Back in 1992, a group of men and women met to talk about how the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist included zero women. It was this group that formed the annual Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, celebrating the best full-length fiction by female writers across the globe. Since then, the award has championed women novelists in ways that many major literary awards still don't. The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015 shortlist is no exception.
This year, the award shortlist calls out several veteran authors — five out of six whom have appeared on the shortlist before — who have never won the Baileys Women's Prize. The judging panel is made up of five women, with Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty for The National Council for Civil Liberties, acting as chairperson. Charkrabarti told The Guardian what she sees in the six finalists her committee chose for the shortlist:
They are all fantastic. They are very different in various ways — subject matter, genre, style. Some are sparse, some poetic. What they have in common is that you can’t put them down.
The five books on the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist are:
- Outline by Rachel Cusk
- The Bees by Laline Paull
- A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie
- How to Be Both by Ali Smith
- A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
- The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
The Bees' Laline Paull is the only writer who has not yet appeared on the shortlist. Chakrabarti has called The Bees "the Animal Farm of the 21st century." Rachel Cusk is a literary dynamo, and Outline is her eighth novel. Strangely (and if you are a superstitious person, take note), The Paying Guests, How to Be Both, and A God in Every Stone are all the sixth books by their respective authors. Anne Tyler should need no introduction; A Spool of Blue Thread is her 20th novel.
The shortlist was whittled down from the 20-book Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction longlist, which included a favorite that did not make the shortlist, against many betting women's beliefs: Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, a National Book Award Nominee for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Nominee. A woman of any nationality can win the award, as long as the novel was published in English and has a United Kingdom ISBN.
The 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction winner was A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. This year's winner will be announced June 3.
Image: Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction/Facebook