I’ve always enjoyed reading. From a young age I loved going to my local bookshop with my Mum to sift through the new arrivals and carefully select a new novel to take home, my favourite as a child being The Tales of Olga Da Polga – anyone else remember that book? I must have read it 15 times.
I guess being such a big reader when I was younger is what lead me to write as an adult, so I owe a lot to all those books and their talented authors. But I have to admit, over the past few years I’ve failed to take the time to read. I read books occasionally, but not as much as I used to. When I was 28 I made a vow to read 100 new books before I turned 30, but I only made it through 34 novels. Not only am I working around a jam packed schedule, but I feel as though I am choosing to do much less important things with time that could be spent reading. Train journeys are spent catching up on Snapchat stories, and my nighttime routine now involves a twenty minute scroll through Instagram before bed. Thats pretty disgusting when you think about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE social media, but these were the times I used to read! I used to look forward to my commute because it meant I could return to whichever adventure I was on, even if I had to do it standing up, holding a railing with an armpit in my face – I didn’t care. Realising that I am now opting to spend this time looking at flat lays of salads and images of coffe art, is quite disappointing.
But that is about to change!
You may remember last year on this blog I covered the Baileys Prize for Women in Fiction; a prize that celebrates the brilliance and originality of women’s writing from around the globe. It’s one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world of Fiction and I love being a part of it, even if it’s just applauding from the sidelines. Well, it’s that time again, and Baileys recently announced the shortlist, sending me a copy of the six shortlisted books, along with a bottle of their finest Irish cream and some scrumptious looking marshmallows.
With the awards normally taking place in June, I have decided that May is to be the month I’m going to read. I’m not sure I will get through all six books, but I’m going to damn well try. I plan to not only use my tube journeys wisely, but this month I am looking forward to spending a good majority of my evenings curled up with these books and a glass of Baileys on ice. I love books and I love to read, it’s an escapism, so I feel it’s REALLY important to get back into regular reading and I’m aiming for the Baileys Prize short list to help me do that.
So lets take a look at what adventures I’ll be going on, characters I’ll be meeting, and the clever authors are up for the big prize…
Synopsis: 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.
Synopsis: A darkly glinting novel set on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, The Green Road is a story of fracture and family, selfishness and compassion – a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we learn to fill them.
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.
Synopsis: 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…
Synopsis: 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?
Synopsis: 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.
Synopsis: 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.
Fancy joining me in escaping this May with Books & Baileys? All books are available to purchase in paperback and ebook format. I’m kicking off the month with The Green Door. I can’t wait to join in the debate over which book & author should be crowned the winner.
For more info on the Baileys Prize, head to www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk
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