Half of a Yellow Sun (Harper Perennial) by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been named the Baileys' ‘Best of the Best’, chosen from the past decade's winners of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Adichie’s 2007 prize-winning novel, set in 1960s Nigeria during the Biafran War, was judged ‘Best of the Best’ by the chairs of judges from the past 10 years: Martha Kearney, Muriel Gray, Kirsty Lang, Fi Glover, Daisy Goodwin, Bettany Hughes, Joanna Trollope OBE, Helen Fraser, Shami Chakrabarti CBE and Natasha Walter.
The announcement was made on November 2nd at an event hosted by Kate Mosse OBE, novelist and co-founder of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, at the Piccadilly Theatre in London.
Joined on stage by the chairs of the judging panels were actors Stanley Tucci, Sheila Hancock CBE, Prasanna Puwanarajah and Sia Kiwa, who read from each of the 10 prize-winning novels before the announcement.
Adichie, who was not able to make the ceremony but sent a video message, said: “This is a prize I have a lot of respect and admiration for – over the years it’s brought wonderful literature to a wide readership that might not have found many of the books. I have a lot of respect for the books that have won in the past 10 years and also for the books that have been shortlisted – I feel I am in very good company. To be selected as ‘Best of the Best’ of the past decade is such an honour. I’m very grateful and very happy.”
Adichie receives a special-edition Bessie statuette, cast in manganese bronze. Created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven, a bronze statuette known as the ‘Bessie’ is presented annually to each winner of the prize.
Adichie follows in the footsteps of Andrea Levy who was named winner of ‘Best of the Best’ of the prize’s first decade for her novel Small Island, which won the Women's Prize in 2004.
Muriel Gray, author, broadcaster and journalist, and chair of judges in 2007 said: “While it’s sometimes pompous to call a book ‘important’, it’s appropriate to say it of Half of a Yellow Sun. For an author, so young at the time of writing, to have been able to tell a tale of such enormous scale in terms of human suffering and the consequences of hatred and division, whilst also gripping the reader with wholly convincing characters and spell binding plot, is an astonishing feat. Chimamanda’s achievement makes Half of a Yellow Sun not just a worthy winner of this most special of prizes, but a benchmark for excellence in fiction writing.”
The 'Best of the Best' prize announcement is the climax of celebrations marking 20 years of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which included a two-week collaboration with BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and a partnership with Waterstones.
Woman’s Hour also saw Half of a Yellow Sun chosen as the public's ‘Best of the Best’ today (2nd November), after holding a separate vote for the public on its website.
The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was established in 1996 to celebrate and promote international fiction by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. The prize is awarded for the best novel of the year written by a woman.
The full list of winners from the past decade are: for 2006, On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Penguin); for 2007, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (HarperCollins); for 2008, The Road Home by Rose Tremain (Vintage); for 2009, Home by Marilynne Robinson (Virago); for 2010, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber); for 2011, The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (W&N); for 2012, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury); for 2013, May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes (Granta); for 2014, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Galley Beggar Press); and for 2015, How to be Both by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton).