Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction: First Love - Gwendoline Riley

RATING: ★★★★★

First Love is a short listed Baileys Women's Prize novel and very different from the other two novels that I finished: Stay With Me and The Power

First Love is the story of Neve and her unhealthy relationship with her husband Edwyn. In minimalistic writing, Gwendoline Riley explores the marriage and how financial troubles, insecurity and age difference influences the couple. 

The plot summary of this novel is short, because this is not an action driven book. First Love is all about emotions, relationships and how characters can develop themselves. While the writing is minimalistic, it is incredibly power and Riley is able to convey the emotions of her characters perfectly. Edwyn is constantly emotionally abusive at Neve and I felt the impact of his comments on her every single time. Due to the simple use of words and minimal descriptions, I was really able to place myself in every situation the characters were in.

First Love is not revolutionary in its concept like The Power is. This is a story about an unhealthy relationship and a woman who is too scared / financially dependent to leave it. Unfortunately, it's a tale as old as time, but the amazing writing really makes this story stand out. It's simple, yet extremely emotional, which I think is the point of literature.

There's no point writing a long review about this novel. The plot of the story is almost irrelevant - it's about the writing and the emotion hidden in it. It shows the beauty of books; how they can transport you to any world and any character at the skilful touch of a talented writer. This is one of those books you just have to pick up - I recommend every single one of you to read this novel and experience this writing.

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction: The Power by Naomi Alderman

RATING: ★★★★☆

It's a few days until the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction is announced! And though I didn't manage to read all the books - which will be explained in a future review - I'm taking these last few days to reviews the books of the long and short list that I did read.

After Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, I read The Power by Naomi Alderman. Both are now on the short list and are in the running to win the Baileys Prize this week.

The Power takes place in a future world where teenage girls suddenly realise they have the ability to send a sort of electric shock to people. This power varies from girl to girl, but it means that suddenly girls are the stronger sex and are able to overpower men whenever they want to. This changes the dynamic of the world and overthrows gender relationships as we know it.

Naomi Alderman follows several narrators; Roxy, the daughter of a thug whose power makes her rise among the ranking of her father's business; Tunde, a boy who travels around the world reporting on the events invoked by the power; Margot, a mayor who discovers that her daughter possess the power and is torn between her position and her loyalty to her family; and Allie, one of the most powerful girls in the novel who explores the relationship between the power and religion. While I often struggle with several narrators, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. We follow them over a long period of time and really get to know them and the changes the power brings into their lives. As expected, this is different for every single girl, and boy, and it is interesting to see how these teenagers are influenced.

The author really manages to show a complex dimension of gender relationships. So much of our current society is based on the fact that men are inherently physically stronger, or feel stronger, than women. They feel powerful and women often feel scared - for example, we don't want to walk alone in the dark or feel uncomfortable if someone is following us. By making all teenage girls stronger than any man, Alderman explores how this influences the psyche of men and women. As expected, this is turbulent and I was pleased that this novel never showed an utopia view of this reverse society. In any society where somewhere has significantly more strength than someone else, issues will occur and the women make some dramatic changes throughout the years.

While I enjoyed the concept and character development of this novel, the writing didn't grip me like the writing of Stay With Me did. I can imagine a lot of people prefer The Power because of its innovative and original concept, but I still can't shake the feelings Stay With Me gave me. Personally, The Power veered on being too simplistic at times for me and there were certain parts which I wish were fleshed out or described more.

Overall, The Power is a fascinating read. Its plot is extremely interesting and fascinating and I could not stop reading this book once I picked this up. Anyone who reads this will really start to think about the gender dynamics and how our society works right now and how we could make it work better. Though maybe not my personal favourite, this book is extremely important and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction winner for 2017.

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist: Stay With Me - Ayobami Adebayo

RATING: ★★★★★

In a few days the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist will be announced, and in honour of that, I am kicking off my review section of the long list.

When this list was announced in early March, I knew I'd never be able to read all 16 books in a month, however I did read The Power by Naomi Alderman, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride  and the book I'm reviewing in this post - Stay With Me. Hopefully by June 7th, the day the winner is announced, I will have read the full long list, have discussed the shortlist in more detail over on my booktube page, and will be try to predict the winner!

I am starting off with Stay With Me because I finished this book today and it is impossible not to want to write about this novel.

The story follows Yejide and her marriage to Akin in 1980s Nigeria. They have been married for four years and their inability to conceive a child is blamed on Yejide. She tries everything, spiritually and medically, to get pregnant, but none of the solutions work. This puts a strain on their marriage and eventually her in-laws decide to introduce Yejide to Akin's second wife, Funmi, who he already secretly married. The second wife is traditionally believed to help the first wife get pregnant - one pregnant womb in the house should encourage another. However, Yejide is not traditional and does not accept this as part of her marriage.

Yejide's drive to look for solutions in a non-traditional way is exactly why I loved her so much. My knowledge of 1980s Nigeria is extremely limited, but the novel, due to amazing description by Ayobami Adebayo, easily sets the scene of the political struggle in the country. This struggle is also seen in the traditional gender roles that are slowly breaking down. While Akin is a respectful husband who encourages Yejide to get an education and haver her own career, his family is focused on her having a son. That's all she is reduced to - a good wife has children, if you don't have children, you're immediately a bad wife.

However, Yejide does not accept this. She keeps trying to conceive a child because she wants to, not because of pressure from the outside. And without spoiling the novel for anyone, Yejide goes through some awful events - events that were even too much for me at times and I usually love dark and twisted tales - and she handles herself with grace and strength. Whatever is thrown her way, Yejide knows how to respond and protect herself, and when needed also Akin. She is not a perfect character and she makes some bad decisions along the way, but I always understood and respected her thinking. There's not a person who can read this book and not root for Yejide and her journey.

Like I mentioned earlier, the writing in this book is phenomenal. Ayobami Adebayo seamlessly weaves together a tale of political unrest, familial drama and the struggles of a marriage. It never seems forced, all the characters are well rounded and every time I opened the book, I immediately saw the whole scene in front of me.

This is one of those books I dreaded finishing. Yejide and Akin felt so very real to me - they are both complex people, who have done some amazing and some awful things - and I just wanted to continue on the journey they were making. The ending was satisfactory, but I can never not want more when a book is so well written.

Ruby - Cynthia Bond/ Book Discussion and Giveaway!

Instead of reviewing the Baileys Women's Prize traditionally, I figured I'd use videos again. These book are so big that I just want to talk about them more than review them.

However, the give away is still on! Comment on any of the Baileys Women's Prize posts (for example this one) with what book you think will win. One winner will receive two shortlisted books of their choice. The give away is international, as long as book depository ships to your address.