Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018: It’s Early Yet

 

Welcome to the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, formerly Baileys Prize, formerly Orange Prize. Quite the crop this year, including six debut novels.

Six!

I’ve had the Longlist date on my calendar for weeks. I just got very busy and had no time to post before now.

 

 

I’ve read a grand total of one of the longlisted books, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Unlike the rest of the world, I’m not a huge fan. I own three others: Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan, Fiona Mozley’s Elmet and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing. Had I the money, I’d buy them all. Not because I believe they’re all great, but to support this prize and female writers in general. I’d also like to stack and re-stack them, take photos of and with them, and gloat.

Mostly, gloat.

Eight authors are Brits, four American, one Australian, one Pakistani/British and two Indian. Diversity? Meh. Not so much.

 

I’ve checked Amazon re: availability. It’s astonishingly good, though not all can be had via my beloved Prime. Only one – Imogen Gowar’s The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – is unavailable in the States. It’s on pre-order, expected to be published September 11.

That does me no damn good, does it.

 

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018 Longlisted Authors
(first novels highlighted in red)

 

  • Nicola Barker, British, H(A)PPY, her 12th novel (William Heinemann)
  • Elif Batuman, American, The Idiot, her first novel (Jonathan Cape)
  • Joanna Cannon, British, Three Things About Elsie, her second novel (The Borough Press)
  • Charmaine Craig, American, Miss Burma, her second novel (Grove Press)
  • Jennifer Egan, American, Manhattan Beach, fifth novel (Corair)
  • Imogen Hermes Gowar, British, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, her first novel (Harvill Secker)
  • Jessie Greengrass, British, Sight, her first novel (John Murray)
  • Gail Honeyman, British, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, her first novel (HarperCollins)
  • Meena Kandasamy, Indian, When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife, her second novel (Atlantic Books)
  • Fiona Mozley, British, Elmet, her first novel (JM Originals)
  • Arundhati Roy, Indian, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, her second novel (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Sarah Schmidt, Australian, See What I Have Done, her first novel (Tinder Press)
  • Rachel Seiffert, British, A Boy in Winter, her fourth novel (Virago)
  • Kamila Shamsie, Pakistani/British, Home Fire, her seventh novel (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • Kit de Waal, British, The Trick to Time, her second novel (Viking)
  • Jesmyn WardAmerican Sing, Unburied, Sing, third novel, (Boomsbury Circus)

 

Repeated from my Man Booker rants of the past, being a novice should grant a writer no special privilege. Any judging panel worried about offending the masses is going to pepper a longlist with several Redshirts (Star Trek reference), and what better way than neophyte authors. Some are there from merit, others as place fillers. I’ve already sniffed out a place filler or two, but I’ll keep my own counsel for now.

Conversely, past reputation should bring no assurance, either. Even the big writers stumble. But – and this is a big but – experience will out. A writer who’s been honing her craft 20 years is going to be more sophisticated and nuanced than a newbie. Again, unless she should stumble.

So. The 2018 list. I’ll yoink off Eleanor Oliphant first thing. Too popular, and the ending was a sell-out.

And then there were 15.

Longlisted books I’ll try to finish before the Shortlist is announced (April 23):

Jennifer Egan Manhattan Beach

Fiona Mozley Elmet

Jesmyn Ward Sing, Unburied, Sing

 

Second Tier Longlisted books I’ll finish if there’s still time before the Shortlist: *

Elif Batuman The Idiot

Sarah Schmidt See What I Have Done

* Books I’m buying because they sound like great reads, and to support the longlisted authors, not necessarily books I think will win the prize.

 

I won’t get serious about predictions until the Shortlist’s announced. I’m not familiar enough with lots of these writers. I’ll read more about them and their books, scan some reviews, and keep an ear to the ground.

As with the Man Bookers, I won’t let the fact I haven’t read all the books stop me from opining.

 

First up will be Elmet. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things. Once I’ve cleared off Ruby, my second read of The Ballad of Peckham Rye and A Clockwork Orange, it’s right on to Fiona Mozley.

So much to do. Back asap.

Baileys Prize: the update

Though I haven’t properly finished another Longlisted book, I have been working on a couple of them.

 

thebees

On my Kindle, I’m reading The Bees by Laline Paull. What’s charming about this book is its use of bees as characters: anthropomorphism, if you want to be picky about it. Paull gives us so much information about what goes on in bee colonies via a fictional story based on a deformed bee, a “Flora,” who wasn’t quite a sanitation bee but not one of the more elegant, lady-like bees, either. Not knowing exactly where to put her, the colony bounces her around a bit. The novel also addresses current theories as to why bees are diminishing so quickly, a theme addressed in rumors between the bees themselves, who speak of what’s been happening in hushed whispers. Something is causing birth defects but what?

I can’t see the book winning the prize but, as I’m finding from other reads on the list, I would recommend it to voracious readers such as myself, who’ll read anything that’s beautifully done. At first, I was a bit put off by the idea of bees as storytellers but, you know, they’re absolutely fascinating. I love watching bees in my garden and I don’t jump and scream when they come near me. I’m not an ass to them, so they’re not asses to me, either. We have a deal. I have no such deal with spiders, however. I see them, they die. No novel could change my mind on that.

Not even Charlotte’s Web

 

godstone

 

From my library stash, I’ve begun A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie.  This is the first of the Longlisters I’m finding dull. Honestly, I see nothing special in it whatsoever. Here’s Amazon’s declaration:

 

A God in Every Stone is a kaleidoscopic masterpiece of empire and rebellion by a storyteller of dizzying ambition and talent.

 

No. No, it isn’t. And I hope I’ve never written a sentence like that in my own reviewing. I won’t be finishing this novel. No time to spare for soporific reads.

So, here’s the list, updated. The books I’ve read, attempted or have refused to read (I’m so sorry, Anne Tyler)/can’t lay hands on are highlighted:

THE LONGLIST – 2015

Outline by Rachel Cusk (Faber)

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans (Doubleday) – US release July 28, 2015

Aren’t We Sisters? by Patricia Ferguson (Penguin)

I Am China by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto & Windus)

Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey (Jonathan Cape)

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (Viking)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Picador)

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman (Chatto & Windus)

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill (Quercus)

The Bees by Laline Paull (Fourth Estate)

The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips (Jonathan Cape)

The Walk Home by Rachel Sieffert (Virago) – ????

A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury)

How to Be Both by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)

The Shore by Sara Taylor (William Heinemann) – US release May 26, 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (Chatto & Windus)

The Offering by Grace McCleen (Sceptre) – ????

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Virago)

After Before by Jemma Wayne (Legend Press)

The Life of a Banana by PP Wong (Legend Press) – US release May 1, 2015

 

AND THEN THERE WERE ELEVEN.

I am so kicking ass.