The Shortlist For The 2016 Baileys Prize For Fiction

ELLE's literary editor disects the list

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The shortlist for the 2016 Baileys Prize For Fiction has been announced featuring three debut novelists and one author whose been shortlisted before.

The six books in the running for the big prize on 8 June are:

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

The Green Road by Anne Enright

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

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That means three American writers, two Irish and one flying the flag for Britain. The shortlist covers quirky love stories, epic tales of friendship, heartbreak and violence in Texas and misfits in Ireland.

I’m particularly excited to see The Portable Veblen make the shortlist, a book we featured in our debuts to look out for list in January. A charming, smart, quirky novel of love, medical ethics and squirrels, if you’ve not read any of the list yet, I suggest you start there.

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A Little Life has not been short of press attention and is set to continue to be the Marmite-book of the year. It’s not to my taste but I know a lot of people who would mark it as the book to beat.

Top of my to-read list is Cynthia Bond’s Ruby, which was a mega-hit in the US after being part of Oprah’s book club.

The judges, chaired by ex-The Apprentice Margaret Mountford, announced the shortlist at a party at the Southbank last night and the winner (who gets £30 000 and a limited edition “Bessie” statue) will be revealed in June.

Below are the official synposes for the six shortlisted books but we’ll be reading them here at ELLE and giving our verdict on our favourite and predictions before the ceremony.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond (Two Roads)

Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East-Texas town. For Ruby Bell, Liberty was a place of devastating violence from which she fled to seedy, glamorous 1950s New York.

Years later, pulled back home, thirty-year-old Ruby is faced with the seething hatred of a town desperate to destroy her. Witnessing her struggle, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

The Green Road by Anne Enright (Vintage)

The children of Rosaleen Madigan leave the west of Ireland for lives they never could have imagined, in Dublin, New York and various third-world towns. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray)

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with this unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight…

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The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (Fourth Estate)

Meet Veblen: a passionate defender of the anti-consumerist views of her name-sake, the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen. She’s an experienced cheerer-upper (mainly of her narcissistic, hypochondriac, controlling mother), an amateur translator of Norwegian, and a firm believer in the distinct possibility that the plucky grey squirrel following her around can understand more than it lets on.

Meet her fiancé, Paul: the son of good hippies who were bad parents, a no-nonsense, high-flying neuroscientist with no time for squirrels. His recent work on a device to minimize battlefield trauma has led him dangerously close to the seductive Cloris Hutmacher, heiress to a pharmaceuticals empire, who is promising him fame and fortune through a shady-sounding deal with the Department of Defence. What could possibly go wrong?

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild (Bloomsbury)

When lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unsuitable man, she has no idea what she has discovered. Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, populated by exiled Russian oligarchs, avaricious Sheikas, desperate auctioneers and unscrupulous dealers, all scheming to get their hands on her painting – a lost eighteenth-century masterpiece called ‘The Improbability of Love’. Delving into the painting’s past, Annie will uncover not just an illustrious list of former owners, but some of the darkest secrets of European history – and in doing so she might just learn to open up to the possibility of falling in love again.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador)

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel painter pursuing fame in the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented lawyer yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by a degree of trauma that he fears he will not only be unable to overcome – but that will define his life forever.

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