Of course, it was Baileys List then. Now it is simply Women’s Prize for Fiction. And the last Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced last week on the 8th of June 2017[check out the details here]. Also check out the highlights from the awards party here. But then sponsors come and go but the prize remains the same. This prize was born out of Man Booker list of 1991 and the lack of female writers. It has a checkered reception since then – sometimes glorified, sometimes vilified but the essential idea of the prize remains unchanged that is to bring to the forefront works of women and giving them a platform to share their stories.When the list was announced I admit I was surprised that Atwood was edged out by newer writers. But then most prizes surprise me with their lists because they constantly challenge my perception of literature and publication. So, there you have it – the Baileys announcement in two days, six books to read and a completely free weekend. Yes, I know you can see where this is going.
Time – 48 hours
Books to read:
Stay with Me – Ayobami Adebayo
Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thein
The Power – Naomi Alderman
The Sport of Kings – C.E.Morgan
The Dark Circle – Linda Grant
First Love – Gwendoline Riley
Deadline – 8th June 2017, 7 p.m.
The game is afoot!
6th June 2017
Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
When I read the first line “I must leave this city today and come to you”, it seemed the yearning of the novel jumped out to grab my attention and my heart. Yes, I know emotional and corny but bear with me. You cannot walk through the pages of this novel without being intensely wrung out of your empathy. Margaret Atwood called this novel ‘scorching’ and it seems the perfect word to describe not only the events of the life of Yejide but also the effect it has on the reader. The first person narrative makes this effect even more intense.
“Even then, I could sense that they had come prepared for war” – the first lines of Yejide’s remembrance of her past sets the tone for the novel. Stay with me focuses on Yejide’s yearning for motherhood. Through her eyes we see the social context of the Nigerian community and the veneration of motherhood to which all else is considered secondary. As Yejide says quoting her Moomi, it is okay for a woman to be a bad wife but not a bad mother. By using this central theme, Adebayo focuses on the identity of a woman and the perceptions attached to it.
Seriously, Akin actually convinced his brother to sleep with Yejide so as to have children. Yes, reader you can imagine Yejide’s betrayal. I mean, really, you cannot man up and you let her suffer at the hands of her relatives and your mother, even marry another woman. I mean all that lengths you go to preserve your masculinity and let Yejide bear the pain of your own impotence.
Olamide and Sesan will make you cry. Yejide’s suffering will make you forget the world outside as you mourn and suffer alongside. This was the pinnacle of Adebayo’s achievement – she transmits the grief of Yejide with such a masterful touch that you feel teary as you see her losing her children to sickle cell disease.
Rotimi – timi –
Yejide’s refrain remains in your mind as the novel finishes with a certain ray of sunshine tinged with a hint of sadness. This is because Adebayo has furnished a narrative of such pathos that it weighs on you even though her story achieves a semblance of hope at the end. Warning – you might want to keep a few tissues on hand.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The viral video reads something out of a science fiction thriller. The story reminds me of Pizan’s city of the ladies. Interesting where did Roxy go and how does she connect to Tunde and his filming of the video.
Alice story gives me chills. The voice in her head is an interesting device added by Alderman. Through this device, Alderman reimagines the myth of Adam and Eve especially reimagining the story of Eve and appropriating it for the philosophy of The Power.
[sleepy but cannot put the book down]
The Hand of Fatima – traditionally known as hamsa which is a symbol of the female and represents protection and power in the face of the evil eye.
Alderman’s another brilliant appropriations which becomes the symbol of the new movement – the movement of the power of the female. The revolution is pretty cool especially the Moldova scene where abused women pass on power from one to another and then rise up to revolt.
Careful Roxy, careful Roxy
The inclusion of the character of Tunde as one of the main protagonists alongside Margot, Roxy, Alice, Tatiana works very well in the novel. It gives you an unusual point of contrast to the novel dominated by women and then marginalization of men. By making Tunde a chronicler of the movement and by making him a male character – Alderman carefully weaves in an alternate view making sure that the readers see the good, the bad and the ugly as they read on.
Why are they degenerating? Why are they stumbling into chaos? I was expecting you to be smarter and better.
The end of the novel could have been better. I was expecting a more strong finish considering how the novel began and gained momentum. It seems Alderman was in a hurry to finish it. The idea of revolutions turning into reigns of terror is a good strategy but it seemed forced and a little out of keeping with the kind of narrative that was being built by Alderman. Still, the idea of the book is refreshing and ground breaking and I would definitely recommend it to everyone.
That’s all for tonight folks!