On Monday night I had the pleasure of attending the Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction Best Of The Best Live – AKA choosing the winning book from the prize’s ten winning books of the past decade – at London’s Piccadilly Theatre.
The Bailey’s Prize is my favourite of all the book prizes – its list of winners (and all of the associated shortlists, for that matter) read like a list of all books you’d give to your best friends, such are their spirit, warmth, and wisdom.
This was the second Best Of The Best, as the prize has been running for twenty magnificent years. Some of the ten books I’d read: A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride – fantastic; How To Be Both by Ali Smith – in my opinion, not so fantastic, some I hadn’t: The Song Of Achilles by Madeleine Miller and The Road Home by Rose Tremain, and one I’m currently reading: Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Even as I walked into the theatre, I had a sneaking suspicion that the latter would win.
The evening was compered by the glorious Kate Mosse, and each of the head judges from the past ten years took to the stand to make a case for the book that had won in their year. Each was followed by a reading – and what readings they were. Stanley Tucci, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Sia Kiwa and Sheila Hancock OBE took turns to read their favourite passages from the ten books, but my favourite had to be Puwanarajah’s recital of A. M. Holmes’s May We Be Forgiven; so much so, in fact, that the title is next on my reading list.
Seeing so many fantastic female head judges (Fi Glover, Joanna Trollope, and Shami Chakrabarti to name a few) in the flesh was one of those moments that won’t fail to raise a smile when I look back on it, and the passion with which they spoke about their titles was awe-inspiring.
After two hours, Half Of A Yellow Sun was declared the winner of Best Of The Best, and even though I’m only 302 pages in, I can see why. Read it!