The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Shadow Panel Shortlist

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A month ago, when the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist was announced, I commented on what an exceptional year it had been for writing by women. This is supported by both the reading we’ve done and the discussions we’ve had as a shadow panel. There have been some heated debates about some of the books and some that every one of us felt should be included on our shortlist but, for the first time since I began shadowing this prize with a panel, there wasn’t a single book that we didn’t think worthy of its inclusion on the longlist. This is the fifth year I’ve shadowed this prize and this has been, without question, the strongest longlist I’ve seen.

I preface our chosen shortlist with these remarks because I want to make a case for every single one of the 16 books that make up the longlist. Whether they’ve made our shortlist or not and whether or not they make the official shortlist tonight, there are 16 books by women worthy of your time.

One of the things that infuriates me about so-called ‘women’s fiction’ (as if somehow fiction written by women is gendered while fiction written by men is not) is the idea that it is concerned with the domestic sphere. The 16 books which make up the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist 2017 cover politics, science, ecology, farming, horse breeding/racing, crime, prisons, acting, music, writing, race, medicine, sex, drugs, performance, religion, violence, love, family, gender, marriage, parenting, death, grief, abuse and friendship. I defy anyone to look at the list and say there isn’t a single book on it that doesn’t interest them. Indeed, if you’re a man who doesn’t read books by women, there’s one here to get you started. Or, if you know a man who doesn’t read books by women, buy the one you know that’ll get him hooked – tear the cover and front pages off if you have to – and present him with it.

Here, then, are the six books we’ve chosen to shortlist. They’re not the six I thought we’d select when the list was announced, but now we’ve read them all, they’re the six that – as a panel – we felt most strongly about. If you click on the cover, it will take you to my review. You can read Eleanor’s reviews here and Eric’s here. Thanks also to Antonia and Meera. We’ll announce our winner on Tuesday 6th June, the day before the official winner is crowned.

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11 thoughts on “The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Shadow Panel Shortlist

  1. Excellent short list Naomi and team, it sounds like you’ve have some fabulous debates to come to this conclusion, I bought Stay With Me as soon as the list was announced and think it’s a fabulous read.

    You are so right that this year is such an inspiring, enticing list, I’ve listened to people discuss many of the titles and they’ve all made me want to read or find out what they’re about. Can’t wait to see how the judges debate unfolds and how closely aligned it will be with yours. Thanks for all the reading and reviewing and consideration, it’s such a gift to us as readers.

  2. Great choices. I will definitely read The Power and The Gustav Sonata. I adore Rose Tremain. Can’t wait to see who wins, but all worthy of selection.

  3. Haven’t read any of these (yet) – have been focusing on the Australian equivalent (the Stella Prize) but will get stuck in once the shortlist is announced. I have a couple in my TBR stack but most looking forward to Stay With Me.

  4. Great list. I was surprised by the presence of “The Mare” here and on others’ lists. That’s the one nominee I felt was weakest! Always fascinating how books speak to people differently. How do these 6 match up to your personal picks?

    • Thanks, Joslyn. I’ve been surprised over the last couple of days to find people who didn’t rate it, I thought it was superb! For me it was the way she subverted cliché and how she showed the disparity between what Ginger thought of Silvia and the actuality once Silvia was given her own voice.

      My personal picks were: The Power, The Lesser Bohemians, The Mare, The Essex Serpent, First Love, Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Closely followed by The Lonely Hearts Hotel and Midwinter.

  5. Pingback: The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist | The Writes of Woman

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