Thursday 4 June 2015

"How to be both" by Ali Smith - winner of Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015

Ali Smith has been announced as the winner of the 2015 Baileys prize for her experimental novel How to be both. The book is split into two sections; one following the spirit of the Renaissance painter Francesco del Cossa as he explores the modern world, and the other focusing on troubled teenager George.

Shami Chakrabarti, Chair of Judges said “There are universal themes about grief, loss, exploration of gender, but also contemporary issues like technology, surveillance, pornography. It is very, very accessible on the one hand, but also great art”. She described Smith as a James Joyce or Virginia Woolf of our time.

How to be both begins as a poem, changes to standard paragraphs, then goes back again to a poem. There are two versions of the novel, one starting with del Cossa, the other with George, as she struggles to make sense of the recent death of the mother who had taken her to see the artist’s frescoes. The plot remains the same but your understanding of the novel changes depending on the character order you're presented with.

The shortlisted titles were:

Rachel Cusk – Outline
Laline Paull – The Bees
Kamila Shamsie – A God in Every Stone
Ali Smith – How to be Both
Anne Tyler – A Spool of Blue Thread
Sarah Waters – The Paying Guests

The award was won in 2014 by Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. Other winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun, Zadie Smith for On Beauty and by Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin. The prize, until 2012 known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, sets out to reward excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women from throughout the world.

No comments: