The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2017

It has not long struck midnight, and whilst many of you (myself included) may be asleep, the book world still keeps whizzing with the latest news that the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist has been announced and it came with a surprise or four. It had been said that the longlist was going to be twelve books, yet the wealth of women’s writing was so strong in the last twelve months (as I mentioned when I tried to guess the longlist last week) that we have a list of sixteen titles. And here they are…

  • Stay With Me – Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀ (Canongate, Nigerian, 1st Novel)
  • The Power – Naomi Alderman (Viking, British, 4th Novel)
  • Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood (Hogarth, Canadian, 16th Novel)
  • Little Deaths – Emma Flint (Picador, British, 1st Novel)
  • The Mare – Mary Gaitskill (Serpent’s Tail, American, 3rd Novel)
  • The Dark Circle – Linda Grant (Virago, British, 6th Novel)
  • The Lesser Bohemians – Eimear McBride (Faber & Faber, Irish, 2nd Novel)
  • Midwinter – Fiona Melrose (Corsair, South African, 1st Novel)
  • The Sport of Kings – C.E. Morgan (4th Estate, American, 2nd Novel)
  • The Woman Next Door – Yewande Omotoso (Chatto & Windus, South African, 2nd Novel)
  • The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Heather O’Neill (riverrun, Canadian, 3rd Novel)
  • The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail, British, 2nd Novel)
  • Barkskins – Annie Proulx (4th Estate, American, 8th Novel)
  • First Love – Gwendoline Riley (Granta, British, 6th Novel)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien (Granta, Canadian, 3rd Novel)
  • The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus, British, 14th Novel)

It’s all too easy to go on about the books we should think should be on there (though I am nosey enough to want to hear your thoughts on that down below) because despite all the books I mentioned when I cheated terribly at guessing there is so much I love about this list, though I am still letting all the titles settle in my brain. Naturally though I cheered at the inclusion of The Essex Serpent and The Gustav Sonata (review coming on Friday), yet I am so excited about what gems I am going to find in the next few weeks and months, as yes I am going to read the longlist. I have only read three of the books – which I have popped in italics above, however I have thirteen of the titles and three more coming in the post so it would be rude not to, especially as I still have almost two more weeks of post surgery recovery.

I think this year is a really diverse selection in all sorts of ways. Women from their first book to their sixteenth, from all around the world and importantly writing on a wide variety of subjects and themes; even two about horses, anyway… I am really excited about delving in, what about you?

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Guessing The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2017

A week to this very day will see the announcement of the longlist for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Those of you who have followed this blog for the last (almost ten, how did that happen) years will know that the Women’s Prize for Fiction is one of my top five literary prizes ever. For many a year now I have played the all at once delightful and downright difficult game of trying to guess the longlist, so I thought I would do it again this year. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?

There is a slight change this year. Normally I do a list of 20 books, for that is the usual longlist length. This year it is all change however as there is rumoured to be a shortlist of just twelve books this year. For me to choose a list of only 12 books is frankly impossible, well ok not impossible but it would be very difficult as one thing about the guessing the list for this prize shows me every year is how many amazing books there are by women published every year. So I have decided if the prize can change its list length so can I, so you will be getting a list of 12 books I have read and would love to see on the list and 12 books I would love to read and see on the list.

First up the books I have read, which has shamefully reminded me of how little of what I read last year I have reviewed but I will in good time, that I would love to see on the list…

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The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail)
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen and Unwin)
Shelter by Jung Yun (Picador)
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Vintage)
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Penguin)
This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press)
The Good People by Hannah Kent (Picador)
Fell by Jenn Ashworth (Sceptre)
My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal (Penguin)
The Muse by Jessie Burton (Picador)
To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (Tinder Press)
The Museum of You by Carys Bray (Windmill)

I was going to add Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing which I read for the Man Booker Prize last year but I didn’t love it as much as everyone else BUT if it was on the list I would read it again so thought I should give it a nod. Right, now to the books I haven’t read yet but want to, which was again so, so, so tough to whittle down just to twelve.

