First-time Irish authors rise to top of Baileys shortlist

Audrey Magee and Eimear McBride in running for £30,000 prize

The panel of judges for this year’s £30,000 Baileys Prize, and the six shortlisted titles: from left, Denise Mina, Sophie Raworth, Helen Fraser,  Mary Beard and Caitlin Moran

The panel of judges for this year’s £30,000 Baileys Prize, and the six shortlisted titles: from left, Denise Mina, Sophie Raworth, Helen Fraser, Mary Beard and Caitlin Moran

Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 19:15

First-time Irish authors Audrey Magee (The Undertaking) and Eimear McBride (A Girl is a Half-formed Thing) have been shortlisted for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, it was announced this evening.

The other writers shortlisted are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Americanah ; Hannah Kent for Burial Rites; Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland and Donna Tartt for The Goldfinch.

Set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote international fiction by women throughout the world, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014, formerly the Orange Prize, is awarded for the best novel of the year written by a woman. The winner, who will receive £30,000, will be announced in the Royal Festival Hall, London, on June 4th.

Magee is a former Irish Times journalist, who lives in Wicklow with her husband and three daughters. The Undertaking is the story of a German soldier who, desperate to escape the Eastern front, marries a woman he has never met and their struggle to build a family, stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt.

McBride’s debut tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. It is not so much a stream of consciousness as an unconsciousness railing against a life that makes little sense, forming a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a young and isolated protagonist.

McBride was born in Liverpool in 1976 to Irish parents and grew up in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, and Castlebar, Co Mayo. She wrote A Girl is a Half-formed Thing in six months aged 27, and spent the next decade trying to get it published. In 2011 she moved to Norwich, and it was there that she met Galley Beggar Press who would go on to publish her novel in June 2013. It has already won the inaugural Goldsmith’s Prize, and was shortlisted for the Folio Prize and the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2014.

Adichie previously won the prize in 2010 for Half of a Yellow Sun, while Lahiri’s novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Kent’s book was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and Australia’s Stella Prize 2014. Tartt is best known as the author of The Secret History.

“We are very excited by the books we have chosen for the shortlist,” said Helen Fraser, chairwoman of the judges, who include classics scholar Mary Beard, columnist Caitlin Moran and BBC presenter Sophie Raworth. “Each one is original and extraordinary in its own way – each offers something different and exciting and illuminating. We feel you could give any one of these books to a friend with the absolute confidence that they would be gripped and absorbed and that maybe their view of the world would be changed once they had read it.”