Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2017 #BaileysPrize

Today the judges chose six novels for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017 and had this to say:

““It has been a great privilege to Chair the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in a year which has proved exceptional for writing of both quality and originality. It was quite a challenge to whittle this fantastic longlist of 16 books down to only six… These were the six novels that stayed with all of us well beyond the final page.” Tessa Ross

The shortlisted books are as follows:

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀ (review)
The Power  Naomi Alderman
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
First Love by Gwendoline Riley
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (review)

In my earlier post on the Baileys Prize Longlist, I listed all the novels with a summary of what they are about, you can refer to that post linked here to know more about all the 16 longlisted books.

For three of the titles below, I have taken a few quotes from Q& A interviews done with the respective authors by the Prize team, to give you a flavour of their motivations in writing the book and their literary inspirations and where that isn’t available, a summary of the blurb.

Madeleine Thien, Do Not Say We Have Nothing

– In 1990 Canada , 10-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-ming.
As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent to the Shangahi Conservatory in the 1960s and events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China’s relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-ming – and for Marie.

On The Book

“I wanted the novel to unfold in a very specific time frame, the lifetime of an individual – the birth, life and death of a composer we know as Sparrow. He’s born at a historical crossroads: the fall of China’s Republican government and the birth of Communist China. History pulls his life apart, he’s at the mercy of so many forces, and yet he’s also free. In one sense, his life is taken from him; in another, it’s the only life he has and he must live it.”

Quotable Quote

“I’ve been troubled by language for a long time… How language can build meaning but also conceal or demean it.” Madeleine Thien

Literary Heroes

Alice Munro, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Shirley Hazzard, Yiyun Li, Dionne Brand, Hannah Arendt and so many more.

P.S. I have this on my shelf, so I will definitely be reading it next!

The Dark Circle, Linda Grant

– It’s 1949, the Second World War is over and a new decade of recovery is beginning, but for East End teenage twins who have been living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, they are sent away to a sanatorium in Kent to take the cure and submit to the authority of the doctors, learning the deferential way of the patient.

On The Book

“I did two long interviews with a woman who was x-rayed to take up her place at university in 1949. It was when she told me about the sanatorium going over to the NHS and a new influx off patients mixing with the middle-classes, that I knew that there was a story and a novel. I did read up on the history of the disease and its treatments and of course Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and other novels about TB. It has been a rich source for novelists because it involves so much lying around thinking morbid thoughts.” Linda Grant

Quotable Quote

“I became a journalist because it was a means of being paid to knock on the doors of strangers and ask them personal questions and then write about what they had told me, while I was waiting to have a novel to write.”


Naomi Alderman, The Power

– Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – girls find that with a flick of their fingers they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of this extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed, and we look at the world in an entirely new light. What if the power were in women’s hands?

On The Book

“I didn’t start from the idea of making a matriarchal society. But the idea did come from a particular moment in my life. I was going through a really horrible breakup, one of those ones where you wake up every morning, have a cry and then get on with your day. And in the middle of all this emotional turmoil, I got onto the tube and saw a poster advertising a movie with a photograph of a beautiful woman crying, beautifully. And in that moment it felt like the whole of the society I live in saying to me “oh yes, we like it when you cry, we think it’s sexy”. And something just snapped in me and all I could think was: what would it take for me to be able to get onto this tube train and see a sexy photo of a *man* crying? What’s the smallest thing I could change? And this novel is the answer to that question, or at least an attempt to think it through for myself. …I just had this idea about women developing a strange new power.”

Quotable Quote

“Any woman who has made her living in writing is my hero and my friend; what a thing it is to be able to do, and how hard generations of women have fought so that I could be allowed it!” Naomi Alderman

Literary Heroes

Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret Cavendish, Ursula Le Guin, Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison, Carol Shields, Mary Stewart, PD James, Marjane Satrapi, Alice Monroe, Amy Levy, Alison Bechdel, Han Kang.

Stay With Me, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀ (reviewed)

– Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 80s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. A devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.


The Sport of Kings, C.E. Morgan

– Hellsmouth, an indomitable thoroughbred filly, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavour of raw obsession: to breed a champion.
But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young black man, comes to work on their farm after a stint in prison, the violence of the Forges’ history and the exigencies of appetite are brought starkly into view. Entangled by fear, prejudice and lust, the three tether their personal dreams of glory to the speed and power of Hellsmouth.

First Love, Gwendoline Riley

– Neve is a writer in her mid-thirties married to an older man. For now they are in a place of relative peace, but their past battles have left scars. As Neve recalls the decisions that led her to this marriage, she tells of other loves and other debts, from her bullying father and self-involved mother to a musician who played her and a series of lonely flights from place to place. Drawing the reader into the battleground of her relationship, Neve spins a story of helplessness and hostility, an ongoing conflict in which both husband and wife have played a part. But is this, nonetheless, also a story of love?


