Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Looking at the Baileys Prize Longlist

The Baileys is the literary prize longlist that I look forward to the most, even more than the Giller, the Booker, or the Dublin IMPAC. It's great to see books that I love honoured, and even better to hear about titles I have overlooked. The 2015 longlist was announced on March 9.

I treat the Baileys longlist like a suggested reading list, knowing from experience that most of the books match my tastes. It's like it's been curated especially for me and this year is no exception.

I've already read and written about...

How to Be Both by Ali Smith
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
The Bees by Laline Paull
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

... and I've ranked the above in order of personal preference, with my favourite on top: How to Be Both.

I'm a little sad that All My Puny Sorrows didn't make the longlist, but what is to be done when there are just so many fabulous novels written by women? The Miniaturist isn't there either, which pleases me because I found its flaws outweighed its good points.

So, looking at the rest:

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey - already in a stack by my bed.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler - already on a waiting list at the library for this one.

The Offering by Grace McCleen - I didn't even know she had a new book out and I still haven't read an earlier book of hers that's been on a shelf in my room for three years. I've moved The Land of Decoration to my dresser so that I'll remember to pack it for an overseas trip next month. (Digital books and eAudio must be supplemented by at least one paper book when travelling.)

Marie Phillips is another author I didn't realize has something new out. Gods Behaving Badly (2007) is such a playful mash up of Greek gods in contemporary London. I'm excited about her take on Camelot in The Table of Less Valued Knights.

Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey - Her name is familiar, so I searched my blog and found that I abandoned her earlier novel, The Wilderness, when I wasn't in the right mood and then never went back to it. That doesn't deter me from putting Dear Thief on hold at the library. A line in the description has hooked me: "Samantha Harvey writes with a dazzling blend of fury and beauty about the need for human connection." Yup. Right up my alley.

I loved the epic scope of Kamila Shamsie's Burnt Shadows and look forward to A God in Every Stone, which is described as a "kaleidoscopic masterpiece of empire."

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman - I'd heard about this, but can't remember where. A podcast? Anyway, the apocalyptic setting, combined with hefty page count, gives me pause, but this line from the Guardian review: "While the glittering linguistic shackles slow the reading process, the narrative still manages to unfold at rampaging speed" is enough to give it a shot. Plus the fact that I'm really enjoying a near-future science fiction novel right now: The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne.

I Am China by Xiaolu Guo - Reviews are mixed on this one, but I'm always searching for stories of women's lives that are different from anything I've read before, especially in the way that they are told. Review fragments that grab me: "dark, witty;" "slowly unveils missing pieces of the puzzle;" "struggle to maintain her creative integrity in China;""feelings of otherness associated with migrancy and exile; "history through letters, diaries, notes and two photos;" "bittersweet tale of love and politics;" "characters will remain in memory long after the final page." That's more than enough to give this a try.

There are plenty more on the longlist to explore and I expect to find something new that will delight me. See the entire list here: Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

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