Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Patricia’s 2017 Fall Picks

Fall sunsetFall for me is a time of spectacular sunsets – when the days get a little darker and the evenings have a little more bite to them.  I like my fall reading to take that darkness and run with it.  The contrast between what I’m reading and my cozy surroundings, well, that’s what fall reading is all about.  Here’s are the new releases I’m drawn to this fall:

September

sleeping beautiesSleeping Beauties by Stephen & Owen King

You can’t get much darker than an epic new novel by the master of horror (and his son).  “In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep: they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent.”* Yes, please.

ngLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told Youwas a quietly thrilling look at the ways in which we fail to understand each other.  Her follow up, Little Fires Everywhere, deals in family secrets and centres around a custody battle that divides a town. “It explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.”*

solar bonesSolar Bones by Mike McCormack

I often imagine what it would feel like to write something utterly fresh and technically masterful – like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway.  And while such innovation is not in all of us, it certainly seems to have found a home in Mike McCormack.  In Solar Bones McCormack writes “a three-part harmony of experiment, comedy and metaphysics” within a single novel-length sentence.  

lostLost in September by Kathleen Winter

Kathleen Winter wrote Annabel one of those rare books whose writing made my stomach ache it was so good.  And it wasn’t just the writing — the characters, the story line, the evocation of place — Annabel had it all.  And thus I eagerly await Lost in September, a story about a damaged war veteran transplanted in time.

October

dunbarDunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

King Lear is recast with Henry Dunbar, “the once all-powerful head of a global media corporation” in the lead.  “Imprisoned in a care home in the Lake District with only a demented alcoholic comedian as company, Dunbar starts planning his escape. As he flees into the hills, his family is hot on his heels. But who will find him first, his beloved youngest daughter, Florence, or the tigresses Abby and Megan, so keen to divest him of his estate?”*

powerThe Power by Naomi Alderman

I couldn’t wait for this Bailey’s Prize winner to be released in Canada, so bought a copy online from the UK.  Alderman’s novel explores the metaphor of power by making it literal.  Women are capable of electrocuting others and therefore have power over men.  How do an abused foster child, an rising politician, and a crime boss’ daughter choose to wield what they’ve been given?  It’s rare to find a novel this dark that’s got a sense of humour too.  Easily one of the year’s best.

manhattanbeachManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad is one of those books that makes me excited about the future of fiction.  It was so playful and connected and experimental that almost the only way you could follow something like that up is to do exactly what Egan has done and revisit traditional storytelling.  “With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.”*

hiddenseeHiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier– the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet– who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.”*

turtlesTurtles All the Way Down by John Green

Okay. Okay.  This one might not qualify as dark.  But to be fair, I’ll read anything Green writes.  Until recently, the plot of his latest had been a closely guarded secret.  We now know it’s about a 16-year old girl named Aza, her BFF, and their quest to solve the mystery of a “fugitive billionaire” and claim “a hundred-thousand-dollar reward. […] In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.”*

This Thanksgiving let’s all be thankful for the time we get to read.  (To my children, yes, that IS a hint.)  Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Reading!

-Patricia

*Descriptions provided by the publisher

 

 

 

 

 

Mikale’s Fall Picks for 2017

booksandtea

Today is the official first day of fall–by far my favorite season to sink my teeth into a good book. Not only is it the time for wool blankets, tea and general nesting activities (and coincidentally the shoulder period between ski and camping season), it’s also when many publishers unveil their annual heavy hitters in anticipation of all those glittering literary awards.

As the fiction librarian here at NVCL I am privileged to get an insider look into a few of the year’s more intriguing titles. Thus, may I present the books which I am most looking forward to get me through the next few months of hibernation!

 

The Power by Naomi Alderman  power

Although several top authors (Ursula LeGuinn, Margaret Atwood… to name a few) have crafted memorable speculative fiction about what would happen if the traditional power balance between men and women were swapped, Naomi Alderman’s newest book takes it to a new level by unveiling a story about what happens when teenage girls suddenly gain the ability to cause intense physical pain, and even death.

The book tackles questions such as what is power, how do you get it, and how long before it corrupts you. It’s Feminist Science Fiction. It won the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction. What more can I say? Still not convinced? Check out this stellar review from The Guardian.

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin 

immortalistsI’m always intrigued when a book sells it’s TV rights prior to publication because it indicates that if nothing else, the novel’s concept is imaginative, expansive, and compulsive. As such, when I first heard that they were already planning a TV show centered around this novel which asks the question, “If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?” I knew I would read it.