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Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis Benn (Oneworld)
The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss (Granta)
Autumn by Ali Smith (Penguin)
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (Vintage)
Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Sceptre)
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (Faber and Faber)
English Animals by Laura Kaye (Little Brown)
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (Oneworld)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (Orion)
Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (4th Estate)
The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy (Scribe)
The Unseen World by Liz Moore (Windmill)

There were so many more I wanted to add onto this list. Brit Bennett, Emma Geen, Min Jin Lee, Claire Fuller, Katherine Arden, Stella Duffy and Sara Baume  were all wriggling away in the back of my mind as were heavyweights Ann Patchett, Emma Donoghue and Annie Proulx. See it just goes to show how many amazing books there could be in the list next week. And you know what? I wouldn’t mind if I was completely wrong and was introduced to a whole selection of books I hadn’t even thought of, that is all part of the joy of a prize like this one, so much scope, so many possibilities, so many good reads ahead.

So over to you, what do you think might just make the list next week?

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An Op-portunity For A Catch Up…

Once again the words ‘it has been too long’ are typed up on the screen, as once again all has gone a little quite on Savidge Reads. However for those of you who have been following me elsewhere on the internet, you will know that on Monday I had a rather large operation to remove the tumours and lipoma’s that my body produces as I have dastardly Dercum’s disease. These lumps can turn nastier but in the interim they just really hurt as they sit on a vein, a nerve or stretch the skin in the various places that they grow. (This has been getting really bad in the last few months and why I have been quieter, too much typing can be agony.) Anyway that is quite enough information, suffice to say I went in on Monday and was sliced to bits and now resemble a pin cushion/scarecrow/bruised cooking apple. Ha.

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Due to some slight complications with my blood pressure not all of those pesky lumps have gone, but 12 out of 20 sure ain’t bad. And I am finally home, though I feel like someone is still stabbing me or using the top half of my body as a bouncy castle. Interesting. Now I have the three weeks recuperation to look forward to where I aim to rest, relax, read and get this old blog back on track. That said it has taken me almost two hours to type this because a) woozy and forgetful b) ouch. Good to have aims and things to focus on though. The most skills I have at the moment seem to be the ones that involve lying on the sofa and moaning a lot. Ha. I have had some lovely bookish parcels, chocolates and flowers (the ones below from lovely Rob and Kate of Adventures with Words) which have made me smile, look I have proof I am not just a wincing whinge bag.

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So, how are you all? What are you reading? Any books you think I should be heading too while my body recuperates that will stop my mind being bored and me going insane with cabin fever? Not that I am desperately worried about that of course. Hope all is good with you all, fill me in on all your news and bookish recommendations please!

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Library Update; Getting Plastered and Stripping…

No this is not a blog post about some of the weekends I had in my twenties, and possibly into my thirties, this is an update on all things library wise since I told you last week that work had begun on the building of a library here at Savidge Reads Towers. Ha, if only this house had towers, I have always wanted turrets. Anyway, as I mentioned before, two rooms have been knocked into one and shape wise were looking much more like the final design…

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So this week it has been all about getting plastered. Literally. There have been men in and out of there for most of the week (it has played havoc with my carpets, dust and dried plaster are now on my list of things I loathe) and where there was a divide is slowly starting to look more like it is all part of one room…

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Well a room with a big alcove which is bang on what I want, I am aiming for a room that feels very much one room yet sort of two or three separate zones if that makes any sense. You can’t even spot where there once was a door.

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What I hadn’t realised was that all the room was wallpapered. Oh the plasterers weren’t impressed when they made this discovery I can tell you. I thought it was just the wonderful (and camp as can be) pastel animal wall, which I know many people on here and on twitter have been huge fans of. Alas this will soon be no more, if you really loved that wallpaper then look away now…

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…Yep it is going, going, gone.The question is of course what is going to take place of butterflies, giraffes and other unidentifiable creatures? This is the next big decision, paints. I know in my head I want it either blue or green, I just can’t decide between the two and of course the tones. Blue can become too oceanic or really cold, green can make you feel like your on acid or in an army bunker, so these are tricky times. Luckily I have discovered a very bookish series of paints which might help me whittle down my decisions, or go for something completely different, simply because it might be wrong to have anything but a pain collection called The Bookcase on my library walls.

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I can hear you all gasp almost as loudly as I did when I discovered it. Any thoughts on paint do let me know, I have until the end of Monday to make my decision as there is a deadline between now and having my operation in late February to get everything done. No pressure.

