Tonight is a big night for books as the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction winner will be announced at an award ceremony in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall. Here’s the esteemed shortlist the judges will select their winner from tonight:
Stay With Me by Ayọbámi Adébáyọ̀, The Power by Naomi Alderman, The Dark Circle by Linda Grant, The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan, First Love by Gwendoline Riley, and Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
Literary prizes like this are, of course, completely subjective and lots of people will have their own favourite choice – last month, we even picked our 3 early favourites from the Bailey’s Prize shortlist….
But having now read a few (but not all) of the titles, my final tip to win tonight is Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, whose debut novel stood out for me for so many reasons. Set against a backdrop of the social and political unrest in 80s Nigeria, Stay With Me is the heart-wrenching story of a family who are so desperate for a child that it threatens to break them. Yejide is married to Akin, the love of her life and is facing a bright future. But when his mother-in-law, Moomi, demands he take another wife to ensure he gets the child (and she the grandchild) they so desire, Yejide is suddenly faced with a devastating fertility race of hope and loss that finds her resorting to all means – including betrayal – to become pregnant before her rival. But motherhood is not the happy ending she expects: wretched with grief, loss and despair after her first two babies die in infancy, when her third arrives, she names him Rotimi (Stay With Me). But will he be enough to put her broken heart – and family – back together? With its themes of infertility, child-loss, marriage and the power of motherhood, this sad, shattering but stunning story is both expertly told and deeply affecting. Mentored by Margaret Ashwood and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – and regardless of whether she wins the 2017 Bailey’s prize – Adébáyọ̀is an impressive new literary voice that I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot from in the future.