“The Immortalists is a family love story spanning five decades, centering on four siblings who, as children, visit a fortune teller who predicts the day each will die. Subsequently, they find their lives spiraling and intertwining in dramatic ways, probing the line between destiny and choice, faith and magical thinking, reality and illusion, present and past, this world and the next” (From the publisher).

 

To Kill The President by Sam Bourne

I have mixed feelings about this one, which is the main reason it’s on this list. Although killpresdient“president assassinations” have almost become their own sub-genre, it’s a little bit different when the president in question is highly recognizable, still alive, and currently in office.  Then again, this whole book is about a struggle of conscience. It follows Maggie Costello, a White House Aide and recurring character from Bourne’s previous novels, as she learns about an assassination attempt against the out-of-control President who should clearly not be in power and tries to decide whether to let it happen or not. For anyone wanting to learn more not just about this book, but it’s controversy I recommend checking out this piece by The Guardian . In the meantime, I’ve already placed my hold!

 

Savage Country: A Novel by Robert Olmstead

savagecountry This raw and gritty story begins in September 1873 and follows Elizabeth Coughlin, a widow on the brink of bankruptcy, as she embarks on a buffalo hunt with her estranged and mysterious brother-in-law, Michael, in an attempt to salvage her economic future. Out of their element and overwhelmed by dangers like rattlesnakes, wildfire, rabies, flash floods and everything in between, Elizabeth and Michael’s souls unravel as they take on the cruel work of slaughtering the buffalo.
This is a gripping narrative of that infamous hunt, which drove the buffalo population to near extinction–the story of a moment in our history in which mass destruction of an animal population was seen as the only route to economic solvency. But it’s also the intimate story of how that hunt changed Michael and Elizabeth forever.(From the publisher).

Demi-Gods by Eliza Roberston

Full disclosure: Robertson and I were in the same writing program at the University of demigodsVictoria many moons ago. The fact that she has just published a novel which is receiving mass-acclaim from around the world gives me warm shiny feelings and I therefore cannot wait to read her novel.

 Set in the 1950s over the long, nostalgic days of summer, Demi-Gods is narrated by a striking young woman named Willa who describes a series of brief, highly charged encounters with her stepbrother. Sensitive, playful and original, Robertson is well known for her ability to craft imaginative and poetic prose who’s first collection of short stories Wallflower won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. 

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich 

futurehomeApparently this fall I’m really into speculative fiction, female agency, and books with the word “God” in the title.

“The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

 

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time” (From the Publisher)

 

Happy reading!

-Mikale Fenton

 

Funny Women

comedycellar

I love comedy. Whether via online videos, podcasts, or attending weekly har-har rituals like Vancouver’s Sunday Service , I’m an addict for a good laugh. In particular however, I’m hooked on funny women.

I may be biased, but there is something deeply refreshing about hearing a brilliant modern woman speak frankly about all the experiences, taboos, and general double standards that come packaged with a set of ovaries with refreshing,  hilarious and brutal candidness. Thankfully, these days  it seems as though female comedians are getting more of the attention and praise they deserve, and there is therefore a plethora of performers and formats to choose from.

Here I present a list of a few funny women and their funny books. Most are available from the library in print, but as the resident audio-book evangelist allow me to spread the gospel and sing it from the hills—it is one thing to watch one of your favorite comedians on YouTube, but to spend hours listening to them reading their own memoirs is a whole other experience. Not only do you get a chance to hear the author perform impressions, crack-up at their own jokes, or sometimes tear up over an old memory, many authors insert little aside commentaries for the exclusive pleasure of audio listeners.

 

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer amyschumer

Unless you’ve been living under a pop-culture rock for the past few years, then you have also had the pleasure of hearing or seeing Amy Schumer perform. Aside from being a critically-praised stand-up comedian, she wrote and starred in last year’s film Trainwreck, and has been featured on numerous TV shows and films. Her new book shares hilarious, and often touching stories from her life in her characteristic unflinchingly candid style.

Not sold yet? Check out this hilarious excerpt from Vogue magazine.  

Not That Kind of Girl; A Young Woman Tell You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham  dunham

Lena Dunham is one of those young women who are so accomplished at such a young age that you almost want to hate them…… except that her special brand of self-defecating humour and brazen attitude make it extremely hard to do so. In her first memoir, Dunham recounts stories from her childhood, sex life, and experiences navigating the milieu of everything in between.

