For female authors, getting the recognition you deserve in literary circles can be almost impossible.
The majority of literary prizes are dominated by men. To date, there are 13 female Nobel Laureates compared to 94 men since the prize began in 1901, 18 female Pulitzer Prize winners since 1948 compared to 42 men, and 16 female Man Booker Prize winners since 1961 compared to 30 men.
And frankly, it's just not good enough.
That's why the Women's Prize For Fiction is so important. It aims to redress the gender imbalance in the industry.
The shortlisted titles for 2015 were revealed by this year’s Chair of Judges, Shami Chakrabarti, on Monday evening in London.
Speaking at the long list announcement last month, Chakrabarti, said that there is still a long way to go before female authors get the recognition they deserve.
“We are still nowhere near where we should be,” said Chakrabarti. “I also don’t think women are getting their due in other literary prizes. I am still surprised at some of the lists and comments made by judges and chairs of judges elsewhere, so I don’t think it’s time to end a women’s prize.”
“I think we do need to keep celebrating women’s fiction. We need to celebrate women generally and there’s nothing more powerful than stories,” said Chakrabarti. “We need to celebrate stories by women, for women, as just one more way to redress gender injustice.”
Judges (L-R): Laura Bates, writer and founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, Cathy Newman, presenter at Channel 4 News, Shami Chakrabarti, (Chair), director at Liberty, Helen Dunmore, novelist, poet and winner of the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction, and Grace Dent, columnist and broadcaster
Set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote international fiction by women to the widest range of readers possible, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction is awarded for the best novel of the year written by a woman. Any woman writing in English – whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter – is eligible.
The winner will receive an anonymously endowed cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze figurine known as a ‘Bessie’, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven.
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The winner will be announced at a prestigious awards ceremony to be held in The Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall on 3 June 2015.
Previous winners include Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2014), A.M. Homes for May We Be Forgiven (2013), Madeline Miller for The Song of Achilles (2012) and Téa Obreht for The Tiger’s Wife (2011).
This year’s selection includes five previously shortlisted authors and one debut novelist...
July 1914. Young Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer is running up a mountainside in an ancient land, surrounded by fig trees and cypresses. Soon she will discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure and the ecstasy of love. Thousands of miles away a twenty-year-old Pathan, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian Army.
July 1915. Qayyum Gul is returning home after losing an eye at Ypres, his allegiances in tatters. Viv is following the mysterious trail of her missing beloved. Qayyum and Viv meet on a train to Peshawar, unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives one that will reveal itself fifteen years later, on the Street of Storytellers, when a brutal fight for freedom, an ancient artefact and a haunting green-eyed woman will bring them together again.
Kamila Shamsie is the author of five novels: In the City by the Sea; Kartography (both shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize); Salt and Saffron; Broken Verses; and Burnt Shadows, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and has been translated into more than twenty languages.
Three of her novels have received awards from Pakistan¹s Academy of Letters. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2013 was named a Granta Best of Young British Novelist. She grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.
Published by Bloomsbury
Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is deemed fit only to clean her orchard hive. Yet Flora has talents that are not typical of her kin. And while mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is reassigned to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting nectar and pollen on the wing. Before long she finds her way into the Queen¹s inner sanctum, learning secrets both sublime and ominous.
Flora¹s ascent disturbs the natural hierarchy of the colony, incensing powerful enemies. But when she feels compelled to break the most sacred law of all, Flora¹s instincts are overwhelmed by love, as all-consuming as it is forbidden....
Laline Paull was born in England. Her parents were first-generation Indian immigrants. She studied English at Oxford, screenwriting in Los Angeles, and theatre in London, where she has had two plays performed at the Royal National Theatre. She is a member of BAFTA and the Writers Guild of America. The Bees, her first novel, was chosen as an Amazon Rising Star.
Published by Fourth Estate.
ŒIt was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.
This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.
And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home. They¹ve all come, even Denny, who can usually be relied on only to please himself.
From that porch we spool back through three generations of the Whitshanks, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define who and what they are. And while all families like to believe they are special, round that kitchen table over all those years we also see played out own hopes and fears, rivalries and tensions the essential nature of family life.
