Aahhh, the Baileys Prize longlist announcement! Its timing is a boon to readers and booksellers alike: at the beginning of March, the next year’s big hitters mostly aren’t out yet (the first round will come in May) and last November’s surge of pre-Christmas publications has probably already been devoured by the serious and/or professional reader. March in books is like March in vegetables; you just have to lump it til spring starts. Except for the Baileys Prize, which provides a much-needed shot of excitement and, sometimes, impetus to check out titles you may have overlooked.
This year I am following the prize as part of the Shadow Panel, along with Naomi, Eric, Antonia, and Meera. This was also the first year in which I recognized every single title on the longlist, which is probably due to the fact that I’ve been paying ever closer attention to books news.
It is not as diverse as it might look. Most of the listed authors are established; only three are non-white. I’m not sure what constitutes a “small” or “independent” publisher – Serpent’s Tail are independent but have serious literary bona fides, as have Granta – but it’s interesting that none of these publishers are new to me either. In the past there has generally been at least one or two wild cards; none of these entries surprise me hugely.
What surprises a little bit is a host of absences: Idaho by Emily Ruskovitch. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton. Swing Time by Zadie Smith. Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn. I suppose this only goes to show that the state of English-language writing by women is flourishing – the longlist has 16 books on it instead of 12, which also supports this theory – but still, their absence is notable. (Especially given the presence on the list of Barkskins, which has provoked extremely tepid reactions from virtually every book person I know.)
Most appalling in its absence is Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. What possible excuse can there be for leaving it off?
Anyway. I’ve read six and a half of the longlistees (including most of the big ones, hurrah!), which is good because we only have three weeks to the shortlist announcement. The full list is below; links are to my reviews, where they exist.
Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Canongate) – read after announcement; review
The Power by Naomi Alderman (Viking) – read after announcement; short review
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (Hogarth) – read after announcement; short review
Little Deaths by Emma Flint (Picador) – read after announcement; review
The Mare by Mary Gaitskill (Serpent’s Tail)
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant (Virago)
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (Faber & Faber) – read after announcement; review
Midwinter by Fiona Melrose (Corsair) – reviewed in a Superlatives post
The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan (4th Estate) – reviewed in a Superlatives post
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (Chatto & Windus) – read after announcement; short review
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill (riverrun) – tried to start three times, couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it, ended up abandoning
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail) – read twice, and discussed in a Superlatives post
Barkskins by Annie Proulx (4th Estate) – read after announcement; review
First Love by Gwendoline Riley (Granta) – reviewed at Shiny New Books
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (Granta) – read after announcement; short review
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus) – read after announcement; short review
Which book are you most excited for? Is there a book I haven’t read that you think I should get to without delay? Any notable omissions or inclusions you’re furious about?