Ali Smith wins the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
Tonight, Ali Smith's How to be Both was announced as the winner of the £30,000 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.
Following a unique dual-narrative, How to be Both differs depending on which edition you buy. In some copies, the story of a teenage girl called George dealing with the death of her mother begins the novel while in others the opening chapter follows Italian renaissance artist, Francesco del Cossa. The plot remains the same across editions but your understanding of the novel changes depending on the character order you're presented with. In lesser hands, the conceit would fall apart under itself but Smith handles the idea beautifully.
"I’m exceptionally pleased to see Smith’s novel recognised by the Baileys," said Chris White, Waterstones Fiction Buyer. "Constantly inventive, hugely original, endlessly rewarding and immensely entertaining, How to Be Both is one of the finest novels to have emerged in years."
The book has already won the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize, the Saltire Literary Book of the Year and the 2014 Costa Novel Award as well as being shortlisted for both the Man Booker and Folio Prizes. This is, by any measure, a strong vote of confidence.
“Ancient and modern meet and speak to each other in this tender, brilliant and witty novel of grief, love, sexuality and shape-shifting identity,” said Shami Chakrabarti, Chair of Judges.
Now in its twentieth year, the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction is the only annual book award that solely celebrates fiction written by women.
This year's shortlist was particularly strong. Amongst the selected titles were two of our own Book Club picks, The Bees by Laline Paull and Kamila Shamsie's A God in Every Stone. Also nominated were perennial Waterstones favourites Anne Tyler and Sarah Waters.
The full 2015 shortlist (and extracts where available) was:
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler