Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist 2017

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The 2017 Baileys prize for women’s fiction longlist:

Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Canongate)

The Power by Naomi Alderman (Viking)

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (Hogarth)

Little Deaths by Emma Flint (Picador)

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill (Serpent’s Tail)

The Dark Circle by Linda Grant (Virago)

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (Faber & Faber)

Midwinter by Fiona Melrose (Corsair)

The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan (4th Estate)

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (Chatto & Windus)

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill (riverrun)

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail)

Barkskins by Annie Proulx (4th Estate)

First Love by Gwendoline Riley (Granta)

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (Granta)

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)

So I only guessed two right. Now that I look at the list I should have suspected The Woman Next Door would wind up on the list. So hard to know with this prize.  The books I’m most interested to read are The Sport of Kings, The Power, Do not Say We Have Nothing(on my TBR this year), The Woman Next Door (on my TBR this year), Stay With Me, and finally The Lesser Bohemians.  Sadly the only book I’ve already read on this list is Barkskins.  It will be a tight race for the shortlist.  I’ll be trying to focus on the few I’ve named. So what do you think of this list? Do you feel it’s better than last year’s? I was a little surprised that Swing Time didn’t make it.  Thoughts?

 

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Festival America

 

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To New Release or Not

If you’re an avid reader like me, your worst nightmare is standing in front of your bookcase (insert picture of bookcase overflowing with different sized books with colorful enticing spines and a few stacks on the floor because there’s no more room on the shelves) and trying to find the next book to rock your world. We all want to find a book that’s a knock it out of the park 5-stars. However, the number one problem is that we can’t help but be convinced to read some of the many new books released every month instead. Frankly, new releases can be a real dilemma. How does one choose from the plethora of newbies out there.

Well If you’re the kind of person that reads all the new books because you feel automatically left out of the literary conversation if you don’t, then this post is for you. If you’re dying to get to some lesser known but hopefully interesting reads you’re in the right place. I’m going to to share with you some of my anticipated new releases this year. Some of them you can already find in the shops and a few I’ve already read. Moreover the particularity of this list is that they are all diverse authors:

lazarettoLazaretto is Diane McKinney-Whetstone’s sixth novel. She is especially known for writing her successful bestselling contemporary novel Tumbling. One of the dominant aspects to McKinney-Whetstone’s novels is that they are set in her hometown Philadelphia. This is equally the case of Lazaretto which explores the arrival of immigrants whose first stop is the Lazaretto quarantine hospital. The Philadelphia Lazaretto was the first quarantine hospital, built in 1799, in the Untied States. Henceforth, this novel of historical fiction, plays out the story of the black community of Lazaretto, set in the aftermath of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Fans of McKinney-Whetstone, I’m sure will be impatient to read Lazaretto which was released on the 12th of April. Her last novel was published in 2005, called Trading Dreams at Midnight.
in other wordsIn Other Words was released earlier this year in February and it is one that I personally can’t wait to peruse. Jhumpa Lahiri moved to Rome with her family in 2012 with the intention of immersing herself in Italian culture and language. Writing daily in her journal in Italian, her goal was to master the Italian language. Through the pages of this autobiographical novel, we see how Lahiri deals with a journey into new words, writing, learning, and being understood. For all of those who have ever had to live in a country while learning the language, In Other Words should be a relevant read. Lahiri wrote In Other Words in Italian; so that is inspiration to all language learners.

I had the pleasure of already reading and enjoying the next two books that I’m recommending The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden and The Birds of Opulence bythe book of harlan Crystal Wilkinson. The Book of Harlan spans six decades and turns around Harlan the main character. The setting goes from Harlem Renaissance to Paris jazz clubs in Montmartre, Paris to the dark, horrific Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Just check out my review to hear more about it.

The Birds of Opulence develops a story in a small Kentucky town called Opulence. Four generations of women living under the same roof can make the birds of opulencefor a lot toes being stepped on. However, the stronger mothers love their daughters the more difficult relationships seem to be. Wilkinson explores major themes such as mother/daughter relationships, male/female relationships, community, race, and coming of age. Characters found in Wilkinson’s previous short story collect called Water Street appear in The Birds of Opulence. It’s a little book that packs a punch. Check out my review here.
The Blackbirds is the latest Eric Jerome Dickey release, April 19th. I haven’t had a chance the blackbirdsto read it yet, but it’s on my TBR for this month. It’s a chick-lit or as I would like to refer to it as a “girlfriend book”. The blackbirds are four young women Kwanzaa, Indigo, Destiny, and Ericka, friends but close enough to be sisters. Of course they are all looking for something in particular – love, health, etc., however it’s their friendship that they value the most or do they.