So there is the shortlist! Easy to pick a favourite when I’ve only read one, I really recommend you read Stay With Me if you haven’t already, it’s a superb book and insight into the pressures of family expectations.

So, which is your favourite from the list, or which are you drawn to read? Any disappointments?

The winning novel will be announced on 7 June 2017!

Order any of the Books Via Book Depository via this link

31 thoughts on “Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2017 #BaileysPrize

  1. Oh, I’m going to be so interested to read what you think of Do Not Say We Have Nothing… it was one of my favourite novels from last year! I’m so chuffed to see Stay With Me on there too. I’m very sad to see The Gustav Sonata knocked off though. I’m partway through The Sport of Kings and it’s really surprising and fascinating, beautifully poetic in some sections. I’ll be so curious to read First Love as well as I’ve heard very opposing views.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really loved the video you and Anna made, even though you chose a shortlist, it made me want to read so many of them. I wasn’t surprised that Barkskins didn’t make it though, it is an incredibly well written historical novel and a well researched labour of love, no doubt about that, just not as taut as it could be and a few characters that somehow made one line of the families followed stand so much taller than the other.

      I can’t wait to read the Madeleine Thien finally, I’m getting bored with hearing myself say that, I’ve had it for so long! I knew you’d be disappointed about The Gustav Sonata, I’m definitely going to read it, Rose Tremain is such a reliable and brilliant storyteller, I’ll always read her books. First Love sounds like a bit of a wild card, I’m intrigued too! Look forward to see who you all pick at the potential winner, the shadow jury is pretty hot with their pickings, are you going to take a punt this year, speaking of The Sport of Kings? 😉


      • *snap* I’m getting tired of myself saying that I can’t wait to read the Thien too. And then I get to the end of a book and think, o what shall I read next, and the Thien book doesn’t jump out of the shelves and say, ‘you promised, you promised’ and I forget all about it!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Good choice to put them all on the list, I think the entire longlist offered some great choices for excellent reading, I’m just starting Thien’s book and have ordered The Power, the premise of which I find an intriguing concept.


    • I can’t wait to hear what you think of The Power, I’ve ordered that one from the shortlist, because it sounds intriguing and because after reading about her motivation, I remember having similar thoughts after watching the film ‘Avatar’, which was a great film, but I couldn’t help thinking among all that machinery of destruction and exploitation, what would a world look like where the matriarchs help the power and decision making, so I’m intrigued to peek into what Naomi Alderman makes of it.


  2. I’ve only read Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which I loved. And we have First Love and Stay With Me on our Literary Wives agenda for next year – can’t wait to read them!
    I haven’t heard much about The Dark Circle yet, but I’m sure that’s going to change!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just finished the Thien book today, wow, what a marathon read, not sure how I’m going to tackle it, it feels like an extraordinary oeuvre, such depth and deep rooted sadness, ricocheting through the generations. Stay With Me is a great read.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Exactly, I think I have to let it settle for a while and then what rises, in a way it reminds me of Han Kang and how she uses the novel for to explore the dark side of things happened in her country, it’s as if Thien is doing something similar, immersing herself in her ancestral past, something that affects her in the present but that she may not have been a direct witness of (although I don’t know her personal story). An incredible novel, it must have all consuming to write it.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating and intriguing post, Claire… Your summaries of ‘Don’t say we have Nothing’ and ‘The dark Circle’ really sang to me, but if I had the time and money I would love to read them all…except for the Sport of KIngs… one of my nearest and dearest is involved in that hobby, and I am on the side of the race-horses !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think ‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’ was unanimously voted “the people’s” favourite when it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, even though it didn’t win, it seems to be acquiring a similar status here as being the one most likely to be on the TBR for readers! I’ve not read anything about The Dark Circle yet, I’m intrigued to hear readers thoughts on that one too.


    • The Power will be the next on the list I read, waiting for it to arrive and thankful it’s not 500 pages! Just finished Do Not Say We Have Nothing and found the mid 100 pages quite heavy reading, I can get how it slows the reader down and happy I’ve had a bit of extra time to read it and not be stalled, otherwise its likely to have taken me a couple of weeks to read. A powerful and tragic work that peels back layers.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Leslie, I’m always interested in the authors motivations and research, so enjoyed sharing these few insights that the prize team have shared, which are not that well known yet, I wish they’d interviewed them all in this way! Perhaps more will come before they announce the winner.


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