gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

Reading the Bailey’s Prize List

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I have a love/hate relationship with longlists for book prizes. On one hand, I like reading according to some sort of programme and having a clear idea of what I should read next. (Unlike many people, I read too fast to accumulate a long To Be Read list.) But the problem with longlists is that I am basically the kiss of death for the potential prize winner. If I can love the book, the writer won’t win. If I quite liked the book, the writer won’t win. If I hated the book, or better yet, could not finish it, that’s the winner. Let me be clear – this is a reflection on my inferior intellect – not on the books or the prizes. If I don’t like the book, you are probably cleverer than me, and might get it.

So. The Bailey’s Prize Longlist. We won’t get into the politics of this prize, okay? I am not really clear on what I think about that – I can see both sides. If you have no idea what I am talking about, I’m sure google will help you out. When it comes to the books, on the whole, I like the Bailey’s choice more than most, but if I remember correctly the winner last year was the ONE I couldn’t read.

Now lets look at this year – you will find the longlist here: http://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/2015/baileys-womens-prize-for-fiction-announce-2015-longlist-3.

So far, I have read or tried a number this year – mostly without realising that they were on the list. Here are my thoughts so far.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey is just simply amazing – an exploration of Alzheimers that takes you right into the mind of the sufferer so incredibly cleverly. I loved this book, so it won’t win.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neil. I loved the beginning of this book about dysfunctional twins (what’s not to love) but it slightly lost pace for me in the middle. Still, I would recommend it, so it probably won’t win.

Ali Smith’s How To Be Both has a great chance because I couldn’t get into it. At all. I also couldn’t get into Ann Tyler’s A Spool of Blue thread but I love her writing so I think this might have been a timing thing, and I plan to try again.

The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters is fabulous – I actually hate historical novels on the most part, but often it is the exceptions that prove the rule. This book is filled with historical and personal interest, and an insight into the politics of gay women at a particular point in history. Loved – so it has no chance.

And the one that I read recently is PP Wong’s The Life of a Banana – the story of a Chinese girl who is born and bred in England. When her beloved mother dies, she enters a life of unknown luxury, but also unknown discrimination. This book is such a perfect coming-of-age novel that you could read it again and again. I would give this one the prize (so far). But it’s not me who decides.

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