Last but not least I recommend The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter the castlereleased at the end of January this year, which is an epic historical fiction covering 1941 to the twenty-first century. It is written by The Wire tv writer and playwright Kia Northern and has been highly anticipated. Two white brothers growing up in rural Alabama and two black brothers growing up in a small town in Maryland whose families will encounter and conflict. Obviously not a simple story but an enticingly captivating one told in 800 pages. I’m looking forward to encountering all the various historical references; definitely a read to keep us engrossed and pondering. Personally, I can’t wait to get to it. It’s on my TBR this month.

I wrote this post as a guest on Callaloo Soup.  Thanks for inviting me!  Check out Francine’s creative simplicity, inspirations and resources blog.  You’ll find everything from journaling, scrapbooking, reading recs,  and plenty of other great ideas to lead your wholesome slow living life.

 

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying.
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The Birds of Opulence

img_2760If you don’t know how much mad love I have for Crystal Wilkinson’s writing, you’re going to hear all about it in this review of The Birds of Opulence, newly released in March 2016.  The story explores life in small town Opulence, focalizing on the Goode-Brown family.  The four generations of women, led by the spirited and strong-minded Minnie Mae.

The novel explores themes of womanhood, coming of age, mental illness, duty, and life.  Wilkinson introduces the characters, while planting the seed of this town and the culture that resides there.  The atmosphere Wilkinson cultivates will seize you and bring you along for the ride right from page one.  This is what is so incredible about her storytelling aptitude.  I was mentioning this to Andi from Estella’s Revenge and she said that she loved when that happened because a lot of authors don’t seem to know how to do that.  I gave that a long hard thought and I have to agree with her.  It isn’t easy to create an atmosphere and to maintain it throughout the story.

The descriptions of Opulence’s beautiful countryside, from the different women and the tests of life they go through, to the food, and the memories they recount, the story gives off deep meaning on many levels in very few pages.  As you may have guessed the birds are the principal women in the book.  We read about the the older women in the story and then we go full circle to the stories of their daughters.  Another interesting aspect is that Wilkinson has brought in characters from her previous connected short story collection called Water Street, which I reviewed and also loved.  So we have the chance to see Mona and Yolanda in The Birds of Opulence growing up and becoming young women, whereas in Water Street we only see them as women and one episode which is a memory is reality in The Birds of Opulence.  We also understand their how they become friends and their connection to each other which is not explained in detail in Water Street.

“Boy give you less to worry about.” (The Birds of Opulence, p. 5) is the phrase that rings like an alarm through the entire book, uttered by Minnie Mae.  Women and men aren’t equal in life’s challenges as much as we would like that to be the contrary and we witness the many injustices that happen to the different female characters.  However tragic these stories, there is still a silver lining despite its bittersweetness and an entryway to more future stories about the people of Opulence.

I encourage you all to check out Crystal Wilkinson’s other short story collections Blackberries, Blackberries and Water Street.  Her sensitive realistic writing style will suck you in and you won’t be able to put the book down.  The Birds of Opulence is a perfect puzzle piece to her previous work and I look forward to seeing what she writes next. Who knows maybe we’ll get to learn even more about Mona….

