How many books is too many? I confess there’s more than a little self interest involved in the question. The long list for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has just been announced and it’s a whopping 20 books long, albeit from 165 original applicants. The prize, which was previously known as the Orange, is for a full-length novel written in english by a woman of any nationality and published in the United Kingdom.
Of course a plus for having long lists longer than the customary 10 or 12 titles is that many more authors are able to get their moment in the literary sunshine. This particularly applies to debut authors of which the long list has five including Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing, which won the Costa Prize, and Laline Paull’s dystopian The Bees. It also gives the judges the opportunity to broaden the range of work celebrated beyond what might be viewed as more “conventional” subject and style.
On the downside, I know I am not alone in liking to read as many of the contenders for major prizes as possible and I appreciate judges whittling down the list to a manageable number. This way I can have an informed view of the eventual decision. There’s nothing like a good argument over the merits of a winner even if it’s with yourself. A couple of major awards provide a list of all eligible entrants so you can see who didn’t make even the first cut. Now that makes for very interesting reading.
One other point of interest is the nationalities represented in the long list. Thirteen British, two Americans, two Canadians, a Pakistani/British, British/American and a Chinese/British. Perhaps this is reflective of the qualifying condition of publication in the United Kingdom within the specified time period. But no Australians? Not one author from Africa which is producing such a broad swathe of exciting writing. Or India?
Anyway, enough miserable carping when so many rounds of congratulations are due. Below is the full long, long list. The shortlist (hopefully six) will be released on 13th April with the final winner announced on 3rd June:
- Rachel Cusk: Outline (Faber & Faber)
- Lissa Evans: Crooked Heart (Doubleday)
- Patricia Ferguson: Aren’t We Sisters? (Penguin)
- Xiaolu Guo: I Am China (Chatto & Windus)
- Samantha Harvey: Dear Thief (Jonathan Cape)
- Emma Healey: Elizabeth is Missing (Viking)
- Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven (Picador)
- Grace McCleen: The Offering (Sceptre)
- Sandra Newman: The Country of Ice Cream Star (Chatto & Windus)
- Heather O’Neil: The Girl Who Was Saturday Night (Quercus)
- Laline Paull: The Bees (Fourth Estate)
- Marie Phillips: The Table of Less Valued Knights (Jonathan Cape)
- Rachel Seiffert: The Walk Home (Virago)
- Kamila Shamsie: A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury)
- Ali Smith: How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)
- Sara Taylor: The Shore (William Heinemann)
- Anne Tyler: A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto)
- Sarah Waters: The Paying Guests (Virago)
- Jemma Wayne: After Before (Legend)
- PP Wong: The Life of a Banana (Legend)