Just a day to go until the Baileys Prize longlist is announced. I always get a little giddy with excitement at this time of year. Will I be excited and thrilled by the list and want to read everything on it? Or will the books be not quite to my taste and I will just go on to other reads. It's always an adventure to find out. I do love a good book list, though, so whichever titles end up on it I will be most interested to see and peruse.
I have been scoping out all the many predictions lists, which I don't feel well read enough (well read in that I tend not to always read literary fiction right when it is published) to add my own wishes and desires. There are a number of books others have been talking about that I also own and want to read, however. One novel which has a good chance of showing up on the list is Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing, which I have wanted to read in any case. This was just a little nudge in that direction to pick it up sooner rather than later.
I'm not terribly far in yet, but what I have read I very much like. Gyasi was born in Ghana and was raised in Alabama. She lives in California now. The story is set in Ghana about two half-sisters, born in different villages in the mid-1700s. One marries an Englishman and lives a relatively happy and comfortable life in the Cape Coast Castle, while her sister (whom she has never met) is taken into captivity to be sold into slavery. She is kept in the castle's dungeons soon to be shipped off to America. The story follows the descendants of the two women with each chapter moving the story along through time.
My teaser is from the first chapter where Effia, one of the half-sisters, marries James, and English soldier.
"Effia knew she was not supposed to care for James, and she kept hearing her father's words echoing through her mind, how he had wanted more for her than to be the Fante wife of a white man. She remembered, too, how close she had come to really being someone. Her whole life Baaba had bear her and made her feel small, and she had fought back with her beauty, a silent weapon, but a powerful one, which had led her to the feet of a chief. But ultimately, her mother had won, cast her out, not only of the house but of the village entirely, so that now the only other Fantes she saw regularly were the spouses of the other soldiers."
Despite the sometimes dark and unhappy images (I am now reading about the other half-sister, Esi who is crammed in with the other women in the dungeon), the storytelling is really very engrossing. I find I am caught up in these women's lives and am curious to see how each succeeding generation lives with these burdens of their mothers.
I fully expect to find some good reading ideas from tomorrow's longlist. If all else fails, however, I can always good back and pull a book out to read that appeared on a previous longlist that I never got around to. Actually, in honor of this year's announcement, I almost feel like pulling a few books out . . .to look at . . . (and who knows, maybe even read now finally).