Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Judges Q&A: Laura Bates
How have you found the experience of reading women’s fiction back to back for the past few months?
An absolutely wonderful privilege - the variety and strength of the work submitted for this year's prize was breathtaking - the hardest part has been having to choose!
What’s it been like having to read so many books in such a short space of time?
Quite a strange, new experience for me - I have found that reading so many books so close together has forced them into sharper relief and made the elements which are unusual or surprising stand out more clearly from the crowd. It has also allowed me to appreciate the themes that unite so many of the books, from exploring mental health to the impact of domestic abuse.
Have there been any surprises in the books that you’ve read? OR Have there been any surprises along the way?
I've really enjoyed the surprises in perspective that many of the books have presented - exploring a well-trodden issue from a new and unexpected angle. There have also been some books with fantastically written twists that wrench the reader around with such a shock that they have to re-assess everything they have read so far!
Have you noticed any particular themes coming through in the books that you’ve read?
Yes - I've been particularly impressed with the detailed and thoughtful treatment of issues around mental health, dementia, domestic abuse, and the cumulative impact of different forms of prejudice, including racism, sexism and class inequality.
Have you always loved reading?
Yes, very much. I was a voracious reader as a child and devoured young adult fiction.
Was there one particular book that gave you the reading bug?
Everything by Malorie Blackman!
What’s the best book you’ve ever been given, and who gave it to you?
I fell in love with Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series after my teacher Mrs Mott gave me the first book in the series at school when I was 7 years old.
Do you have a favourite book by a female author that you’ve given to friends and family as a gift?