The Baileys longlist was announced this week – fittingly on International Women’s Day. Before they’re whittled down to the final six, we take a look at the 16 fabulous longlisted titles. So all you need to do is decide which ones you’re going to put on your reading list…
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
In the blistering summer of 1965, a young mother wakes up in Queens to find her two young children missing. When the police make a horrifying discovery, Ruth Malone – with her penchant for liqueur and gaudy makeup – is the number one suspect. But could a mother really have murdered her own babies? Based on a true story, Emma Flint’s debut novel is a gripping page-turner, and a fascinating exploration of how women were treated in 1960s America.
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s retelling of The Tempest is one of four novels released as part of Vintage’s Hogarth Shakespeare initiative. Her version reinterprets The Bard’s tale of enchantment and revenge to brilliant effect: Felix, a disgruntled theatre director, hatches a dastardly plan of vengeance on those who’ve wronged him. But will he manage to pull it off?
Stay With Me by Ayobámi Adébáyo
Nigerian writer Adébáyo’s story follows Yejide, who desperately wants a child. She’s tried everything – from pilgrimages to dances with prophets. Set against the backdrop of social and political unrest in Nigeria in the eighties, this is a novel that doesn’t shy away from the big themes: the fragility of marital love, the all-consuming bonds of motherhood, and the desolation of grief.
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
If you’re looking for an injection of joy into your reading life, The Woman Next Door certainly delivers. Hortensia and Marion are black and white neighbours in Cape Town – and octogenarians to boot. They’re also sworn enemies. But could they have more in common than they think? In this playful war of wits, Omotoso questions if the wounds of a nation can ever truly be healed.
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
McBride is no stranger to the Baileys prize – in 2014 she scooped one for her debut, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing. Her second novel dips into the late nineties to explore first love, sex and redemption in London. When Eily (18, Irish, aspiring actress) collides with Stephen (handsome, damaged, promiscuous, 38), they embark on a voyage of discovery that’s both epic and intimate.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Imagine a world where teenage girls are stronger than boys; where they can inflict agonizing pain with the flick of a finger. Following the lives of its four protagonists, Naomi Alderman’s extraordinary novel is one of the most raved about books of last year. And no wonder when it’s so (terrifyingly) good.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
A moving story about the musicians who suffered during and after China’s cultural revolution, this is a novel on a grand scale. Spanning seven decades and three generations, in less able hands its ambition may have exceeded its enjoyment. But Thien is a master at pulling literary threads together, and she’s produced a rich, sprawling and satisfying work.
The Mare by Mary Gaitskill
Mary Gaitskill is an author who moves effortlessly between short fiction and novel writing. Over here, she might be best known for her provocative short story, Secretary, made into a film starring Maggie Gyllenhaall. In The Mare, Gaitskill continues her exploration of how we connect with people – but this time through the prism of motherhood. A dark and fascinating tale.
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
A novel about the ‘dark circle’ of tuberculosis may not sound like a cheery read. But Grant manages to carve a funny, moving and illuminating story out of a forgotten slice of British history. When an East End brother and sister are sent to a sanatorium in 1949, they discover that a cure for TB is just out of reach. Bubbling under the surface are vital questions about the role of our NHS today, and what it means to treat people well.
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
Large in scope and dense in prose, The Sport of Kings has been described as one of last year’s most audacious novels. Thoroughbred filly Hellsmouth runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, a determined young black man, comes to work on their farm, a door to the family’s violent past – steeped in slavery – is opened.
Midwinter by Fiona Melrose
Born in Johannesburg, Fiona Melrose moved to the UK as an adult, ending up in Suffolk – where her debut novel was conceived. Inspired by both landscapes, Midwinter travels back and forth between the two continents. Centred around a Suffolk father and his son, its cinematic opening hooks you in and gives way to a powerful tale of grief and forgiveness.
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
Having won the Baileys prize in 2008, Tremain has once again been longlisted for her fourteenth book. A story told in three parts, The Gustav Sonata examines the difference between friendship and love, neutrality and passion. At its heart is an unlikely but touching relationship between two young boys, Gustav and Anton, growing up in the shadow of the Second World War.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
This enchanting novel begins with two babies abandoned in a Montreal orphanage. As Pierrot and Rose grow up, they’re sucked into the city’s underworld but their special gifts allow them to rewrite their future – and they plan to create the most extraordinary circus the word has ever seen. O’Neill’s hypnotic love story has already cast a considerable spell on the judges.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Some books are worth buying just for the cover, and Sarah Perry’s historical novel is certainly one of these. But The Essex Serpent is just as lovely on the inside. Brimming with beautiful evocations of landscape, intriguing ideas about love, life and science, and strikingly original prose, it’s not hard to see why the critics have fallen for it. If you haven’t read it already, you’re in for a treat.
First Love by Gwendoline Riley
Gwendoline Riley penned her first novel at just 22, and quickly garnered praise for her ability to conjure up ‘the wasted hinterlands of the human heart’. Her latest offering continues to mine this rich subject, but don’t worry – there’s lots to laugh about amidst the despair. First Love follows the fortunes of Neve as she struggles to make it as a writer, and to retain her sanity whilst living with an older man who likes to dance in his underpants.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx
You might need to book a few days of work if you’re planning on reading Barkskins. At 700 pages long, it’s an ambitious work, and its subject – the destruction of the world’s forests – a worthy one. Beginning in the late seventeenth century in New France, it follows the fortunes of two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, and the lives of their descendants over 300 years.