Debut author Lisa McInerney and Anne Enright, the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction, have been longlisted for the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, Britain’s only annual book award for fiction written by a woman.
McInerney is from Galway and is the author of award-winning blog, Arse End of Ireland. The Irish Times has called her “arguably the most talented writer at work in Ireland today”. Her mother remains unimpressed.
Her novel, The Glorious Heresies (John Murray), is the current Irish Times Book Club selection. Set in Cork, it is the dark but surprisingly funny and emotionally engaging story of how one messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society.
Joseph O’Connor, reeviewing it for The Irish Times, wrote: “This is a big, brassy, sexy beast of a book, set in a place very far from the conveniently out-of-focus watercolour Ireland that readers and writers of my own age grew up with. McInerney is a truth-speaker and a powerful storyteller who writes with exactly the sort of furious energy this novel needs ... an accomplished, seriously enjoyable and high-octane morality tale, full of empathy, feeling and soul.”
Enright, from Dublin, was appointed the first Laureate for Irish Fiction in 2015. The Green Road has already won the Easons Irish Novel of the Year award at the 2015 Bord Gais Irish Book Awards. Her works include The Gathering, which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize and was also the Irish Novel of the Year. The Forgotten Waltz was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Media for Excellence in Fiction.
The Green Road (Jonathan Cape) is the story of Rosaleen madigan and her children, who leave the west of Ireland for lives they never could have imagined, in Dublin, New York and various third-world towns. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.
In her Irish Times review, Belinda McKeon wrote: “What Enright has done with this novel is fascinating. It is Irish, or rather Irish-novelly, in such an unashamed fashion – the Mammy, the home place, the emotionally banjaxed siblings, the booze and the boom and the pill and the pope – as to be provocative. It does not simply take on, but briskly and grinningly grabs hold of, all the stuff that, these days, seems too embarrassing to bring up at the dinner table of Irish fiction. Then it makes itself all about language anyway ... reminding us – as we need reminding all the more these days, it seems – that experiment is not a matter of category, but a matter of approach and of nuance.”
Other big names on the longlist 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. The shortlist will be announced on April 11th and the winner on June 8th.The winner will receive £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a Bessie, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven.
This year’s judges are: Margaret Mountford, Naga Munchetty, Laurie Penny, Elif Shafak and Tracey Thorn. “We had a hugely enjoyable and stimulating meeting, as there were a great many strong novels in contention,” said Mountford. “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.”
Previous winners include Ali Smith for How to be Both last year and Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing in 2014.
[ womensprizeforfiction.co.uk ]
Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins, Doubleday
Kate Atkinson’s last novel Life After Life explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy - would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father and grandfather - as he navigates the perils and progress of the twentieth century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.
Kate Atkinson’s first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year in 1995. Her four bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. Her most recent novel, Life After Life, was a number one bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic and won the Costa Novel Award and the South Bank Arts Literature Prize. She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Shirley Barrett, Rush Oh!, Virago
When Mary Davidson, 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.
It’s a season marked not only by the sparsity of whales and the terrible weather, but also by the arrival of John Beck, an itinerant whaleman with a murky past, on whom Mary promptly develops an all-consuming crush. But hers is not the only romance to blossom amidst the blubber…
Shirley Barrett is best known for her work as a screenwriter and director. Shirley’s first film, Love Serenade, won the Camera D’Or (Best First Feature) at Cannes Film Festival in 1996. In 2010, the script for her film South Solitary won the Queensland Premier’s Prize (script), the West Australian Premier’s Literary Prize (script) and the West Australian Premier’s Prize. Rush Oh! is Shirley’s first novel. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
Cynthia Bond, Ruby, Two Roads
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East-Texas town. For Ruby Bell, Liberty was a place of devastating violence from which she fled to seedy, glamorous 1950s New York.
Years later, pulled back home, thirty-year-old Ruby is faced with the seething hated of a town desperate to destroy her. Witnessing her struggle, Ephram must choose loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.
Cynthia Bond has taught writing to homeless and at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles for more than sixteen years. She attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, then moved to New York and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. A PEN/Rosenthal Fellow, Bond founded the Blackbird Writing Collective in 2011. At present, Bond teaches therapeutic writing at Paradigm Malibu Adolescent Treatment Center. She is also an advocate for the victims of human trafficking. A native of East Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her daughter.
Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord, Little, Brown
1000 BC., The Second Iron Age, The time of King David. Anointed as the chosen one when just a shepherd boy, David will rise to be king, grasping the throne and establishing his empire. But his journey is tumultuous and the consequences of his choices will resound for generations. In a life that takes him from obscurity to fame, he is by turns hero and traitor, glamorous young tyrant and beloved king, murderous despot and remorseful, diminished patriarch. His wives love and fear him; his sons will betray him. It falls to Natan, the courtier and prophet who both counsels and castigates David, to tell the truth about the path he must take.
Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in Sydney. Her novels Caleb’s Crossing and People of the Book were New York Times bestsellers; Year of Wonders has been translated into more than twenty-five languages; and March won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She is also the author of acclaimed non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, author Tony Horwitz.
Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Hodder & Stoughton
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. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian 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, tunneling through space to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the trip. But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.
Becky Chambers was raised in California as the progeny of an astrobiology educator, an aerospace engineer, and an Apollo-era rocket scientist. An inevitable space enthusiast, she made the obvious choice of studying performing arts. After a few years in theatre administration, she shifted her focus toward writing. Her creative work has appeared at The Mary Sue, Tor.com, Five Out Of Ten, The Toast, and Pornokitsch. Her writing for The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was funded in 2012 thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. She is now employed as a technical writer, which grants her the ability to devote more time to science fiction.
After living in Scotland and Iceland, Becky is now back in her home state, where she lives with her partner. She is an ardent proponent of video and tabletop games, and enjoys spending time in nature. She hopes to see Earth from orbit one day.
Jackie Copleton, A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding, Hutchinson
When a badly scarred man knocks on the door of Amaterasu Takahashi’s retirement home and says that he is her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. But if you’ve become adept at lying, can you tell when someone is speaking the truth?
Amaterasu knows her grandson and her daughter died the day the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki; she searched for them amongst the ruins of her devastated city and has spent years burying her memories of that brutal summer. So this man is either a miracle or a cruel trick.
The stranger forces Amaterasu to revisit her past; the hurt and humiliation of her early life, the intoxication of a first romance, the fierceness of a mother’s love. For years she has held on to the idea that she did what she had to do to protect her family… but now nothing seems so certain. We can’t rewrite history, but can we create a new future?
Jackie Copleton lived in Nagasaki and Sapporo for three years, where she taught English, before returning to England and becoming a journalist. This is her first novel.
Rachel Elliott, Whispers Through a Megaphone, One, an imprint of Pushkin Press
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?
Each of them is hungry to make sense of the chaos in their lives. Miriam and Ralph’s chance meeting in a local wood marks the beginning of a quirky and mutually supportive friendship. With Ralph’s gentle help, Miriam begins to piece together her own truth. Because sometimes, the world can seem too much for just one person…
Rachel Elliott is a writer and psychotherapist. She was born in Suffolk, grew up in Norfolk and the Midlands and now lives in Bath. Whispers Through a Megaphone is her first novel.
Anne Enright, The Green Road, Jonathan Cape
The children of Rosaleen Madigan leave the west of Ireland for lives they never could have imagined, in Dublin, New York and various third-world towns. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.
Anne Enright was born in Dublin, where she now lives and works. She has published two books of stories, collected as Yesterday’s Weather, one book of non-fiction, Making Babies, and five novels, including The Gathering, which was the Irish Novel of the Year, and won the Irish Fiction Award and the 2007 Man Booker Prize, and The Forgotten Waltz, which was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Media for Excellence in Fiction. In 2015 she was appointed the first Laureate for Irish Fiction.
Petina Gappah, The Book of Memory , Faber & Faber
Memory, the narrator of The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum 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.
The death penalty is the mandatory sentence for murder and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, fighting for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?
Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University and the University of Zimbabwe. Her debut story collection, An Elegy for Easterly, won the Guardian First Book Prize in 2009.
Vesna Goldsworthy, Gorsky , Chatto & Windus
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.
When Gorsky’s armour-plated car halts in front of a down-at-heel bookshop, the startled man behind the counter receives the commission of a lifetime. The bookseller suddenly gains privileged access to the wealthy and the beautiful; a world filled with delectable books but fraught with danger…
Vesna Goldsworthy was born in Belgrade in 1961 and has lived in London since 1986. She writes in English, her third language. She has authored three widely translated books: a memoir, Chernobyl Strawberries; Inventing Ruritania, on the shaping of cultural perceptions of the Balkans; and the Crashaw Prize-winning poetry collection, The Angel of Salonika. Gorsky is her first novel.
Clio Gray, The Anatomist’s Dream, Myrmidon
In a small salt-mining town, Philbert is born with a taupe, a disfiguring inflammation of the skull. Abandoned by both parents, and with only a pet pig for company, he eventually finds refuge and companionship in Maulwerf’s Fair of Wonders as it makes its annual migration across Germany, relieving the miseries of a people beset by famine, repression and revolutionary ferment.
Philbert soon finds a family in Hermann the Fish Man, Lita, the Dancing Dwarf, Frau Fettleheim, the Fattest Woman in the World and a weird assortment of travelling entertainers. But then Philbert meets Kwert, Tospirologist and Teller of Signs, and when he persuades the boy to undergo examination by Dr Ullendorf, a renowned physician and craniometrist, both Kwert and Philbert embark on an altogether darker and more perilous journey.
Clio Gray was born in Yorkshire, but has spent the last twenty years in Ross-shire in the Scottish Highlands, where she has worked as a librarian in the small market town of Tain. She won the Harry Bowling First Novel Award in 2004 and this led to a successful series of crime novels set in the Napoleonic Wars. She also won the Scotsman - Orange Short Story Award in 2006 for I Should Have Listened Harder.
Melissa Harrison, At Hawthorn Time, Bloomsbury Circus
Four-thirty on a May morning: the black fading to blue, dawn gathering somewhere below the treeline in the east. A long, straight road runs between sleeping fields to the little village of Lodeshill, and on it two cars lie wrecked and ravished, violence gathered about them in the silent air. One wheel, upturned, still spins.
