Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015

I’m very far behind on writing this post, but I had made it my mission to read all six of the nominees for the prize by the time the winner was announced on June 3. I had read 5.3 of the six by then and finished the last one a day or two later. I don’t always agree with prize winners (or often find them merely ok if I read only the winner) but in this case I did agree with the committee. Not that anyone else thinks that’s relevant (haha).

I loved several of the offerings and think I’ll list them here in my order of preference:

1) How to be both: A novel, by Ali Smith. This book is written in two distinct parts which (according to the publisher) can be read in either order; in fact the paper versions were printed in both orders so it was a matter of luck as to which the reader got first. In my case I read the modern half of the story first, followed by the historical fiction portion, and found both of them utterly charming. It isn’t the easiest read, and is often downright confusing, but I loved the main character in each half, and as soon as I finished it, I wanted to go back and read it all over again so I could pick up even more. The two parts fit together, and indeed weave in and out of each other, in ways I couldn’t fully grasp with one reading. I will definitely go back to this one, and although I really enjoyed some of the other nominees, this one made me want to read it again so I gave it my top ranking.

2) A God in Every Stone: A Novelby Kamila Shamsie is set from WW1 through the early 1930s and the bulk of the story is in what is now Pakistan. It was beautifully written and I enjoyed learning about the cultures, both for the British Raj members and the locals. There is an archaeological mystery involved but it’s primarily a character driven book and I highly recommend it.

3) The Bees: A Novelby Laline Paull is set in a beehive and reminds me very much of “Watership Down” for bees. It seems well-researched and I really enjoyed it.

4) A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novelby Anne Tyler received very mixed reviews, at least in my discussion groups, but I enjoyed it. I think she is one of the best at writing family dynamics and dialog.

5) The Paying Guestsby Sarah Waters was much further down my list. I liked parts of it but basically didn’t buy the romance that was at the heart of the main drama, so it didn’t hold together well for me. I did enjoy the courtroom portions.

and finally 6) Outlineby Rachel Cusk. This consists of a number of loosely related stories and while I enjoyed nearly all of them, I didn’t feel it worked as a whole. But she can definitely write and I will read her next book when it comes out.

The only one of these that will count toward one of my challenges is The Bees, but I haven’t written the post yet for my BOTNS Summer Bingo challenge!

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