Anne Tyler¹s first book, If Morning Ever Comes, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1964 and by Chatto in 1965. Since then, Tyler has gone on to write 19 other novels including The Accidental Tourist, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, A Patchwork Planet, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage, Digging to America and The Beginner¹s Goodbye. Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She now lives in Baltimore, where most of her novels are set. In 1989, Tyler was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for her novel Breathing Lessons, and in 1985, she won the National Book Critic Circle Award for her novel The Accidental Tourist. In 1994 she was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as Œthe greatest novelist writing in English¹ and in 2012 received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, which recognises a lifetime¹s achievement in books. She was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 1996 and 2007.
Published by Chatto & Windus
It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in the south of the city, on genteel Champion Hill, in a hushed Camberwell villa still recovering from the devastating losses of the First World War, life is about to be transformed.
Widowed Mrs Wray and her daughter, Frances an unmarried woman with an interesting past, now on her way to becoming a spinster find themselves obliged to take in lodgers. The arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the Œclerk class¹, brings unsettling things with it: gramophone music, colour, fun. Open doors offer Frances glimpses of the newcomers¹ habits, sounds travel from their rooms to hers, and the staircase and landing have never seemed to her so busy.
As she and Lilian are drawn into an unexpected friendship, loyalties begin to shift. Secrets are confessed, dangerous desires admitted; the most ordinary of lives, it seems, can explode into passion and drama. And in the house on Champion Hill, no one can foresee just how far the disturbances will reach.
Sarah Waters was born in Neyland, Pembrokeshire, in 1966. She has a PhD in English Literature and has been an associate lecturer with the Open University.
She has written five novels: Tipping the Velvet (1998), which won the Betty Trask Award; Affinity (1999), which won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; Fingersmith (2002), which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize, and won the South Bank Show Award for Literature and the CWA Historical Dagger; The Night Watch (2006), which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize; and The Little Stranger (2009), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the South Bank Show Literature Award.
She was included in Granta¹s prestigious list of ŒBest of Young British Novelists 2003¹, and in the same year was voted Author of the Year by both publishers and booksellers at the British Book Awards and the BA Conference, and won the Waterstones Author of the Year Award. Sarah Waters lives in London.
Published by Virago
A woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Though her own circumstances remain indistinct, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives, as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives.
Beginning with the neighbouring passenger on the flight out and his tales of fast boats and failed marriages, the storytellers talk of their loves and ambitions and pains, their anxieties, their perceptions and daily lives. In the stifling heat and noise of the city the sequence of voices begins to weave a complex human tapestry. The more they talk the more elliptical their listener becomes, as she shapes and directs their accounts until certain themes begin to emerge: the experience of loss, the nature of family life, the difficulty of intimacy and the mystery of creativity itself.
Rachel Cusk was born in 1967 and is the author of seven novels: Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Temporary, The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, The Lucky Ones, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award, In the Fold, Arlington Park, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and The Bradshaw Variations. Her non-fiction books are A Life¹s Work, The Last Supper and Aftermath. In 2003 she was chosen as one of Granta¹s Best of Young Novelists.
Published by Faber/Vintage
How to be both is a novel all about art's versatility. Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There's a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance.
Ali Smith was born in Inverness in August 1962 and lives in Cambridge. She won the Saltire First Book Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award in 1995 for her first collection of stories, Free Love and has since published three further collections including Other Stories and Other Stories and The First Person and Other Stories.
She is the author of several novels including Hotel World, which was shortlisted for the Booker and the Orange Prize, and The Accidental which won the Whitbread Novel Award. Her non-fiction includes Artful, which won the 2013 Bristol Festival of Ideas/Best Book of Ideas.
How to be both was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and 2015 Folio Prize and won the 2014 Costa Novel Award, 2014 Goldsmiths Prize and Saltire Literary Book of the Year 2014 award. In 2007 Ali Smith was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was made a CBE for Services to Literature in the 2014 New Year¹s Honours List.
Published by Hamish Hamilton
The winner of the Baileys Women's Prize For Fiction will be announced on Wednesday 3 June. HuffPost UK Lifestyle is proud to be streaming the awards live on the site. Watch the live stream here from 6.45pm.