It's been a month since the long list for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction was announced. My mind is buzzing wondering what six books will be on the short list which is announced tomorrow.
I've managed to fully read seven titles on the list on top of the three I had already read. Currently I'm halfway through reading Eimear McBride's imaginative and original “A Girl if a Half-Formed Thing.” Strangely, out of the four books I picked out as the ones I was most looking forward to at the time, I've only read Elizabeth Strout's beautifully-constructed and socially-relevant “The Burgess Boys.” Here is the full list of books I've read with links to reviews:
Since I haven't read all of the books on the long list I don't feel like I can make predictions with absolute authority, but I'll base my opinions about the remaining books on reviews, bloggers' opinions and gut-instinct. It's really difficult to choose since so many of the books are brilliant in their own ways. So, here are my predictions for the short list:
I have to guess Adichie because I think she's a monumental writer. I've read her previous two novels and short stories which are so precisely written and intelligent. From all accounts, like those of the wonderfully engaging blogger The Writes of Woman, “Americanah” is an incredibly successful novel. I'm quite annoyed I haven't got to reading it yet.
“All the Birds, Singing” is a brilliantly structured and powerful novel with a deeply moving story. My mind keeps drifting back to it and thinking about different passages. The way that time and carefully-contained emotions are dealt with in this novel is masterful. Wyld is a forceful independent writer whose two novels are wholly original and unlike anything I've ever read.
“The Luminaries” has, of course, been heavily praised and won the Booker prize already. But if I were a judge I couldn't let a book's reception or pre-existing popularity influence my opinion. Yes, it would be great for lesser-known books which are great in their own right to get more attention, but when it comes down to it, it should be about the best book. Catton's second novel is a staggering achievement and even if it wins book prize in the world it might make people really embrace the challenge of reading it. Because to most readers it is no doubt a very challenging novel.
“Eleven Days” is a novel that really deserves more attention and I don't think most readers in the UK have taken note of how excellent it is. It's a book which meaningfully explores the impact of serving in the military and really calls into question what battles mean. This novel has given me such a knowing insight into that side of life so far removed from my own. It's also cleverly structured so that I was incredibly tense until the end of the novel wondering what happened to Sara's son.
“The Goldfinch” is another novel that has been so incredibly successful due to Tartt's ability to create such a riveting read that captures readers' imaginations. It's a book that I really had to tear myself away from to get sleep at night because I was so engaged with it. It's a highly literary book without being pretentious and speaks about universal issues of identity that reach far beyond the particularities of the compelling characters who are portrayed.
“A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing” is a book that I can already tell breaks the mould and forces you to readjust the meaning of language as you read it. Speech and thoughts are jumbled up and crushed together, but the narrative is expertly controlled so that if you read attentively you know exactly what is happening at all times. As a first novel, it's a staggering achievement.
I will still be reading some of the other books on the long list no matter who is short listed tomorrow. I'm amazed by the diversity and originality of so many books on the long list and thankful this prize has introduced me to writers I might have missed otherwise. It's been a pleasure reading other readers' reactions to the prize like The Writes of Women, Antonia Honeywell and Farm Lane Books. One of the most fun things about book prizes are the conversations they create. In the intervening time since the long list was announced I have been reading other books and it surprises me that novels like Hustvedt's “The Blazing World” wasn't on the list for this prize. But there are always more books to discover.