 

Notaro

I’m Just a Person  by Tig Notaro

I’ve already talked about this one before, but I really really love Tig Notaro so here we go again.  Her new book talks about a span of only four months in 2012 where Notaro was hospitalized for a debilitating intestinal disease called C. diff, her mother unexpectedly died, she went through a breakup, and then she was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. She then took her grief onstage to become one of the most intimate, and startling stand-ups out there today. For more information on her story, and the way her comedy has changed since that fateful period of time, I highly recommend checking out this great interview she recently gave with The Guardian. 

Bossypants by Tina Fey bossypants

What I liked most about listening to Bossypants (aside from her hilarious bonus audio commentary) was learning  more about her process breaking into the comedy scene in the 90’s and 2000’s, working at SNL, and the struggles she encountered as a woman in the field. Fey is classy, clever and funny as hell. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend it.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

kaling Whenever I read Kaling’s work I feel as though I’m having a glass of wine with an old friend and giggling over the absurdities of our lives. Admittedly I haven’t had the chance to read Kaling’s newest book, however I loved her first collection of essays Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? , and the audio version of Why Not Me? features guest appearances by other Office legends like B.J. Novak–so I have faith.

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Yes Please! By Amy Poehler 

The Bedwetter;  Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Seriously–I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres

Are You There Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea. By Chelsea Handler

 

-Mikale Fenton

 

And the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Goes to…

glorious…Lisa McInerney for her debut novel Glorious Heresies*Glorious Heresies is a darkly comic novel about an accidental murder and its effects on four misfits.  The Telegraph raves, “The Glorious Heresies is a spectacular debut by Lisa McInerney. Tough and tender, gothic and lyrical, it is a head-spinning, stomach-churning state-of-the-nation novel about a nation falling apart.”  We’ve got the title on order in our catalogue, so you can place your hold now.  We’ve also got some suggestions for what you should read while you wait.

greenroadIf you like Irish fiction…

I’d recommend three Irish heavyweights:  Anne Enright, Edna O’Brien and Belinda McKeon.  Enright’s latest novel, The Green Road*, was also shortlisted for the Baileys this year (and was the favourite to win).  It is a moving tale about an aging mother whose children have all left the west of Ireland for greener pastures, and her decision to sell the family home.

nestIf you want to read an entertaining debut novel…

Why not read Cynthia d’Aprix’s The NestThe Plumb siblings are a mess: emotionally and financially.  They are counting on ‘the nest’ – an inheritance from their father –  to put things right.  When coked up Leo Plumb gets in a car accident, his mother bails him out using the funds from the nest.  Can the others get their lives together?

psychoIf you’re in the mood for dark comedy…

American Psycho is one of the best.  Patrick Bateman is a success on Wall Street by day and a heartless killer by night.  He has a keen eye for detail, which he brings to both brand names and torture.  A seriously dark commentary on the excesses of 1980s New York City.  It was also recently a popular off-Broadway musical. Because, why not?

marvelsIf you want a book about misfits…

I’d go for Leslie Parry’s The Church of MarvelsIt’s the tale of four misfits in 1890s New York, and the intersections between their lives.  Odile is determined to find her missing sister Belle; Sylvan is a privy cleaner who finds a baby and is determined to find the child’s mother; and Alphie finds herself imprisoned in a lunatic asylum with a woman who does not speak.

Happy Reading, and congratulations to Lisa McInerney!

-Patricia

*Thank you as always to NetGalley and Edelweiss for ARCs of these titles.

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist Predictions

bessieEvery year I watch my sister eagerly await the Oscar nominated films while I look on blankly (because I only watch maybe 5 films a year not based on comic books).  [Side note:  Deadpool is really good fun.]  She and I share the same love of awards, we just direct our love to different awards.  Mine is quite obviously directed toward literary awards, and my favourite award of all is the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.  The award “celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world” and very often introduces me to new and exciting writers.

The 20-book longlist will be announced tomorrow, but I thought it would be fun to try and predict the longlisted titles today.  Here’s what I’ve come up with (in no particular order):

  1.  Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
  2. Martin John by Anakana Schofield
  3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  4. The Green Road by Anne Enright
  5. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
  6. The Past by Tessa Hadley
  7. Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
  8. The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
  9. Girl at War by Sara Novic
  10. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
  11. The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
  12. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
  13. Exposure by Helen Dunmore
  14. The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela
  15. Gold Fame Citrus by Clare Vaye Watkins
  16. The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
  17. Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
  18. Pillars of Light by Jane Johnson
  19. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
  20. Under the Visible Life by Kim Echlin

Tomorrow we’ll see how good I am at this.  I’m very interested in hearing any predictions you might have.  Sound off in the comments below.

