While you were sleeping the shortlist for the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced, an intriguing list selected by this year’s judges.
This year’s six shortlisted books were whittled down from a twenty-strong longlist, which can be found here. The shortlist selection includes five previously shortlisted authors and one debut novelist, playwright Laline Paull.
The award will be announced on the 3rd June. Why not pick up a few of them and be your own judge…
by Rachel Cusk
A novel about writing and talking, self-effacement and self-expression, about the desire to create and the human art of self-portraiture in which that desire finds its universal form.
A woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Though her own circumstances remain indistinct, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives, as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives.
Beginning with the neighbouring passenger on the flight out and his tales of fast boats and failed marriages, the storytellers talk of their loves and ambitions and pains, their anxieties, their perceptions and daily lives. In the stifling heat and noise of the city the sequence of voice begins to weave a complex human tapestry. The more they talk the more elliptical their listener becomes, as she shapes and directs their accounts until certain themes begin to emerge: the experience of loss, the nature of family life, the difficulty of intimacy and the mystery of creativity itself.
Outline is a novel about writing and talking, about self-effacement and self-expression, about the desire to create and the human art of self-portraiture in which that desire finds its universal form.
About the Author
Rachel Cusk was born in 1967 and is the author of seven novels: Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Temporary, The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, The Lucky Ones, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award, In the Fold and Arlington Park which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and The Bradshaw Variations. Her non-fiction books are A Life’s Work, The Last Supper and Aftermath. In 2003 she was chosen as one of Granta’s Best of Young Novelists.
by Laline Paull
Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. But Flora is not like other bees. Despite her ugliness she has talents that are not typical of her kin. While mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is removed from sanitation duty and is allowed to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing.
She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous. But enemies are everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. And when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all her instinct to serve is overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will lead to the unthinkable . . .
Laline Paull’s chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, The Bees is the story of a heroine who, in the face of an increasingly desperate struggle for survival, changes her destiny and her world.
About the Author
Laline Paull, 49, studied English at Oxford, screenwriting in Los Angeles, and theatre in London, where she has had two plays performed at the Royal National Theatre. She is a member of BAFTA and the Writers’ Guild of America. She lives in England by the sea with her husband, the photographer Adrian Peacock, and their three children.
by Kamila Shamsie
July 1914. A young Englishwoman, Vivian Rose Spencer is running up a mountainside in an ancient land. She picks up a fig and holds it to her nose. Around her is a maze of broken columns, taller than the tallest of men. Nearby is the familiar lean form of her father’s old friend, Tahsin Bey, an archeologist. Viv is about to discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure and the ecstasy of love.
July, 1915. An Englishwoman and an Indian man meet on a train to Peshawar. Viv Spencer is following a cryptic message sent to her by the man she loves, from whom she has been separated by war. Qayyum Gul is returning home after losing an eye at Ypres while fighting for the British Indian army, his allegiances in tatters. When they disembark the train at Peshawar they are unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives – one of which they will be unaware until fifteen years later when anti-colonial resistance, an ancient artefact and a mysterious green-eyed woman will bring them together again over seventy-two hours of heartbreak, frayed loyalties and hope.
About the Author
Kamila Shamsie is the author of five novels: In the City by the Sea, Kartography (both shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), Salt and Saffron, Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and has been translated into more than twenty languages. Three of her novels have received awards from Pakistan’s Academy of Letters. She is a trustee of English PEN and Free Word, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
by Ali Smith
How to be Both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s.
Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.
Ali Smith is the author of several fiction novels, including the novel Hotel World, which was shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize in 2001 and won the Encore Award and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award in 2002. Her story collections include Free Love, which won the Saltire First Book Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award, and The Whole Story and Other Stories. Her latest novel is How to be Both. Born in Inverness, Scotland, in 1962, Smith now lives in Cambridge, England.
by Anne Tyler
‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…’
This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home. They’ve all come, even Denny, who can usually be relied on only to please himself.
From that porch we spool back through three generations of the Whitshanks, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define who and what they are. And while all families like to believe they are special, round that kitchen table over all those years we see played out the hopes and fears, the rivalries and tensions of families everywhere – the essential nature of family life.
About the Author
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. The Beginner’s Goodbye is Anne Tyler’s nineteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
by Sarah Waters
It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.
For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the ‘clerk class’, the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.
This is vintage Sarah Waters: beautifully described with excruciating tension, real tenderness, believable characters, and surprises. It is above all, a wonderful, compelling story.
About the Author
Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966. She has been shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes and has won The South Bank Show Award and The Somerset Maugham Award. Four of her novels have been adapted for television. She has been named as author of the Year four times – by the Booksellers Association, Sunday Times, Waterstone’s and The British Book Awards.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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