Eimear McBride and Sarah Perry have been shortlisted for the 2017 £10,000 RSL Encore Award for the best second novel of the year.
The pair, both recently longlisted for the £30k Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, were counted among six shortlisted contenders for the prize, their stories diverse, spanning a whaling ship with a murderous crew, a deserted moor and a caravan park steeling itself for a new Ice Age, as well as narratives past, present and future.
The judges, Alex Clark, Julia Copus and Ted Hodgkinson, said they were "impressed and cheered by the scope of the novels", as well as by the "linguistic bravado, and the structural and stylistic ambition on show", each infused with "a sense of experiment and inquiry, and a genuine pleasure in shaping and testing the language".
McBride is shortlisted for The Lesser Bohemians (Faber & Faber), following on from her debut A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, which Hodgkinson praised "wild and tender", and Perry for Waterstones Book of the Year The Essex Serpent (Serpent's Tail), that Clark said offered "nourishment for the brain". During this month's London Book Fair, the latter was also shortlisted in two Nibbies categories.
Ian McGuire is shortlisted for whaling tale The North Water (Scribner), Clark commented "might have been called ‘Men Behaving Badly’ save for the fact that Ian McGuire’s stunning story of mid 19th-century seafarers instills more fear than it does laughter", adding, it "gripped from start to finish".
Both Faber & Faber and William Heinemann now have two bites of the cherry. Alongside McBride, Faber & Faber also has author Paul Kingsnorth in the running for Beast, his second volume in Kingsnorth’s trilogy about a hermit farmer living high on the west-country moorland in the 11th century.
William Heinemann counts two authors on the shortlist: Jenni Fagan for her "riveting, apocalyptic tale" The Sunlight Pilgrims, about the residents of a Scottish caravan park in the depths of winter, and Sara Taylor for The Lauras, following a mother and her transgender child on a journey across an "uncelebrated" America, which Copus said had managed to "take in the whole wonderful but disordered 'snail slime' of human existence on the way".
The winner of the prize will be announced on Wednesday 5th April 2017.