McInerney's 'brave' debut wins Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

McInerney's 'brave' debut wins Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Lisa McInerney has won the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut The Glorious Heresies (John Murray).

Chair of judges Margaret Mountford presented the Irish author with the £30,000 prize and a bronze figurine trophy (“Bessie”) at the ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in London last night (7th June), hosted by novelist and co-founder of the prize Kate Mosse.

McInerney, who is from Galway in Ireland, is the author behind award-winning blog "Arse End of Ireland”.

Set in Cork’s seedy underworld, her winning novel is about the lives of five “misfits” and how they collide after a messy murder in which a grandmother kills an intruder by striking him over the head with a religious ornament. It has also been shortlisted for the 2016 Desmond Elliott Prize, to be announced on 22nd June, and was longlisted for the 2016 Dylan Thomas Prize.

McInerney told The Bookseller she was "stunned" to win the prize. "I'm absolutely stunned, but in the best possible way," she said. "It hasn't sunk in, I don't expect it to for quite some time. I can't believe it, because it was such a strong shortlist and, before that, it was such a strong longlist. Even getting to the shortlist I couldn't believe."

Meanwhile booksellers have given their approval to the "brave" book and expect sales of the “warm yet blackly funny novel” to now shoot upwards.

Chris White, fiction buyer for Waterstones, said: "Introducing readers to exciting new writing is what this business is built on and that’s certainly what The Baileys has achieved in awarding the prize to as bold and brave a book as The Glorious Heresies."

David Prescott, c.e.o at Blackwell’s, said that even though the themes central to the story were "fairly dark", it was a "surprisingly warm, accessible and funny" novel. "I’m delighted Lisa McInerney has won, it’s well deserved,” he said.

Ray Mattinson, senior bookseller in the Blackwells Oxford fiction department, added: "The Baileys has become increasingly important to us here at Blackwell's, with last year's winner Ali Smith overtaking Marlon James' Booker prize winner in paperback sales and pretty much matching hardback sales. So we fully expect the The Glorious Heresies to do really well,even if not on the same scale as Ali Smith, word of mouth and the fact it's won the prize will push sales up.”

Frances Gertler, head of web content at Foyles bookshops, meanwhile, said: “This is a brave choice of winner by the least conventional and edgiest writer on the list, whose big, gritty and compelling novel about Ireland’s dark underbelly features a cast of alcoholics, drug dealers and prostitutes, leaving a trail of sex, violence and crime in their wake."

McInerney also praised the support she had received from booksellers for her novel. “Retailers, especially the ones in Ireland when it first came out, they've all been fantastic,” she said. “And of course the support from Waterstones for the Baileys has been phenomenal. It's really lovely to see people getting behind prizes and debuts- we couldn't do without them."

She added: "I never want to bricks and mortar bookshops to end. There was a kind of worry there for a while it was all going online, I never want that to happen.”

Her editor, Mark Richards, editorial director at John Murray Press, also edited Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney which won both the Costa First Novel Award and Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards.

He said: "We couldn't be more thrilled with Lisa's win last night. To win the Baileys at any stage of your career is a superb achievement, and to win it for your first novel is almost indecent. We are so pleased that it will bring this brilliant, wild ride of a novel to the widest audience, and set Lisa on the career we all so wanted for her. It has the deepest knowledge of its flawed but all-too-human characters, in a landscape not often reflected in literary fiction; it puts you through the ringer, and leaves you exhausted but happy."

The title has sold 4,270 print copies for £36,466 through Nielsen BookScan since it was published in April 2015, 632 in hardback, 3,638 since the mass market paperback was released on 31st December. John Murray said it had just “hit reprint” on another 20,000 print run last night.

McInerney (left) with shortlisted authors Cynthia Bond, Elizabeth McKenzie and Hannah Rothchild at the winner's ceremony.

Mountford, a lawyer and businesswoman, described The Glorious Heresies as "a jolly good read” and a "wonderful winner", whose "complex characters" had impressed the judges. She told The Bookseller: “What we're looking for is excellence, originality and accessibility and I think it scores really highly on all of those. It's a vibrant, fresh book, and it's pacey. It's got wonderful thread of humour running through it, that sort of black humour, particularly in the way the characters express themselves, but also in their thinking."

She also revealed that the judge’s verdict wasn't unanimous and a decision was only reached after “a passionate debate”, prompted by a “very strong” shortlist. 

However, she emphasised that the judges, comprising BBC newsreader Naga Munchetty, feminist columnist Laurie Penny, Turkish novelist Elif Shafak and Everything but the Girl singer Tracey Thorn, were “united in the view that this is a wonderful winner”. 

McInerney triumphed over other debuts including Hanya Yanagihara's Man-Booker shortlisted A Little Life (Picador) and Cythia Bond's Ruby (Two Road). It also overcame competition from Elizabeth McKenzie's quirky study of one couple's courtship in The Portable Veblen (Fourth Estate) and - the only Brit on the shortlist - Hannah Rothchild's satire of the London art world The Improbability of Love (Bloomsbury). Anne Enright's The Green Road, the tale of a family's reunion in the west of Ireland shortlisted for the 2015 Costa Novel award, had been the bookies' favourite to win

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction celebrates and promotes "excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world” and is the UK’s only annual book award for fiction written by a woman. It is open to any woman writing in English, regardless of nationality or country of residence, or chosen subject matter.