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#DiverseAThon 2.0

Last year over on lovely booktube, I had the pleasure of joining in with a great initiative called #DiverseAThon which was started with the simple desire to make people read more widely and diversely. Well, we all want that really don’t we? I mean one of the great joys of reading is that we can learn about all walks of life from all over the world, walking in their shoes whilst actually sat on our own sofa’s or lying in our own beds. I have always been a fan of anything promoting diverse and minority groups, that is why I started the Green Carnation Prize for LGBTQ writing. So imagine my joy when the organisers of last years DiverseAThon kindly asked if I would like to be one of the hosts for its return, I jumped at the chance and excitingly it all starts today.

Now before anyone switches off or clicks away (unlikely I know, but possible) thinking this is something just for booktubers, this is most definitely not the case. Christina Marie, Joce, Monica and myself are all incredibly keen that everyone who wants to join in can join in. You don’t have to have a channel, a podcast, a blog (though if you do lovely), you just have to have some books to hand that fit the bill. Buy them, borrow them, root through your shelves, the more the blooming merrier. All we would like you to do is try and read books from own voices, so not just books about race, sexuality, disability etc, or with characters of those groups… We want you to find the authors writing from those groups and writing through that own narrative voice. That doesn’t mean we are anti straight writers writing about LGBTQ stories or white writers writing about issues around race, we appreciate those voice hugely but we all know the publishing industry could used a little more diversity and if we don’t support those own voices publishers won’t think we want them in our hands and then we miss out on some incredible books and we all lose out then.

I have made a video on the whole idea behind #DiverseAthon 2.0 including some of the books I am planning reading over the next week, I will link them down below. Grab a cuppa and have a watch if you care to take the time, if not ask me any questions down in the comments below.

I am quite passionate about this so I would love lots of you to join in, be it a twitter chat, the instagram challenges, posting on your blogs and vlogs and pods, ha the options are endless. I will be sharing some own voices reviews as the week goes on, some from the backlog I have mentioned a few times, and reviewing the books in my #DiverseAThon TBR as I go, so should hopefully be talking about and sending some great own voices stories, fiction and none, in the forthcoming week. Who is up for this then? Which books will you be reading? Which books do you recommend?

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And The Library Starts To Be Built

Apologies for the Savidge silence (again) I have a very valid reason though, there have been builders invading my life rather a lot of late as, get ready for it, my library is being built. No, you heard right I am having a library built here at the new house and work has finally started which is so exciting but also somewhat disruptive and distracting. I thought however it would be nice to have a series of posts as the process happens and that you might be quite keen to read about it and join the journey. Ugh, journey has become sucha cliche saying but you know what I mean. So what are the plans? Well they look like this…

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However that doesn’t really cover the logistics as lovely as that picture is. Basically two bedrooms are being converted into one, though the smaller one will feel slightly like a separate space where my reading chair, youtube filming area and desk and the like is. The rest will be wall to wall bookshelves and nothing more, well apart from a comfy sofa bed for me to read on and very special guests to sleep in. Only very special ones, the others just get the normal two spare bedrooms though they have some bookshelves in too of course. So week one has been the rooms being joined, or as the Spice Girl fan in me likes to say, two become one.

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Is it just me or does anyone find this sort of thing, getting to look at what makes a wall essentially, really bizarrely interesting? As you can see it has gone great guns…

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Though they did make the hole between the rooms which will make the one room feel like two spaces a bit too big so they will be rebuilding some.

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I was told this made me a diva by someone, however my thoughts are if this is my forever home and that is going to be my dream library then I need it to be just so. Plus they have to build a new wall where one of the doors has been taken out. It is looking good so far. Then next week, the second in what will probably be a month (so just in time for my operation in late February) the plasterer comes, and the floorboards get sanded down, week three is decorating, so I need to do the painful decision making on that, followed by week four when the bookshelves will get built. I will report back as it goes on. Hopefully it will be of interest…

In the interim how are all of you and what are you reading at the moment?