My copy: The Birds of Opulence – hardcover, 199 pages

Rating:  ****

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Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016 Shortlist

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction  2016 Shortlist was announced earlier today.  I have to say I’m a little disappointed. I expected  a stronger less predictable shortlist.  I’ve read only two titles from this shortlist and neither of them rocked my world – The Green Road by Anne Enright and Ruby by Cynthia Bond.  The only others on this shortlist I planned on reading are A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (sick of hearing about it) and The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney.  So here is the shortlist in full.  Do you find any of these intriguing?  Are you planning on reading any of these?  If so which ones? What do you think of this shortlist?

the green road    the improbability of love   a little life

the glorious heresies    ruby   the portable veblen

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Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016

Baileys Women's Prize badgeIt’s that time of year again!  The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 longlist was announced earlier today.  The list is surprising and vast in subject matter.  These 20 novels were chosen from a list of 150 books which the judges read and narrowed down between themselves.  There are some oldies and some debut novels too.  On the longlist of 20 titles there are approximately 8 that I’m interested in reading and one of those 8, I already started to read last year, A Little Life.  I got to page 200 and quit.  There are actually two I’ve already read.  Now that’s a first for me:  Ruby and The Green Road.  I was happy to see three black women on the list: Ruby a debut novel by Cythinia Bond which I read in 2014 at its release, Pleasantville by Attica Locke which is the second thriller, starring the lawyer Jay Porter from her first award winning Black Water Rising, and lastly The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean author.

Sci-fi lovers will be happy to see The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which has been getting oodles of love everywhere since its release in 2014.  Now what I’m a little surprised at are the novels on the list that were released in 2014.  I thought the majority of the list would contain books from 2016 and January 2015 at the latest.  I’m a little disappointed that Jam on the Vine (2015) by LaShonda Katrice Barnett didn’t make it to the longlist.  So since books from 2014 can be nominated as well, let’s just hope A Little Life doesn’t cast a shadow over the newer books.  It’s obvious it will make its way onto the shortlist because of it enormous popularity.  Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  I’ll definitely let you know if and when I finally finish it. 😉

The shortlist will be announced Monday, 11 April and there will be a shortlist reading and discussion event on the eve of the announcement of the winner, 7 June.  The winner will take home £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie’ on 8 June 2016 in the Royal Festival Hall in London.  This year’s presiding Chair of Judges is Margaret Mountford, a lawyer and businesswoman accompanied by judges Laurie Penny, award-winning author Elif Shafak, singer-songwriter and author Tracey Thorn and broadcast journalist, Naga Munchetty.

Good luck and may the best books go on to the shortlist!

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 longlist:

A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

Rush Oh! – Shirley Barrett

Ruby – Cynthia Bond

The Secret Chord – Geraldine Brooks

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton

Whispers Through a Megaphone – Rachel Elliott

The Green Road – Anne Enright

The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah

Gorsky – Vesna Goldsworthy

The Anatomist’s Dream – Clio Gray

At Hawthorn Time – Melissa Harrison

Pleasantville – Attica Locke

The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

The Portable Veblen – Elizabeth McKenzie

Girl at War – Sara Nović

The House at the Edge of the World – Julia Rochester

The Improbability of Love – Hannah Rothschild

My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

 

Room

I finally read Room after years of putting it off.  I have a lot of trouble reading about people being kidnapped and IMG_1638violence in general.  However, I feel this story was very well told and the subject was brilliantly treated too.  The general storyline is about Ma and Jack who are trapped in a 11 x 11 foot room, with the only window being a very high skylight .  The room is sound proof and perfectly self-contained, sealed off from the world.  Ma has been held captive there since she was 19 years old and she is 26 when the story begins.  Jack who is only five was born there and has never experienced the outside world.  He only knows the outside world through watching television.  He is the narrator of the story who takes us through their harrowing journey, using his special language.

Jack describes his world, the room, with as much detail as a five-year old with limited vocabulary can.  It isn’t difficult to get a sense of how things are.  He is a very intelligent little boy who knows a lot of things for his age, but not a lot about the simple things in life, like falling rain, playing at the park, or feeling sand between his toes.  In spite of the close quarters, Ma manages to adapt their activities to accommodate Jack’s growth.  She is very clever with teaching and explaining things to him.  She does all of this while tying to preserve his innocence and trying to keep her sanity.  She doesn’t want to frighten him, by telling him too much too quickly.

As the story goes on, we quickly start to understand that the room is home for Jack and a prison for Ma.  Old Nick the captor, is a cold, unfeeling, obtuse person, and it’s because of those reasons Ma and Jack manage to escape.  I commend Emma Donoghue on her capacity to maintain the voice of a five-year old little boy captive.  This couldn’t have been easy.  She cleverly chose how to express his emotions and his desires in a believable way.  Towards the end of the novel, I found myself thinking that Jack was a little spoiled, but had to keep reminding myself that he’d been trapped in a room for 5 years.  It’s hard not to root for this mother and son and to not think about all the recent cases we’ve heard about people in the same situation and wonder how they survived and to what end.

