Meet your spring reading list: The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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Toxic relationships, a dystopian future and powerful women aplenty: if you’re looking for a gripping new read, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist has got you sorted.

Announced last night at an event in Waterstones, Tottenham Court Road, the shortlist comprises six brilliant books written by six brilliant women.

Whittled down from the original longlist of 16, it features one previous winner of the prize, Linda Grant, and one debut novelist.

Now in its 22nd year, the prize aims to celebrate women’s fiction and, as Chair of Judges Tessa Ross told, “keep women’s voices valued and heard”.

“We need stories that reflect our lives and the perspectives of these women, along with so many others, give us the ability to empathise and understand what it is like to be other women around the world,” she added. 

Here, Tessa Ross talks through the six shortlisted novels, which she described as “all unlike the other, but all powerful, moving, strong and visionary”. 

Cancel your plans and prepare to kickstart your spring reading…

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀

This debut novel is beautifully written. It tells the internal story of a woman’s journey as she tries to have children and understand her marriage and place in the world. It’s an incredibly moving first novel.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

This is quite an extraordinary imagining of a dystopian future, in which women are more powerful than men. They have actual electric power which generates across their collar bones and delivers through their fingertips, to flip society on its head. It is an absolutely devastating, bold and accessible piece of fiction.

The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

This is one of those books that reminds you the great American novel still exists. It’s hugely ambitious and glorious, full of brilliant detail, lively dialogue and very acutely drawn characters. It’s difficult to sum up as it’s full of so many different feelings but it’s rich and extraordinarily well written.

The Dark Circle by Linda Grant

This is a wonderfully written coming of age tale focusing on a brother and sister. The story is of friendship and love, and explores what it’s like to feel like an outsider in the world.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Do Not Say We have Nothing is a fabulous book written with beautifully composed prose. It’s got a massive canvas but it’s also unbelievably intimate, so an exceptional piece of writing.

It’s one of those books that somehow makes music feel part of the novel. Thien has woven in the story of music with the relationship between the characters and the story of their cultural history, and she’s done it quite magnificently.

First Love by Gwendoline Riley

This is a devastating portrait of a toxic marriage. It is an exact view from inside the relationship between a woman called Neve and her elder husband Edwyn. Throughout the book she recalls the decisions that led to the marriage and what it feels like to be inside it, in beautifully written prose that is sharp, shocking and tough.


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter