Very shortly, the Baileys shadow jury will be posting its shortlist. This will be the third year I’ve read the whole longlist in advance of the official decision, but the first I’ve had the privilege of sharing the process with other readers. We’ve discussed the novels as we’ve gone along, thanks to Naomi Frisby, our chair, who set up an online forum where we could post comments about each novel. The task of narrowing the twenty books down to six has been overwhelming at times, and although we’re all happy with the Shadow Jury Shortlist, we’ve all got favourites that didn’t make the final cut.
So before the Shadow Jury shortlist is revealed, I wanted to share my personal one. It’s a wishlist rather than a shortlist; I’ve never been very good at predictions.
I’d like to see Ali Smith’s How To Be Both on there. I’ve read it twice – the first time beginning with the historical section, the second time beginning with the contemporary section. It grows – or rather, I gain more from it – at each rereading.
Sandra Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star was a revelation in so many ways. I can’t believe it won’t make the official shortlist. It must.
Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests is a great story well told. I love the way Waters draws you into the psychology of her characters, pitting their turbulent inner lives against their constrained, restricted outer ones.
Lissa Evans’ Crooked Heart is one of those rare, beautifully crafted novels where the writing simply disappears as the reader lives the story.
Laline Paull’s The Bees is not only a great story – it’s breathtakingly original, funny and horrifying. I was lucky enough to read it before publication and it’s such a joy to see it recognized.
And finally, Marie Phillips’ The Table of Less Valued Knights. The sixth place on my shortlist was the hardest to allocate, and I was unforgiveably vague in our Shadow Jury discussions – but it’s Phillips I’m putting here simply because I’d love the novel to find a wider audience. Life is short on comedy and literature is short on representation of diversity – I ripped through Phillips’ novel laughing all the way.
And before we post the Shadow Jury shortlist, and the official Baileys Prize jury posts theirs, I’d urge you to read the blogs of my fellow shadow jurors. I’m in awe of their erudition and tolerance, and of the fact that they’ve not only read so many novels, but reviewed them too. It’s been such a pleasure to work with them, and I can’t wait for the next stage.
Naomi (@frizbot) blogs at thewritesofwoman.wordpress.com
Dan (@utterbiblio) blogs at utterbibilio.wordpress.com
Helen (@helannsta) blogs at helannsta.wordpress.com
Paola (@paola_ruocco) blogs at readwritehead.wordpress.com
Eric (@lonesomereader) blogs at lonesomereader.com
Which novels would you like to see on the shortlist?
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