The announcement’s been made and the longlist of 12 brilliant books has been whittled down to six. And this year’s Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction shortlist has got the lot – women possessing electrifying power, the turbulent politics of 1980s Nigeria and a sanatorium in post-war England. The judges – including broadcaster Katie Derham and comedian Sara Pascoe – weren’t afraid to ruffle feathers and upset well-established names either. Longlist contenders that didn’t make the cut included literary big hitters such as Margaret Atwood (for Hagseed) and Rose Tremain (for The Gustav Sonata), as well as people’s favourite and Waterstone’s Book of the Year 2016, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. So, who is in the running? Here are the final six books – time to get reading!
From the shortlist’s only debut novelist comes a story about motherhood, couched in the social and political upheavals of 1980s Nigeria. What happens when a wife cannot bear a child? This is Yejide’s tale, one of grief, jealousy and love. Stay with Me is published by Canongate.
No stranger to literary prizes, British author Linda Grant is receiving plaudits once again for her latest novel. The Dark Circle follows a brother and sister, diagnosed with tuberculosis in post-war London, they’re sent to a sanatorium. Get ready to meet a curious cast of characters inside this closed, unsettling and sterile environment… The Dark Circle is published by Virago.
You know you’re doing something right when your mentor is Margaret Atwood and Naomi Alderman’s dystopic novel has the hallmarks of Atwood’s classic Handmaid’s Tale. It’s dark, sprawling and explosive – told from different perspectives across the world where women can discharge electricity from their hands. It’s a clever flipping of gender physicality – and a real crowd pleaser. The Power is published by Viking.
Don’t let the horsey cover put you off. The only American to grace the shortlist has galloped into the bookish limelight thanks to her unputdownable story set in the world of championship horseracing. When Allmon Shaughnessy, an African American man, joins one of Kentucky’s oldest family farms, it sets off a story involving racism, justice and the skeletons that lurk in family closets. The Sport of Kings is published by 4th Estate.
When Neve marries an older man, she begins to unpick the relationships in her life: her abusive father’s treatment of her mother, and her own marital affairs. British author Gwendoline Riley tells it all in short, sharp and emotional detail. First Love is published by Granta.
Favourite for last year’s Man Booker Prize (which was eventually won by Paul Beatty’s The Sellout), Madeleine Thien’s trip through revolutionary China is not giving up on a literary gong without a fight. Ai-Ming flees home after the Tiananmen Square protests and begins to unravel a compelling tale of her family’s past, teeming with music, politics and love. Do Not Say We Have Nothing is published by Granta.