Room is a beautifully written novel.  It will grip you, break your heart, wake up your senses (especially smell), and give you a glimmer of hope in the end.  I urge you all to pick it up.  Donoghue was beat out of the Man Book Prize 2010 by Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Questionwhich received a measly 2.75 stars on Goodreads, whereas Room received 3.96 stars.  Regardless, I look forward to reading The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue, which was published in 2008 and was an Orange Prize for Fiction Longlist in 2012.

The Women's Prize for Fiction 2013 Shortlist

1579084251eP+WiFpiL12611253 So here they are.  The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist was announced today at the London Book Fair.  The longlist was competitive and somewhat diversified, but the shortlist competition is even stiffer.  I was happily surprised to see that Where’d You Go, Bernadette made it to the shortlist, after having read so much about it not being serious enough to be nominated or win a literary prize because of its modern epistolary form.  If you read    135378911606173413507212my review you know I loved it and found it refreshing and well-balanced.  I haven’t read the others but they have all been moved up to the top of my TBR for 2013.  The only real disappointment with the longlist is that it didn’t contain more women writers of colour.  Although I was thrilled to see Zadie Smith’s NW on the shortlist.  I enjoy her “keep it real” writing.  I’m anxious to read this one since the reviews have been mixed.  I’m expecting NW to pull me completely out of my comfort zone.  I probably won’t get to Bring Up the Bodies this year since I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Wolf Hall.  It looks as if Mantel, Smith, and Kingsolver are the top contenders – Hilary Mantel for winning the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012,  Zadie Smith winning the Orange Prize in 2006 for On Beauty, and Barbara Kingsolver winning the Orange Prize in 2010 for The Lacuna.  I imagine people are wondering why the Women’s Prize even exists since it doesn’t seem to be a necessity with all the other literary prizes out there that seem to be dominated by women.  In my opinion, women’s literary work is still by large ignored and not valued enough.  The Women’s Prize will continue to aid in spotlighting some of the best women’s literary work available as well as discovering new writers.  Good luck to all those that made the shortlist and may the best woman win.  So, what do you think of this shortlist?  Are you interested in reading any of them, if so which ones?  Check out the video below of the judges talking about the books on the shortlist. The judges are Miranda Richardson, (Chair), Actor, Razia Iqbal, BBC Broadcaster and Journalist, Rachel Johnson, Author, Editor and Journalist, JoJo Moyes, Author, and Natasha Walter, Feminist Writer and Human Rights Activist.  Ah, you can feel the suspense.  Happy reading….

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uhw3uI1oPUg]

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

7935678It is 1917 and Rachel and Isaac have been married for fourteen years.  They left Chicago to settle in the South Dakota Badlands to farm a large quantity of land bought together.  Rachel and Isaac’s love and family grow through harsh winters, excessive droughts, and back-breaking chores while trying to raise children and make a living from the land.  This was not a typical lifestyle for African-Americans at that time.

Isaac is a strong terribly ambitious ex-buffalo soldier with an extreme hatred for the Native American Indian.  Rachel is a naive, worn down woman who is seeking love, family, and her own home.  They enter into their marriage as a contract both hoping to get what they desire, where the harsh South Dakota Badlands puts them both to the test.

The setting of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree is stark and lonely.  This black family is not only isolated by their location but by their race as well.  They are the only blacks farming in this area and their nearest neighbours are white and at least five miles away. Loneliness and isolation are omnipresent.  Weisgarber got the idea for this novel after seeing a picture of a black woman in front of a sod dugout during one of her trips through the Badlands.  She felt that it was disappointing that this bit of African-American history had been ignored and began writing The Personal History of Rachel DuPree.  This book has a myriad of themes running through it such as racism, feminism, farming life, family, marriage, and the list goes on.  It would make an excellent book club choice.  There is a lot to discuss.

