It is the last novel she will ever write, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Tyler claims. Now A Spool of Blue Thread, the 20th novel by the American chronicler of domestic life, leads the race for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Tyler, 73, has been selected in a strong longlist which includes Sarah Waters, Ali Smith and PP Wong, the first British-born Chinese novelist to be published in the UK, for the prize which celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women in English from throughout the world”.
Tyler has said that A Spool of Blue Thread, which chronicles the kitchen-table dramas of Baltimore family the Whitshanks across three generations, will be the last novel she ever completes.
The Minneapolis-born author of best-sellers including The Accidental Tourist was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as the “greatest novelist writing in English” and has twice been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, the predecessor to the Bailey’s award.
The Independent described Tyler’s latest as her best for decades and “a glorious, unsentimental treat for her loyal and attentive readers”.
There are five first novels on the shortlist for the bronze award, known as the Bessie, which also carries a £30,000 prize and will be handed out in June.
The debut novels include After Before by Jemma Wayne, who is the daughter of Jeff Wayne, the rock star and War of the Worlds composer.
After Before is partly set in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and focuses on a fictional survivor of the atrocities, who now works as a carer in London, as her life becomes intertwined with two fellow women battling their own experiences of betrayal. Ms Wayne has previously written short stories and had her first play, Negative Space, staged at the New End Theatre in north London.
Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, chairs the judging panel which includes Cathy Newman, the Channel 4 News presenter and Grace Dent, the Independent columnist.
Ms Chakrabarti said: “The Prize's 20th year is a particularly strong one for women's fiction. All judges fought hard for their favourites and the result is a 2015 list of 20 to be proud of - with its mix of genres and styles, first-timers and well-known names from around the world. There is a very strong showing of UK writers and we are all incredibly excited about the final stages of the search for the winner.”
Three authors on the list have been longlisted for the Prize before and a further eight authors have been previously shortlisted, two of those twice.
Waters, the Tipping The Velvet author who lost in 2002 and 2006, will hope to make it third time lucky with The Paying Guests, a love story and crime drama, set in a south London house in 1922.
The contenders also include Ali Smith’s How To Be Both, which pairs parallel narratives of a teenage girl and a 15th century Renaissance artist. The novel was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and won the 2014 Costa Novel Award.
This year’s list features 13 British authors, two American authors, two Canadian authors, one Pakistani/British author, one Chinese/British author and one British/American author.
The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was known as the Orange Prize for Fiction between 1996 and 2012. Awarded for the best full-length novel of the year written by a woman and published in the UK between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015, any woman writing in English – whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter – is eligible.
Bailey's women's prize for fiction longlist
Rachel Cusk - Outline
Lissa Evans -Crooked Heart
Patricia Ferguson -Aren’t We Sisters?
Xiaolu Guo - I Am China
Samantha Harvey - Dear Thief
Emma Healey - Elizabeth is Missing
Emily St. John Mandel - Station Eleven
Grace McCleen - The Offering
Sandra Newman - The Country of Ice Cream Star
Heather O’Neill - The Girl Who Was Saturday Night
Laline Paul - The Bees l
Marie Phillips - The Table of Less Valued Knights
Rachel Seiffert - The Walk Home
Kamila Shamsie - A God in Every Stone
Ali Smith - How to be Both
Sara Taylor - The Shore
Anne Tyler - A Spool of Blue Thread
Sarah Waters - The Paying Guests
Jemma Wayne - After Before
PP Wong - The Life of a Banana
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