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Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine – Diane Williams

I am a sucker for a good cover and let us be honest Diane Williams latest collection of flash fiction, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine (which always makes me think of the Mary J Blige song Just Fine), has a rather fantastic cover indeed. So that pulled me to it in Foyles when I saw it, then the line ‘folktales that hammer like a nail gun’ in the blurb made me almost 100% sure that this was going to be the best collection of short stories I had read for a while. Hmmmm. How to put this? Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

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CB Editions, paperback, 2016, short stories, 118 pages, bought by myself for myself

How to start with a review of Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine when one of the main things you loved about it was the cover and you have already mentioned that? I guess I had better just simply go for it. What I was hoping to find in this collection of very (very, very) short stories was forty (yep, forty) little spiky modern fairytale and folklore like gems. As I started to read I discovered I was getting snap shots into people’s lives that felt like that the prose version of an Instagram feed, only the pictures all seemed to be out of focus, blurred or sometimes an accidental snap shot of the floor because so vague were they, I would read one and think ‘what on earth am I meant to make of that?’

The sad issue here is that the themes I felt Diane Williams was trying to write about, when I did grasp what I thought it was she was on about, are ones that I am really interested. She seems to be giving encounters of a wide and diverse group of women (I can’t remember if any are in a male narrative, though sometimes the gender of the narrator isn’t mentioned) from all walks of life at pivotal moments in their lives. The only thing is so vague and often flimsy did these snippets seem that any poignancy that Williams was trying to give, or maybe I was desperately trying to clutch to, was then lost. Take for example the opener of Head of a Naked Girl

One got an erection while driving in his car to get to her. Another got his while buying his snow blower, with her along. He’s the one who taught her how to blow him and that’s the one she reassured ‘You’re the last person I want to antagonize!’

Firstly I don’t even know if that opening paragraph makes sense, or is it just me? Anyway, what I thought I was getting here was the account of a young woman who had found herself in a profession of which she might have not intended. I was intrigued this might be a tale of how a beautiful woman couldn’t help the affect she had on men for better and for worse, from a neutral view point. We then follow some of her sexual exploits before something, unknown, goes wrong and then she ‘blamed herself – for yet another perfect day.’ Huh? What? I have no idea what I am meant to take from that. Well, apart from mild annoyance.

Now you could say that maybe I am just not one for flash fiction, however I would have to disagree somewhat there. Firstly because I have seen Val McDermid create a story from a tweet which was brilliant and also in this collection there was one very, very, very short story which I loved called The Skol which I will include below in all its entirety.

In the ocean, Mrs. Clavey decided to advance on foot at shoulder-high depth. A tiny swallow of the water coincided with her deliberation. It tasted like a cold, salted variety of her favourite payang congou tea. She didn’t intend to drink more, but she did drink – more.

I loved this. It is very vague, which I know is a criticism I have made in all the stories but here it works. I loved the fact my mind could leap of and ask loads of questions about it. Why on earth was Mrs. Clavey walking into the ocean? Was she just in the mood for a swim or did she have a more dark or sorrowful reason for walking in? Speaking of which, at the end of the story is Mrs. Clavey simply drinking the water because she likes the taste or has she gone a bit mad? Or worse still is she trying to drown herself or just drowning accidentally? Or, the fairytale part of my brain pondered is she actually a mermaid? From four lines all those thoughts. That is what I wanted in every tale.

You might also say that maybe Diane Williams writing isn’t for me. Which is fine, fine, fine, fine, fine (sorry, couldn’t help it!) we don’t like every author in the world, we can’t our heads would explode with all the books we could read; it would be bookshop/library carnage, we might never read anything again because of all the options. I think this is probably the main reason; Diane Williams possibly just isn’t for me. It isn’t her fault. It isn’t my fault. It just is what it is. Though I do want to say there are moments here and there where I just loved how she observes the little things that by saying so little say so much. One paragraph in To Revive A Person Is No Slight Thing has really stayed with me as a character describes the cracks in her marriage, well that is what I thought she was doing but who knows?

A fire had been lighted, drinks had been set out. Raw fish had been dipped into egg and bread crumbs and then sautéed. A small can of shoe polish was still out on the kitchen counter. We both like to keep out shoes clean.

Sadly though, despite a few short bursts of prose and a couple of stories that appealed to me, I was not a big fan of Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine which I am quite cross about as I wanted to be. I think I need something that has some anchor in a sea of vagueness and this only really had that a couple of times for me. You can happily ignore me though Lydia Davis, Jonathan Franzen and many more authors think she is the absolute flash fiction queen. What reading this collection has taught me, delightfully, is that I enjoy flash fiction on the commute to and from work though. So if you have any recommendations of flash fiction collections I should try then do please let me know. Have you read Diane Williams? What have you made of her work?

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