and hear from the authors about what winning meant to them.

2006 – On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Penguin)

"With each reading, On Beauty reveals new subtleties and virtuoso flourishes of the imagination."
Martha Kearney, chair of judges 2006

"The prize made me feel other people at least thought the slog was worthwhile. That’s what prizes do for people who work alone for years on end – it’s a wonderful confirmation that you’re not completely crazy."
Zadie Smith [left]

 

2007 – Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Harper Perennial)

"Hugely readable, engaging, gripping and heart-stoppingly moving."
Muriel Gray, chair of judges 2007

"Winning felt like getting just the perfect present. My favourite memory of the evening was going to a corner to call my father in Nigeria, and hearing the singular delight in his voice, while all around me was noise and laughter and goodwill."
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [left]

 

2008 – The Road Home by Rose Tremain (Vintage)

"A very important book because economic migration is one of the great phenomena of the 21st century."
Kirsty Lang, chair of judges 2008

"The whole night was memorably good...the best thing was hearing that the judges considered me to be "at the top of my game". My game is incredibly long, so I should have fallen down by now, but winning the prize has helped me to stay standing."
Rose Tremain [left]

 

2009 – Home by Marilynne Robinson (Virago)

"A powerful book that reminds us of some of the  fundamental things in life... Not everything can be tied up in a positive-thinking-life-coaching ribbon."
Fi Glover, chair of judges 2009

"Winning was a great honour. The prize is such a wonderful institution. It’s certainly the most elegant, brilliant platform for women’s literature."
Marilynne Robinson [left]

 

 

2010 – The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber)

"It’s a book that resonates across the years. Mysterious, tender and compelling."
Daisy Goodwin, chair of judges 2010

"The best thing about winning was the absolute sisterly solidarity between all the finalists. We all wanted each other to win, and it felt as though we all did."
Barbara Kingsolver [left]

 

 

 

2011 – The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicholson)

"The brilliance of this book – written by the youngest-ever winner of the prize – is that it reminds us all that stories never cease to matter."
Bettany Hughes, chair of judges 2011

"The best thing about winning was the unbelievable honour of being in the company of such incredible writers – both my fellow 2011 finalists, past winners and honourees – whose work I loved."
Téa Obreht [left]

 

 

2012 – The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury)

"Original, passionate, inventive and uplifting. Homer would be proud of her."
Joanna Trollope, chair of judges 2012

"It’s hard to pick just one memory from the night. I do remember looking out into the audience from the podium and seeing all the people who had been instrumental in bringing the book into the world, and feeling absolutely bowled over with gratitude."
Madeline Miller [left]

 

2013 – May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes (Granta)

"A wildly funny descent into purgatory and maybe out again – an American Dream for our time."
Miranda Richardson, chair of judges 2013

"The best thing about winning the prize was being chosen by a group of writers and editors from among a wonderful group of women. In many ways that night changed my life – in that I felt validated as an international author, not just a writer from the United States."
A M Homes [left]

 

2014 – A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Galley Beggar/Faber & Faber)

"An unforgettable novel, exhilarating as well as painful... Its language and emotional energy is extraordinary."
Helen Fraser, chair of judges 2014

"The best thing about winning the prize was knowing that my book would now probably have the chance of a future life and readership that would never have been possible otherwise. That’s what every writer wants for their work once the last sentence has been finished and, a year and a half later, I’m still pretty surprised about it all."
Eimear McBride [left]

 

2015 – How to be Both by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)

"Ancient and modern meet and speak to each other in this tender, brilliant and witty novel of grief, love, sexuality and shape-shifting identity."
Shami Chakrabarti, chair of judges 2015

"All I remember of this night is a gorgeous blur. But the unexpectedly beautiful Grizel Niven statue they give you if you win this prize is really surprisingly substantial – my favourite moment was this unexpected heft."
Ali Smith [above]

For more information on Best of the Best Live visit the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction website.

Pictures: Zadie Smith © Dominique Nabokov; Marilynne Robinson © Nancy Crampton; Barbara Kingsolver © David Wood; Téa Obreht © Beowulf Sheehan; Madeline Miller © Nina Subin; A M Homes © Juergen Frank; Ali Smith © Sarah Wood.