Howard and Kitty have recently moved to Lodeshill after a life spent in London; now, their marriage is wordlessly falling apart. Custom car enthusiast Jamie has lived in the village for all of his nineteen years and dreams of leaving it behind, while Jack, a vagrant farm-worker and mystic in flight from a bail hostel, arrives in the village on foot one spring morning, bringing change. All four of them are struggling to find a life in the modern countryside; all are trying to find ways to belong.
Melissa Harrison’s debut novel Clay won the Portsmouth First Fiction Award was selected for Amazon’s ‘Rising Stars’ programme and chosen by Ali Smith as a Book of the Year for 2013. A freelance writer, occasional photographer and columnist for The Times, the Weekend FT and the Guardian, she lives in south London.
Attica Locke, Pleasantville, Serpent’s Tail
It’s 1996, Bill Clinton has just been returned to the White House, and in Houston a mayoral election looms. As ever, the campaign focuses on Pleasantville - the African-American neighbourhood that has swung almost every poll since it was founded in 1949.
Axel Hathorne, former chief of police and the son of Pleasantville’s founding father Sam Hathorne, could be on the verge of becoming Houston’s first black mayor. That is, until a girl goes missing, apparently while canvassing for Axel. When her body is found, Axel’s nephew is charged with her murder.
Sam is determined that Jay Porter, the lawyer from Locke’s debut, Black Water Rising will defend his grandson. Jay finds himself trying his first murder case, a trial that threatens to blow the entire community wide open, and reveal how far those with power will go to hold onto it.
Attica Locke’s first novel Black Water Rising was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Locke’s most recent book, The Cutting Season, was published in 2012 to critical acclaim. Attica is also a screenwriter and is currently a co-producer on the Fox drama Empire. A native of Houston, Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.
Lisa McInerney, The Glorious Heresies, John Murray
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 this unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight…
Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen, Fourth Estate
Meet Veblen. She’s an experienced cheerer-upper (mainly of her narcissistic, hypochondriac, controlling mother), an amateur translator of Norwegian, and a passionate defender of the anti-consumerist views of her namesake, the economist Thorstein Veblen. She’s also a firm believer in the distinct possibility that the plucky grey squirrel following her around can understand everything she says…
Now meet her fiancé, Paul: the son of good hippies who were bad parents, a no-nonsense, high-flying neuroscientist with no time for squirrels. His recent work on a device to minimize battlefield brain trauma has led him dangerously close to the seductive Cloris Hutmacher, heiress to pharmaceuticals empire, who is promising him fame an fortune through a shady-sounding deal with the Department of Defence. What could possibly go wrong?
Elizabeth McKenzie’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.
Sara Novic, Girl at War, Little, Brown
Zagreb, 1991. Ana Juric is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and football matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbours grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.
New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war - secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.
Sara Novic was born in 1987 and has lived in the United States and Croatia. She recently graduated from the MFA program at Columbia University, where she studied fiction and translation. She is the fiction editor at Blunderbuss magazine and teaches writing at Columbia University and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She lives in Queens, New York.
Julia Rochester, The House at the Edge of the World, Viking
John Venton’s drunken fall from a Devon cliff leaves his family with an embarrassing ghost. His twin children 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, a map that holds a devastating secret.
Julia Rochester grew up on the Exe estuary in Devon. She studied in London, Berlin and Cambridge and has worked for the BBC Portuguese Service and for Amnesty International as Researcher on Brazil. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.
Hannah Rothschild, The Improbability of Love, Bloomsbury
Annie McDee, 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 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. Soon Annie is drawn unwillingly into the art world, and finds herself pursued by a host of interested parties that would do anything to posses her picture. For an exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious Sheika, a desperate auctioneer, an unscrupulous dealer and several others, the painting symbolises their greatest hopes and fears. In her search for the painting’s true identity, Annie will uncover some of the darkest secrets of European history - and in doing so, she will learn more about herself, opening up to the possibility of falling in love again.
Hannah Rothschild is a writer and film director. Her documentary feature films have appeared on the BBC and HBO, and at international film festivals. She has written film scripts for Ridley Scott and Working Title, and articles for Vanity Fair, New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and others. Her first book, The Baroness was published in 2012 and has been translated into six languages. She became the chair of the National Gallery in August 2015, and is currently a trustee of the Tate Gallery and Waddesdon Manor, and a Vice President of the Hay Literary Festival. She lives in London.
Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton, Viking
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.
Elizabeth Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire. She is the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times bestseller, Olive Kitteridge, and bestsellers Abide with Me, Amy and Isabelle, and The Burgess Boys.
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life, Picador
When four classmates 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. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel painter pursuing fame in the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.
Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented lawyer yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by a degree of trauma that he fears he will not only be unable to overcome - but that will define his life forever.
Hanya Yanagihara was born in LA, USA in 1975. Yanagihara is the author of The People in the Trees, shortlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and her novel A Little Life was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. She is Deputy Editor at T Magazine, New York Times and lives in New York City.