-Patricia

 

 

And the winner of the Baileys Women

…will be announced this Wednesday, June 3rd.

I can’t wait to hear who this year’s winner is and have my fingers crossed that it’s either Laline Paull or Rachel Cusk.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to finish all six shortlisted titles. (My husband ended up reading How to be Both and my mother ended up reading A God in Every Stone instead.  Both titles are still on my bedside table waiting.)

I can’t be at the fantastic Baileys bash that Heidi it throwing tomorrow, and so I wanted to share my favourite quotes from the shortlisted titles with you here.

outlineFrom Outline:

“But everything falls away, try as you might to stop it. And for whatever returns to you, be grateful.”

“Most of didn’t know how truly good or truly bad we were, and most of us would never be sufficiently tested to find out.”

“As it happened, I was no longer interested in literature as a form of snobbery or even self-definition. I had no desire to prove that one book was better than another; in fact, if I read something I admired, I found myself increasingly disinclined to mention it at all. What I knew personally to be true had come to seem unrelated to the process of persuading others. I did not, any longer, want to persuade anyone of anything.”

spoolFrom A Spool of Blue Thread

“The thing about caller ID is,” Red said, more or less to himself, “it seems a little like cheating. A person should be willing to take his chances, answering the phone.”

“You’re only ever as happy as your least happy child.”

beesFrom The Bees:

“You have wings and courage and a brain. Do not annoy me by asking permission.” -Lily 500

“Accept.  Obey.  Serve.”

payingFrom The Paying Guests

“As far as Frances was concerned, gardening was simply open-air housework.”

“Some things are so frightful that a bit of madness is the only sane response. You know that, don’t you?”

cupcakesThe Party

Be sure to come to our Baileys Women’s Prize party tomorrow night from 7 – 8:30.  There will be prizes!  and cupcakes!

–Patricia

Image via

Baileys Women’s Prize Shortlist: Battle of the Darlings

June third is fast approaching and I’m two-thirds of the way through this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize Shortlist.  For the past two week’s I’ve been reading two titles by beloved authors, Anne Tyler and Sarah WatersLet the battle begin!

spoolA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Why is she a darling?  Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist with 20 novels to her name who has twice been shortlisted for the Orange Prize.  She is perhaps best known for The Accidental Tourist (later made into a film starring Geena Davis), though my favourite novel of hers is Digging to America.

What’s this book about?  Like most of Tyler’s work, A Spool of Blue Thread centres around the the life of an everyday American family.  Abby and Red Whitshank are getting on in years and decisions must be made about what to do with the house, which was built by Red’s father.

What keeps you reading?  Tyler does an excellent job of writing memorable characters who feel authentic, the Whitshanks are no different.  The digressive section on Red’s parents courtship was particularly entertaining.

Verdict:  While I thoroughly enjoyed A Spool of Blue Thread, the narrative is less coherent than Tyler’s other works and therefore less satisfying.  If you’re a Tyler fan already, read it.  If you are new to her work, there are better starting points.

vs.

payingThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Why is she a darling?  Waters is known for writing Victorian novels featuring lesbian protagonists.  She was twice shortlisted for the Orange Prize.  Her best known works are Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet.

What’s this book about?  Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter Frances take in a married couple as lodgers to make ends meet.  Frances becomes quite close to the wife, Lilian.

What keeps you reading?  The early stages of the novel paint an affecting portrait of female friendship.  Midway through, it becomes a crime drama.  I kept reading to see how (and if) the main characters’ relationship would survive.

Verdict:  As with Tyler, I don’t find this to be Waters’ best work.  I found the melding of two genres readable but ultimately unsatisfying.  If you are new to her work, I’d pick up Fingersmith or another early work instead.

The Winner

While I enjoyed A Spool of Blue Thread more than The Paying Guests, I found the latter harder to put down.  In the end, I’m still routing for Rachel Cusk’s Outline or Laline Paull’s The Bees to take home Bessie on June 3rd.

Registration is now open for our Baileys Women’s Prize Party on June 3rd.  The party will celebrate the Baileys’ Women’s Prize for Fiction and will feature readings from the shortlisted books, drinks, refreshments, and prizes! You can register via our event calendar here: http://bit.ly/1E5jyEw

–Patricia