Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction: Donna Tartt and Jhumpa Lahiri among nominees

Australian author Hannah Kent has also been nominated for her debut novel

Arts Correspondent

An Australian author who went on an exchange trip to Iceland as a teenager because she had never seen snow has been nominated for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut novel about the country’s last execution.

Hannah Kent celebrated her 29th birthday on Monday with the news that her book Burial Rites had made the six-strong shortlist for the award, alongside heavyweight writers including Donna Tartt and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Helen Fraser, chair of the judges of this year’s Women’s Prize, revealed the shortlist at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery tonight.

She hailed the three debut novelists who made the shortlist adding Kent’s work was “great” and had used the historical documents “so brilliantly”.

Ms Kent went to Iceland for a year-long Rotary exchange in 2003 at the age of 17, and ended up in Sauðárkrókur, a fishing village so remote it was not even on her atlas. “It was a real culture shock,” she said.

It was there she was told the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, who was executed for her role in a brutal murder in 1829, although the facts surrounding her involvement are decidedly unclear.

The author said her homesickness led her to feel kinship with the woman who was sent to a remote farm to await her execution. “I felt a connection with her story that I couldn’t explain and I still can’t,” she said. “That led to a deeper curiosity and a lot of questions about who she was.”

While she would not write about the character again “it has been such a long time since I heard her story, and becoming obsessed by the biographical research, I will always carry Agnes Magnúsdóttir with me, in the way we carry anyone we grieve for”.

Hannah Kent's debut novel about the last execution in Australia Hannah Kent's debut novel about the last execution in Australia
Her breakthrough came when she won a national competition for unpublished manuscripts and Burial Rites became the focus of a bidding war for its international rights.

Ms Kent said: “It’s such a huge honour to be shortlisted for this prize, I’m so thrilled. It is particularly special because many of the women authors I love and admire and have influenced me, such as Jill Dawson and Margaret Atwood, I came to through this prize.” She is currently in the early stages of working on a second book.

According to the chair of the judges, the presence of three debuts on the shortlist “says something about the talent coming up. These debut novels are so confident and accomplished.”

The others are The Undertaking by Audrey Magee, a former journalist, and Eimear McBride, who wrote A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing when she was 27 and spent a decade trying to get it published.

Among the more established authors competing are the previously shortlisted Tartt for The Goldfinch and Adichie won the prize in 1997 for Half of a Yellow Sun.

Jhumpa Lahiri rounds out the list with her second novel The Lowland, shortlisted for the Booker. None of the authors have written more than three.

“There are no 11-time novelists on the list. Perhaps with the exception of Donna Tartt, these are people near the start of their writing lives,” Ms Fraser said Tartt wrote her first novel The Secret History in 1992.

“These books rose above the others,” Ms Fraser said. “They had something extraordinary, exciting and compelling about them.”

She continued: “There’s very little domestic drama, and that clichéd idea of romantic fiction. There wasn’t much of that this year. These are big ambitious books that deal with war, grief and loss. They are not confined to the domestic arena.”

The £30,000 prize open to fiction written by women in English will be awarded at a ceremony on London’s South Bank in June.

The nominees

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah

The author, who grew up in Nigeria, published her first novel Purple Hibiscus in 2003, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Yet she is known the follow up Half of a Yellow Sun set during the Biafran war, which won the Orange Prize and has been adapted into a film.

Hannah Kent – Burial Rites

Kent, who was born in Adelaide, got the idea for her novel when on a year-long student exchange in Iceland. She is the co-founder and publishing director of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings and is completing her PhD at Flinders University.

Jhumpa Lahiri – The Lowland

Despite “years” of rejection the author won the Pulitzer Prize for her first short story collection Interpreter of Maladies and her second novel The Lowland was also nominated for the Booker. The bestselling writer is a British/American author with Indian heritage.

Audrey Magee – The Undertaking

The Irish writer was a journalist for 12 years for publications including The Times, The Irish Times and The Guardian. Fergal Keane called her “one of the most exciting new talents to arrive on the literary scene” following the publication of her debut novel The Undertaking.

Eimear McBride – A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing

McBride, who grew up in Ireland before moving to the UK, wrote her debut novel aged 27 and spent a decade trying to get it published. After moving to Norwich in 2011 she met Galley Beggar Press which published the book last year. It won the inaugural Goldsmith’s Prize, and was shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize

Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch

Her debut novel The Secret History was a sensation after it was published in 1992. Yet she would not publish another novel until The Little Friend a decade later, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. The Goldfinch, published last year, took another 11 years.

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
books
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes