The Bailey’s Prize; Best of the Best from the Second Decade

Tonight in the Piccadilly Theatre in London, something very exciting is going to be happening… The folk behind the Bailey’s Prize will be announcing their Best of the Best from the second decade of the wonder that is the women’s prize for fiction. The question is of course which of these wonderful ten novels (if like me you thought they had chosen ten books from all time and were worried about some of the older ones not getting a shout fear not) will win the prize tonight?


I will be there, so will be live tweeting over @SavidgeReads throughout and then filling you all in on the evening tomorrow, however in the interim the lovely team at the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction asked me if I would share with you which book I thought deserving of the title. This initially seemed like the most delightful thing to be asked, then when the selection above arrived I realised it was actually a potential nightmare. I have read nine of the books (sorry Barbara Kingsolver, I will get to you) and I can genuinely say that six of them have been absolute corkers (Homes, McBride, Tremain, Adichie, Miller, Smith) and out of those two of them have become some of my favourite books of all time. Step forward Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles (which I was sure I wouldn’t like after having a classicist mother who dragged me round Pompeii for 8 hours put me off all things Greek and Roman for quite some time, it’s okay Mum I forgive you) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (which I read for a book group knowing nothing about and completely blew me away) which are both corkers!


But before I choose which of these would be my best of, and it changes minute by minute, I want to just take some time out to say how brilliant the prize is full stop and mention how much I wish they would let a male judge on the panel called Simon just once and all the brilliant fiction that it highlights be they longlisted, shortlisted or the final winners. Because it is brilliant! Without the prize I wouldn’t have read any of the above novels when I did, nor would I have known about Andrea Levy’s winning Small Island, or shortlisted titles like Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues, Kathleen Winter’s Annabel or Emma Henderson’s Grace Williams Says It Loud. I could go on, and I haven’t even started on the longlisted titles that I have read and loved each year, or the fun I have every spring trying to guess the twenty books that might make it on that list. It has really informed my reading, more than I realised until I looked at all the titles – which then set me off wanting to read all the short and long listed titles I haven’t got to yet. Blimey!

So which would be my overall winner for the book of the last decade? Well after much torment, wailing, hair pulling and other vexation I have to say for me it has to be Half of a Yellow Sun. It is a book that stole my heart, broke it a few times and has left me thinking about it (and all the characters) ever since. It is also a book that I have bought for all the important people in my life who haven’t read it yet – and they have all been blown away by it too.

Right I need to get ready for tonight’s event, which there are still some tickets for, so over to you? Who would be your best of the best from the second decade be and what about the first? Which short and longlisted books have you read and loved.


Filed under Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

11 responses to “The Bailey’s Prize; Best of the Best from the Second Decade

  1. I’m torn between ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and ‘The Road Home’. In the end I’d probably go for ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ too, but ‘The Road Home’ seems even more important today than it did when it was published. Everyone should read it and discover how difficult it is to be an immigrant in London.

    Enjoy watching the decision tonight!

  2. Have a great time! I still haven’t read Song of Achilles, but it’s been on my Kindle since before it won!

  3. sharkell

    I’ve only read 5 (including The Song of Achilles which I won on your blog) and I would also say Half of a Yellow Sun would be my favourite).

  4. Andrew Cole

    Every year our reading group have a month when we try to read the shortlist. Half a yellow sun does stand out as a winner, although Hillary Mantel as a nominee was pretty impressive. Two I do remember enjoying were ; ‘where’d you go to Bernadette’ by Maria sample, the cover put me off but laughed out loud, and ‘ The memory of love’ by Aminatta Forna a wonderful story set in Sierra Leone over several decades.

  5. Yes! Half of a Yellow Sun! Like you, I read it without having any idea what was coming. I think that made it all the more powerful.

  6. Col

    I’m reading this after the announcement. I’d have been torn between Yellow Sun, Road Home or Song of Achilles. I’d have plumped for Achilles which shows how much I know!!!!

  7. Victoria

    I was lucky enough to go to the event last night. I was very pleased that Half a yellow sun won the best book of the decade. It was a shame that she wasn’t able to attend, however I did have Ali Smith sitting in the row behind me.

  8. Fenella

    I’ve only read Song of Achilles at your suggestion/urging/forcing. And I did love it to pieces. To the point where I think I’m actually going to keep it.

    I have Yellow Sun to read, but haven’t plucked up the courage yet since I know it’ll be painful. I’m in a book club now and hope to be urged to read it that way.

  9. I’ve only read four of them but Half of a Yellow Sun stands out for me – and I’m glad the judges recognised it too!

  10. Bet

    I’ve read the Robinson, Smith, Tremain, and Adichie. But I agree, Half a Yellow Sun is on my all-time favorites list!

  11. The Lacuna – by a country mile.

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