The longlist for the 2016 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction is here, an incredible list dominated by debut novels. Geraldine Brooks and Shirley Barrett represent Australia in the longlist, which encompasses seven nationalities. Other big names include Kate Atkinson for A God in Ruins, Elizabeth Strout for My Name is Lucy Barton and Attica Locke for Pleasantville, who have all been previously shorltisted, and Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life.
2016 Chair of Judges Margaret Mountford said of the panel’s choices: “We are delighted with the quality, the imaginative scope and the ambition of our chosen books, a longlist which reflects the judges’ interests and tastes. We hope readers will enjoy the variety of outstanding work on offer.”
This year’s panel of judges – Margaret Mountford, Laurie Penny, Naga Munchetty, Tracey Thorn, and Elif Shafak – now have the difficult task of whittling these twenty books down to just six shortlisted titles by April 11th.
The winner which will be announced at an awards ceremony held on 8th June 2016.
The 2016 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist
God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd – would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.
This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations… Read More
Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett
When the eldest daughter of a whaling family in Eden, New South Wales, sets out to chronicle the particularly difficult season of 1908, the story she tells is poignant and hilarious, filled with drama and misadventure.
Swinging from her own hopes and disappointments, both domestic and romantic, to the challenges that beset their tiny whaling operation, Mary’s tale is entirely relatable despite the hundred-odd years that separate… Read more
Ruby by Cynthia Bond
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city-the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village-all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself… Read more
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
1000 BC. The Second Iron Age. The time of King David.
Anointed as the chosen one when just a young shepherd boy, David will rise to be king, grasping the throne and establishing his empire. But his journey is a tumultuous one and the consequences of his choices will resound for generations. In a life that arcs from obscurity to fame, he is by turns hero and traitor, glamorous young tyrant and beloved king, murderous despot and remorseful, diminished patriarch… Read more
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet… Read more
A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton
When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?… Read more
Whispers Through a Megaphone by Rachel Elliott
Is it ever too late to start again?
35-year-old Miriam hasn’t left her house in three years, and cannot raise her voice above a whisper. But today she has had enough, and is finally ready to rejoin the outside world. Maybe it’s time to stop living in the shadow of her abusive dead mother?
Meanwhile, timid psychotherapist Ralph has made the mistake of opening a closet door, only to discover that his wife Sadie doesn’t love him. Yet everyone else seems to have known all about their unhappy marriage – from her tweets. He decides to run away. But where can he go?… Read more
The Green Road by Anne Enright
Hanna, Dan, Constance and Emmet return to the west coast of Ireland for a final family Christmas in the home their mother is about to sell. As the feast turns to near painful comedy, a last, desperate act from Rosaleen – a woman who doesn’t quite know how to love her children – forces them to confront the weight of family ties and the road that brought them home… Read more
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
“The story you have asked me to tell begins not with the ignominious ugliness of Lloyd’s death but on a long-ago day in April when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man. I say my father and my mother, but really it was just my mother.”
Memory, the narrator of The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it… Read more
Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy
London dances to the tune of Gorsky’s billions. The most enigmatic of oligarchs, Gorsky has been led to the city by his love for Natalia, whom he first knew in Russia. That she is now married to an Englishman is an inconvenient detail.
Gorsky desires and gets the best of everything. His mansion by the Thames is set to make Buckingham Palace look like an ungainly box by a roundabout. At its heart will be a grand library, denoting taste and breeding. Now he just needs the books…. Read more
The Anatomist’s Dream by Clio Gray
Chop off my head and hawk it to the highest bidder. I’m the Anatomist’s Dream, did you know? That’s what they call me. In a small salt-mining town, Philbert is born with a ‘taupe’, a disfiguring inflammation of the skull. Abandoned by his parents and with only a pet pig for company, he eventually finds refuge in a traveling carnival, Maulwerf’s Fair of Wonders, as it makes its annual migration across Germany bringing entertainment to a people beset by famine, repression and revolutionary ferment. Philbert finds a caring family in Herman the Fish Man, Lita the Dancing Dwarf, Frau Fettleheim the Fattest Woman in the World, and an assortment of ‘freak show’ artists, magicians…. Read more
At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison
It is dawn on a May morning. On a long straight Roman road between two sleeping fields a car slows as it arrives at the scene of an accident.
Howard and Kitty have been married for thirty years and now sleep in different rooms. They do not discuss it. It was always Kitty’s dream to move from their gobby corner of north London into the countryside, and when the kids were gone they moved to Lodeshill. Howard often wonders if anyone who lives in this invisible village has a reason to be there.
