back to top

20 Incredible Books From The Past Year You Need To Read Right Now

Here's the longlist for the Baileys Women's Prize For Fiction 2015.

Posted on

The Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction has just announced its 2015 longlist.

womensprizeforfiction.co.uk

Now in its 20th year, the prize celebrates the best fiction by women written in English and published in the UK during the previous 12 months. Here are the 20 books the judges selected for the longlist:

1. Outline by Rachel Cusk

"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." (Faber & Faber)

2. Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

"When Noel Bostock – aged ten, no family - is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he ends up living in St Albans with Vera Sedge - thirty-six and drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she’s unscrupulous about how she gets it. Together they cook up an idea. Criss-crossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to make a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life. " (Doubleday)

3. Aren’t We Sisters? by Patricia Ferguson

"Norah Thornby can no longer afford to live in her grand family home in the centre of Silkhampton. Unless, perhaps, she can find a respectable lodger, but Nurse Lettie Quick is not nearly as respectable as she seems. Meanwhile the beautiful Rae Grainger has found the perfect place to stay, in an isolated house miles away from the town. No one guesses, of course, that there's a killer quietly at work in Silkhampton; that in one way or another all three women are in danger." (Penguin)

4. I Am China by Xiaolu Guo

"In a flat above a noisy north London market, translator Iona Kirkpatrick starts work on a Chinese letter. In a detention centre in Dover exiled Chinese musician Jian is awaiting an unknown fate. In Beijing his girlfriend Mu sends desperate letters to London to track him down. Intoxicated by their romance, Iona sets out to bring them back together, but time seems to be running out." (Chatto & Windus)

5. Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey

"In the middle of a winter’s night, a woman wraps herself in a blanket, picks up a pen and starts writing to an estranged friend. Without knowing if her friend, Butterfly, is even alive or dead, she writes night after night – a letter of friendship that turns into something more revealing and recriminating." (Jonathan Cape)

6. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

"Lately, Maud's been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she's made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war." (Penguin)

7. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

"Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse of civilisation to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan - warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'." (Picador)

8. The Offering by Grace McCleen

"It was the year when Madeline's family moved to an island her father believed God had guided him to. It was a place where she revelled in the natural beauty of their surroundings. It was a time of euphoria, but also of successive disasters. It was the night Madeline turned fourteen, when she did something she thought would save her beloved mother. Something so traumatic that she cannot now recall it, but her suave new psychiatrist thinks he knows how to unlock her memory. He is treading on very dangerous ground." (Sceptre)

9. The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

"In the ruins of a future America, fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star and her people survive by scavenging in the detritus of an abandoned civilization. Theirs is a world of children – by the time they reach twenty, each of them will die from a disease they call posies. When her brother sickens, Ice Cream sets out on the trail of a cure, led by a stranger whose intentions remain unclear. It’s a quest that will lead her to love and heartbreak, to captivity and to a nation’s throne, and ultimately into a war that threatens to doom everyone she loves." (Chatto & Windus)

10. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

"At birth, Nouschka forms a bond with her twin that can never be broken. At six, she’s the child star daughter of Quebec’s most famous musician. At sixteen, she’s a high-school dropout kicking up with her beloved brother. At nineteen, she’s the Beauty Queen of Boulevard Saint-Laurent. At twenty, she’s back in night school. And falling for an ex-convict. And it’s all being filmed by a documentary crew." (Quercus)

11. The Bees by Laline Paull

"Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. 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 pollen on the wing. Then she finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous." (4th Estate)

12. The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips

"Sir Humphrey du Val of the Table of Less Valued Knights – Camelot's least prestigious table, with one leg shorter than the others so that it has to be propped up with a folded napkin – doesn't do quests ... until he meets Elaine, a damsel in distress with a secret to hide. Meanwhile, Queen Martha of Puddock is on a quest of her own: to find her missing brother, long believed dead. The two quests collide, introducing a host of Arthurian misfits, including a freakishly short giant, a twelve-year-old crone, an amorous unicorn, and a magic sword with a mind of her own." (4th Estate)

13. The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert

"Stevie comes from a long line of people who have cut and run. Just like he has. Stevie's been to London, taught himself to get by. But he's not told his family - what's left of them - that he's back. Not yet. He's also not far from his Uncle Eric's house: another one who left - for love this time. Stevie's toughened himself up against that emotion. And as for his own mother, Lindsey... well, she ran her whole life. From her father and Ireland, from her husband, and eventually from Stevie too." (Virago)

14. A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie

"Summer, 1914. Young Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer is in an ancient land, about to discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure, and love. Thousands of miles away a twenty-year-old Pathan, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian army. They 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 when anti-colonial resistance, an ancient artefact and a mysterious woman will bring them together again." (Bloomsbury)

15. How to Be Both by Ali Smith

"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." (Hamish Hamilton)

16. The Shore by Sara Taylor

"The Shore. A collection of small islands sticking out from the coast of Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean that has been home to generations of fierce and resilient women. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it’s a place they’ve inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a brave girl’s determination to protect her younger sister as methamphetamine ravages their family, to a lesson in summoning storm clouds to help end a drought, their interconnecting stories form a deeply affecting legacy of two island families." (William Heinemann)

17. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

"‘It 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. 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." (Chatto & Windus)

18. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

"It is 1922, and London is tense. In a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers. For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the 'clerk class', the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be." (Virago)

19. After Before by Jemma Wayne

"During a cold, British winter, three women reach crisis point. Emily, an immigrant survivor of the Rwandan genocide is existing but not living. Vera, a newly Christian Londoner is striving to live a moral life, her happiness constantly undermined by secrets from her past. Lynn, battling with an untimely disease, is consumed by bitterness and resentment of what she hasn't achieved. As their paths interweave, they begin to unravel their beleaguered pasts, and inadvertently change each other's futures." (Legend Press)

20. The Life of a Banana by PP Wong

"Xing Li is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Although born and raised in London, she never feels like she fits in. When her mother dies, she moves with her older brother to live with venomous Grandma, strange Uncle Ho and Hollywood actress Auntie Mei. Her only friend is Jay - a mixed raced Jamaican boy with a passion for classical music. Consumed by secrets, violence and confusing family relations, Xing Li tries to find hope wherever she can. In order to find her own identity, she must first discover what it means to be both Chinese and British." (Legend Press)

The 2015 Bailey's Prize will be announced June 3.

For more info, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

Links purposely were not included; why not take a stroll down to your local bookshop and pick one up?

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss