Oh, you lucky Londoners (or UK-ers who can commute) to be so close to all the Baileys Prize excitement. Thanks to general busy-ness in life I already feel so very very out of the bookish online (and blogging) loop that for me anything Baileys is just off on the far distant horizon. As usual I am on the outside looking in at everyone else having all the fun. But as reading tends to be a mostly solitary pursuit anyway, I'll just get on with it and keep reading the books.
The one book I actually finished reading ahead of the shortlist announcement has sadly not been chosen but it is still very much a good read and one I can recommend and plan on writing about soon. And there are a further two more that are in progress, Rose Tremain's The Gustav Sonata, which is also up for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (and there are more books on that list I would love to read as well) and Yewande Omotoso's The Woman Next Door, which I am liking very much, too.
You do wonder what sorts of spirited conversations the judges must have had in whittling down those first sixteen books down to only six!
I am sure you will already have seen the list of books. I am currently reading three of them, have another at the ready and am waiting for my own copies of two more.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien -- This won Canada's Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker last year. My money is on it for winning and I think it would be a very worthy winner. I think I mentioned I was dragging my feet on this one. Although I had heard good things about it, it seemed dark and heavy and unhappy, but Thien is an amazing storyteller. Yes, it is set in part in Mao's China, but as dark as that seems it is fascinating, too. I forgot how much I like stories set in that part of the world. So I am making slow but stately progress (as it is a big hardcover and you know how I am about carrying hardcovers about with me).
Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo -- When I unpacked this for the stacks at the library where I work, I was a little curious about it, but I admit it was further down the list of what I wanted to read. So I checked it out but then it sat in my work locker until it showed up on the shortlist. Since it was in hand and I knew I wanted to try and make a go at reading the shortlist, I dug in and I have to say--Wow. She totally grabbed me from the first chapter. I am finding the story utterly riveting. It is set in 1980s and contemporary Nigeria about a married couple. The wife has been unable to get pregnant so under pressure from his family, the husband takes a second wife. The powers of storytelling by Adebayo are impressive. If this won I would be very happy indeed. Alas, it is not being published here until August (!) but it is out in paperback in the UK.
First Love by Gwendoline Riley -- I have to say this is one I was really looking forward to reading, but it is a surprise choice, I think, for some reason. A slender book which is another portrait of a marriage. The title is first love, but this is reality and not romance. I like it, but there is something sort of gritty and raw about it, which is maybe why I like it so much.
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant -- Another book I am pleased to see on the shortlist but for some reason I was not expecting it to be there (probably because it is one I really do want to read). This is set in post-WWII England. My copy is sitting at the ready and I will pick it up as soon as I finish one of the other books on the list.
The Power by Naomi Alderman -- I should probably not admit this, but this is the one book from the list that I really find does not appeal to me (so, surely it will be the book that wins!). I feel bad saying that, as I have one of Naomi Alderman's other books that I am very keen on reading but haven't gotten to yet. "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 Naomi Alderman’s 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?" The premise sounds good, but when the library copy came in and I read a page or two it just didn't seem to click. Not wanting to be entirely greedy I sent it out to the shelves hoping it would stay close at hand. When it made the shortlist and I looked it up--not only is it checked out but won't be due until mid-July! (I suspect some lucky faculty member who has a very generous check out time must have it). So, now I have ordered a copy and am hoping that as with the Adebayo and Thien, once I start reading I will love it, too.
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan -- To be honest I don't know much about this book and it also was closer to the bottom of the pile of longlisters for me. I am waiting for a paperback copy from the UK, but if the rave reviews I have seen are anything to go by, this might end up being one of those 'never judge a book by its cover' (and I loved it) sorts of reads.
The winner is announced June 7. I wonder if I have any chance of reading them all before then?