Jack was once a rural rebel, a protestor who only ever wanted the freedom to walk alone in his own country. Having finished another stint in prison for trespassing, he sets off once more, walking north with his old battered backpack… Read more
Pleasantville by Attica Locke
It’s 1996, Bill Clinton has just been re-elected and in Houston a mayoral election is looming. As usual the campaign focuses on Pleasantville – the African-American neighbourhood of the city that has swung almost every race since it was founded to house a growing black middle class in 1949.
Axel Hathorne, former chief of police and the son of Pleasantville’s founding father Sam Hathorne, was the clear favourite, all set to become Houston’s first black mayor. But his lead is slipping thanks to a late entrant into the race – Sandy Wolcott, a defence attorney riding high on the success of a high-profile murder trial.
And then, just as the competition intensifies, a girl goes missing, apparently while canvassing for Axel. And when her body is found, Axel’s nephew is charged with her murder… Read more
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
‘He was definitely dead, whoever he was. He wore a once-black jumper and a pair of shiny tracksuit bottoms. The back of his head was cracked and his hair matted, but it had been foxy before that. A tall man, a skinny rake, another string of piss, now departed. She hadn’t gotten a look at his face before she flaked him with the Holy Stone and she couldn’t bring herself to turn him over.’
One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family… Read more
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
A riotously funny and deeply insightful adventure through capitalism, the medical industry, family, love, war and wedding-planning – from an electrically entertaining new voice.
Meet Veblen: a passionate defender of the anti-consumerist views of her name-sake, the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen. She’s an experienced cheerer-upper (mainly of her narcissistic, hypochondriac, controlling mother), an amateur translator of Norwegian, and a firm believer in the distinct possibility that the plucky grey squirrel following her around can understand more than it lets on.
Meet her fiancé, Paul: the son of good hippies who were bad parents, a no-nonsense, high-flying neuroscientist with no time for squirrels… Read more
Girl at War by Sara Nović
Growing up in Zagreb in the summer of 1991, 10-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy; she runs the streets with her best friend, Luka, helps take care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But when civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills.
The brutal ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnians tragically changes Ana’s life, and she is lost to a world of genocide and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later she returns to Croatia, a young woman struggling to belong to either country, forced to confront the trauma of her past and rediscover the place that was once her home… Read more
The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester
Part mystery, part psychological drama, Julia Rochester’s The House at the Edge of the World is a darkly comic, unorthodox and thrilling debut. When I was eighteen, my father fell off a cliff. It was a stupid way to die. John Venton’s drunken fall from a Devon cliff leaves his family with an embarrassing ghost. His twin children, Morwenna and Corwin, flee in separate directions to take up their adult lives. Their mother, enraged by years of unhappy marriage, embraces merry widowhood. Only their grandfather finds solace in the crumbling family house, endlessly painting their story onto a large canvas map. His brightly coloured map, with its tiny pictures of shipwrecks, forgotten houses, saints and devils, is a work of his imagination, a collection of local myths and histories. But it holds a secret. As the twins are drawn grudgingly back to the house, they discover that their father’s absence is part of the map’s mysterious pull… Read more
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
Annie McCann, alone after the disintegration of her long-term relationship and trapped in a dead-end job, is searching for a present for her unsuitable lover in a neglected second-hand shop. Within the jumble of junk and tack, a grimy, dusty painting catches her eye. Leaving the store with the picture after spending her meagre savings, she prepares an elaborate dinner for two, only to be stood up, the gift gathering dust on her mantelpiece.
But every painting has a story – and if it could speak, what would it tell us?
For Annie has stumbled across ‘The Improbability of Love’, a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau, one of the most influential French painters of the eighteenth century…. Read more
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
An exquisite new novel from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge.
A mother comes to visit her daughter in hospital after having not seen her in many years. Her unexpected visit forces Lucy to confront her past, uncovering long-buried memories of a profoundly impoverished childhood; and her present, as the façade of her new life in New York begins to crumble, awakening her to the reality of her faltering marriage and her unsteady journey towards becoming a writer.
From Lucy’s hospital bed, we are drawn ever more deeply into the emotional complexity of family life, the inescapable power of the past, and the memories – however painful – that bind a family together. My Name Is Lucy Barton is a tender expression of the meaning of familial love from one of America’s finest writers…. Read more
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light.
When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. here is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity… Read more