I attended the readings by the authors shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction tonight at the Southbank Centre. Each author gave excellent readings as did the actor Charles Dance who stood in for Donna Tartt. Most authors got the chance to discuss the inspiration or process that went into writing their novels. I don't know why the event was only an hour long. It could have easily gone on twice as long to give everyone the chance to really talk in more depth about the brilliant variety of novels competing for the prize. Nevertheless, the readings and brief questions gave a good taste of each book. It was particularly pleasing to hear questions from the audience directed primarily at Eimear McBride as I assumed most of the questions would go to the more well-known authors. One man asked her if she was influenced by Robert Frost's poetry as he thought he detected hints of his style in her writing to which she hilariously replied, "No, never read him. Sorry."
So, who will win tomorrow?
Truthfully, I loved reading all the novels and I'd be happy for any of them to take the prize. Part of me really wants to cheer for both Eimear McBride and Audrey Magee as I think both books would benefit the most from the prize in terms of getting a bigger readership (which both books really deserve.) I haven't looked at any sales figures but I'm guessing the other four novels have sold a lot more copies than these two first time novelists. Also, thinking about which book I'd most like to read again it would be Eimear McBride's "A Girl is a Half-formed Thing" as I think I would discover a lot of things I missed the first time. However, in terms of sheer enjoyment of reading and intelligence I think Ngozi's "Americanah" is my favourite. But I've decided I'm going with McBride to win - because I think that's the way the judges will go.