Six debut novelists will compete against writers at the “top of their form” on the longlist for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction [full longlist below].
Former Women’s Prize winners Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun, 2007) and Suzanne Berne (A Crime in the Neighbourhood, 1999) are nominated, while other major names include Donna Tartt, Margaret Atwood and 2013 Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton.
Also on the list is Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things (Bloomsbury), which is on the shortlist for this year’s Wellcome Book Prize, and Man Booker shortlisted The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury).
Among high-profile debuts on the list is Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (Galley Beggar Press), which is also competing for the inaugural Folio Prize against fellow longlisted book The Flamethrowers (Harvill Secker) by Rachel Kushner.
The other debuts on the list are Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Picador) and The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto (Viking), and the less well-known Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter (Two Roads), the story of a mother and her son, a Navy SEAL who went missing during a Special Operations Forces mission; Audrey Magee’s The Undertaking (Atlantic Books), set during the Second World War; and The Strangler Vine by M J Carter (Fig Tree), a mystery set in Calcutta in 1837.
Other lesser-known works on the list include Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Oneworld) by Deborah Kay Davies, the story of a young girl growing up; Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen (Hutchinson), a portrait of a photographer whose work has made her unlikely heroine for many women; and The Burgess Boys (Simon & Schuster) by Elizabeth Strout, a novel about siblings returning to their hometown.
Announcing the 20 novels, chair of judges Helen Fraser, formerly Penguin UK m.d., told The Bookseller the judging panel was “really proud of the list”.
She said: “There was a real feeling there was immense talent and depth in the list. I think there is a lovely mixture of new authors and those at the top of their form.”
Fraser, who read 158 novels in her role as chair of the judging panel, said the number of debut novels was not the only significant thing about the list. “We have got six debuts, and seven second novels. As a former editor, I know how difficult the second novel can be, so it’s nice to know seven writers have cracked it.”
Despite the number of books on the list which have won or been shortlisted/longlisted for other prizes, Fraser said the judging panel talked about each book “of its kind”, and she personally did not read any reviews so that she could form her own opinions of the novels.
Of the 20, the judges had nine that they “knew were immediately” going on the longlist, with another 25 that were strong contenders.
Fraser said: “There are always more books that you like and want to squeeze in.”
The judging panel, which also includes Mary Beard, Denise Mina, Caitlin Moran and Sophie Raworth, is due to meet on March 25th to decide on the shortlist of six novels, which will be announced on April 7th.
The winner will be announced on June 4th.
This is the 19th year of the prize, and the first time it is being sponsored by Baileys.
The full list is as follows:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Fourth Estate
Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood, Bloomsbury
The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne, Fig Tree
The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto, Viking
The Bear by Claire Cameron, Harvill Secker
Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter, Two Roads
The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter, Fig Tree
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, Granta
Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies, Oneworld
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, Bloomsbury
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, Picador
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, Harvill Secker
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, Bloomsbury
The Undertaking by Audrey Magee, Atlantic Books
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, Galley Beggar Press
Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson, Mantle
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, Hutchinson
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, Simon and Schuster
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Little, Brown
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld, Jonathan Cape
Read more about the Baileys Prize and prize co-founder Kate Mosse's plans for the awards here.