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree was shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2009.  The Winner was An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay.  The is was an excellent start for Ann Weisgarber as a first novel.  The topic was unusual and attempted in an interesting manner.  In spite of that, I felt that it was strange how I didn’t really feel much for Rachel or any other character in the novel.  I must admit I started to fill better about her by the end of the story.  The best described character in the novel was Mrs. DuPree, Isaac’s mother.  She was a stern, ambitious, mean-spirited, nasty piece of work.  She brought some life to the book though.  You could almost imagine what she looked like.  I enjoyed the chapter on Ida B. Wells-Barnett (the first African-American journalist writing articles defending blacks and women), which was an excellent way of Weisgarber setting Rachel’s standards and expectations of life.  It helped me understand more about why she made the quick decision in the first place to marry Isaac DuPree.  In the end, I was glad to have read it, but I felt as if this book was missing something that I couldn’t seem to put my finger on.

Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Ohio.  She has a Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Social Work and Sociology. She lives in Texas.  She and her husband love the outdoors and visiting national parks.  Her second novel The Promise was just released in March 2013.  It is another compelling story with intriguing characters, love, and hidden secrets set in the midst of a natural disaster.

Title: The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

Genre:  Historical Fiction/African-American/Women’s

Published:  2008

Edition:  Pan Books

Pages:  307

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * 1/2

+4,530

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPJ9vCz1uqw]

 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

12611253Ah Bernadette!  You have got to love her in spite of all of her faults.  She’s witty, intelligent, and an immensely creative architect.  Unfortunately, something has happened to her, making her anti-social and borderline argoraphobic.  This is a novel that explores what can go wrong with someone and how that person is perceived by others.  It also speaks of personal limits.  The reader can’t help but love Bernadette Fox because her rants are sometimes the ones we want to do ourselves, but prefer to do it in our heads.  Not doing her job as an architect for a long while, she tries to cope with being stuck at home because she hates going out, while trying to raise her intelligent precocious daughter Bee.  Meanwhile her husband, Elgin, is a big computer guru working for the omnipresent Microsoft or MS as the people call it in the book. He is the reason they have moved to Seattle.

The book is an amazing introspection on what is wrong in American society.  Maria Semple has found an ingenious way of critiquing that through the usage of the different types of correspondence used to tell the story of what happens to Bernadette.  The most original aspect of this book is that it is told from multiple perspectives, using letters, emails, faxes, doctors reports, and interviews.  Some may argue that it isn’t literary enough because of that but I disagree.  What better way to critique society while using one of its devil evils, emailing, etc.  It’s clear that Semple has taken a lot of care into weaving the story.  There are many issues that are developed such as husband/wife relationships, mother/daughter relationships, being wealthy, creating, socializing, integrating into a community, etc.  What I love the most is that it got me to laugh out loud quite a few times.  It is an entertaining and gratifying read.  It really made me wonder how I would react to some of the things that happened to Bernadette.  At one moment, there is a reference to a novel with a famous architect in it and Bernadette’s creativity rivals his ingenuity.  The only thing is Bernadette is human and that fragility is what makes the reader empathise with her.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is not Maria Semple’s first novel.  It was The One is Mine.  It is the story of a profoundly unhappy woman named Violet Parry, who is living a luxurious life with her husband David and her toddler Dot.  It’s not until she meets Teddy that things seem to be very different for her.  Semple wrote on various popular television series where she’s proved she knows how to tell a story.  She is credited for having worked on shows such as Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development, Suddenly Susan Mad About You, 90210, and Ellen.  Writing might be in her blood as they say since her father Lorenzo Semple, Jr. worked on the television series of Batman.  Maria Semple lives in Seattle with her husband and her daughter Poppy.  Check out the link below where Semple talks about how she went about writing Where’d You Go, Bernadette and mentions a few excellent pointers for debutant writers.

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Genre:  Adult Fiction/Humor/Contemporary

Published:  August 2012

Edition:  Little, Brown and Company

Pages:  320

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * * *

My favorite quote:  ”I was downtown early one morning and I noticed the streets were full of people pulling wheelie suitcases.  And I thought, Wow here’s city full of go-getters.  Then I realized, no, these are all homeless bums who have spent the night in doorways and are packing up before they get kicked out.  Seattle is the only city where you step in shit and you pray, please God, let this be dog shit.” (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, p. 124)

+4,223

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6521iApxsg]