It’s half way through 2015 and time for a literary stock take of my year so far. The bare statistics underpinning six months of reading pleasure are: total number of books – 55 books consisting of 50 novels, three works of non-fiction, one book of poetry and one play. The gender breakdown was 33 women writers and 22 male, drawn from 13 countries, with the largest number coming from Australia and Great Britain. Below are my ten favourite books (so far), not in any particular order as just selecting the ten was hard enough. One of Us by Asne Seirstad, Waiting for the Past by Les Murray and The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna deserve a special mention because they would have been on the list if the Top 10 was actually a Top13.
- Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw
- The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck
- River of Fire by Amitav Ghosh
- The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
- One Life by Kate Grenville
- The Bees by Laline Paull
- The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock
- Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Ali Smith has won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel How to be Both in what Shami Chakrabarti, Chair of the judges, said was a “vindication” for the prize. “It’s not just about women writers not always getting their fair share of prizes, it’s also about women’s stories and their protagonists,” she…
Flora 717 knows her place. As a sanitation worker bee she is bottom of the heap inside her rigidly hierarchical world. But she is both happy and proud to be playing her allotted part in the smooth running of a society in which “Accept, Obey, Serve” provide both voluntary guidelines and the brutally enforced law. Inside the hive individual thoughts are dangerous. Obedience is absolute and self-sacrifice for the common good, the norm. Each member knows their place and finds reassurance within its parameters, however harsh.
The Bees, Laline Paull’s debut novel, was described by Publishers Weekly
Debut author Laline Paull is on the shortlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015 alongside established authors like Ali Smith and Anne Tyler. The full list, just announced is: Rachel Cusk – Outline (Faber) Laline Paull – The Bees (Fourth Estate) Kamila Shamsie – A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury) Ali Smith –…
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