It's here – the Baileys Women's Prize for fiction longlist 2017 has finally arrived. And it's worth the wait.
The list of 16 authors includes three former winners of the Prize – Eimear McBride (2014), Rose Tremain, who won in 2008, and Linda Grant, the 2000 winner. Meanwhile Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀, Emma Flint and Fiona Melrose are longlisted for their first novels.
The shortlist for the Prize is set to be announced on April 3, with readings on June 5 and the winner being announced in a ceremony on June 7. But until then, take a minute to congratulate the brilliant female authors announced today on the longlist – and pick your next few reads from the list below.
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀ - Stay With Me
Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, dances with prophets, appeals to God. But when her relatives insist upon a different choice, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.
The Power - Naomi Alderman
A world where teenage girls possess extraordinary physical strength and skills, and the ability to inflict unimaginable pain and revenge on men who displease them… The Power combines a compulsive, pulpy, dystopian tone (after all, Alderman also created the Zombies, Run! app) with lush writing that her one-time mentor and writing partner Margaret Atwood would be proud of. Alexandra Heminsley
Hag-Seed - Margaret Atwood
When Margaret Atwood takes on The Tempest, you know it’s going to be good. In her new book, Hag-Seed, Felix is the artistic director of a theatre staging a production of Shakespeare’s Tempest, when everything goes haywire. He winds up destitute, but hatches a plan of revenge involving a theatre course at a nearby prison. It’s a classic story of grief and reputation, updated for Atwood’s loyal audience. Emily Baker
Little Deaths - Emma Flint
Emma Flint’s debut is a pageturner, cinematic in its depiction of the stifling New York heat and the depiction of the beautiful, mesmerising, entrancing, troubled and troubling Ruth. Based on a true story, Flint’s thriller has a strong feminist thread, painfully painting what happens when women refuse to behave in the way society expects them to.
Read an extract here
The Mare - Mary Gaitskill
Loosely based on Gaitskill’s own experience, The Mare tells the story of artist and ex-alcoholic Ginger, and Velvet, the Dominican girl from Brooklyn who comes to stay with Ginger and her husband in her upstate home. Ginger becomes obsessed with saving Velvet, Velvet meanwhile becomes obsessed with horses. It’s a complex story of love and guilt, and attachment.
The Dark Circle - Linda Grant
Grant, an Orange Prize-winning and Man-Booker Prize shortlisted novelist depicts the lives of East End teenage twins who have been living on the edge of the law. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, they are sent away to a sanatorium in Kent to take the cure and submit to the authority of the doctors, learning the deferential way of the patient. Together with the other patients they meet, they discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.
The Lesser Bohemians - Eimear McBride
An eighteen-year-old Irish girl arrives in London to study drama and falls violently in love with an older actor. This older man has a disturbing past that the young girl is unprepared for. The young girl has a troubling past of her own. This is her story and their story. Emily Baker
Midwinter - Fiona Melrose
Father and son, Landyn and Vale Midwinter are Suffolk farmers, living together on land their family has worked for generations. But they are haunted there by a past they have long refused to confront: the death of Cecelia, beloved wife and mother, when Vale was just a child. Both men have carried her loss, unspoken. Until now.
The Sport of Kings - C.E. Morgan
The Sport Of Kings has been described as perhaps the “most daring” novel of 2016. Hellsmouth, an indomitable thoroughbred filly, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavour of raw obsession: to breed a champion. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young black man, comes to work on their farm after a stint in prison, the violence of the Forges’ history and the exigencies of appetite are brought starkly into view. Entangled by fear, prejudice and lust, the three tether their personal dreams of glory to the speed and power of Hellsmouth.
The Woman Next Door - Yewande Omotoso
The Woman Next Door is the hilarious tale of warring octogenarians, but it is also the story of how identity, race and belonging is understood through the land we live on and the communities we build. Hortensia is the only black woman at the committee meetings and her struggle against Marion and other white women gives insight to a nation scarred by racism. Author Yewande Omotoso asks if these scars can ever be healed – and if Hortensia and Marion can ever be friends. Read an extract here
The Lonely Hearts Hotel - Heather O’Neill
From a two-times Giller Prize shortlisted author, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a story of love, combined with the power of legend. It follows the lives of two babies, Rose and Pierrot, abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914, who fall in love before they are separated as teenagers and sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression. They both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when the two are reunited the musical, magical possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed. And they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true.
The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry
An intricate, multi-layered novel that blows away any preconceptions you might have about the Victorian era. Its themes are familiar enough – religion versus science; the emergence of the new independent woman – but underpinning them is the friendship between Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is newly widowed and leaves 1890s London for an Essex village, where she meets Will, the local vicar. Cora is enthralled by rumours that the legendary Essex serpent may be real; Will views the hysteria as a threat to his faith. And so their friendship and intellectual sparring begins. This is a satisfyingly dense, atmospheric novel that is as much about love, platonic or otherwise, as it is about history. Read an extract here
Barkskins - Annie Proulx
“An environmental epic”, Barkskins tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet, two penniless young French wood-cutters – bearskins – over three hundred years. The novel centres on their travels across North America, to Europe, China and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions: the revenge of rivals; accidents; pestilence; Indian attacks; and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.
First Love - Gwendoline Riley
A story of helplessness and hostility, First Love draws the reader into the battleground of a relationship. Neve is a writer in her mid-thirties married to an older man, Edwyn. For now they are in a place of relative peace, but their past battles have left scars. As Neve recalls the decisions that led her to this marriage, she tells of other loves and other debts, from her bullying father and self-involved mother to a musician who played her and a series of lonely flights from place to place.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine Thien
Shortlisted for the Man-Booker Prize 2016, Do Not Say We Have Nothing is set in Canada in 1990, when a ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music and silence. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-ming - and for Marie.
The Gustav Sonata - Rose Tremain
What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Multi-award winning novelist Tremain, who was made a CBE in 2007, explores the life of Gustav Perle in her latest works, who grows up in a small town in “neutral” post-war Switzerland and his friendship with a boy his age, Anton Zwiebel. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav’s are entwined.