The longlist for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced on Wednesday, coinciding with International Women’s Day.
16 female authors appear on the list, including Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx, Rose Tremain and local authors Yewande Omotoso and Fiona Melrose.
Of the 187 entries, Omotoso received recognition for her 2016 novel The Woman Next Door; a book exploring the relationship between neighbours Hortensia James and Marion Agostino – one is black, one white. Both are successful, recently widowed career women. Both despise one another.
One day the two adversaries are forced together due to unforeseen circumstances. The bickering is replaced with lively debate and the discovery of memories shared, yet the question remains whether this sudden connection could transform into a genuine friendship, or if it is too late to expect Hortensia and Marion to change.
Read an excerpt from Omotoso’s short story Cupboards in the Dark, which appeared on BooksLIVE in September 2016 for a sneak preview of what to expect from this talented writer.
Fiona Melrose is longlisted for her debut novel, Midwinter, set in both Suffolk and Zambia.
Father and son, Landyn and Vale Midwinter, are haunted by their mutual sense of grief brought about by the years the family spent farming in Zambia, where Vale’s mother died.
Confronted by the past, Landyn and Vale’s relationship explores guilt, grief, and the lengths we are willing to go for love. The podcast of Michele Magwood’s interview with Melrose, during which they discussed Midwinter and Melrose’s dyslexia, can be listened to on Soundcloud. Magwood’s review of this astounding debut can be read here.
Chairwoman of the award’s judging panel, Tessa Ross, commented on the diversity of the entries received, in addition to the necessity of women’s writing:
“What’s happening in the world is making us even more aware of how important it is that women’s voices are heard and that we talk about the rights of women and we support each other.
“We were looking for excellence in all ways, including stories that resonate with women and readers living now, even if they are not set in the present, because the exciting thing about reading is that it wakes you up to the world you are living in.”
Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo’s 2017 novel Stay With Me also appears on the longlist.
A shortlist of the entries will be announced on April third, and the final awards ceremony will take place on June seventh at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
View the complete longlist here.