What better day to announce the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction than a day that women are celebrated all over the world, International Women’s Day? This year, out of 189 submissions, 16 books were longlisted with only three debut writers in the list; Fiona Melrose’s Midwinter, Emma Flint’s Little Deaths, and Nigeria’s own Ayòbámi Adebayo’s Stay With Me.
Set in 80’s Nigeria, Ayobami Adebayo’s debut novel, Stay With Me, is a “devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood.” It tells the story of Yejide and Akin, a married couple whose longing for a child almost tore them apart.
In an interview with the Guardian, Adebayo revealed that she started writing the novel in 2010 while she was a banker in Lagos, Nigeria. But the long working hours did not do much for her in terms of writing, so she’d write down ideas and paragraphs on her phone while stuck in traffic. “Then on Saturdays, when I had some time, I would transfer them to my laptop. The story kept on pushing and eventually I left banking and went to do my MA at the UEA,” she said.
An ecstatic Adebayo who only found out the news of her nomination this morning went on social media to express her joy. “OH MY GOD!!!!!! I’m so STUNNED and HONOURED to be in such wonderful company!” she tweeted. “I snoozed the alarm for about two hours this morning and woke up to the news. I might snooze the alarm FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE,” she added.
Adebayo studied Literature in English at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. She holds an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia where she was awarded an international bursary for Creative Writing. Although she has been writing for a while with some of her short stories published in magazines and anthropologies, Stay With Me is the young writer’s first novel. The book has nothing but great reviews so far, and a nod from such a prestigious book award pretty much seals the deal. Adebayo is a writer to look out for.
The Baileys prize is UK’s most prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman. It celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women around the world. Past winners include Chimamanda Adichie in 2007 for Half Of A Yellow Sun, and Zadie Smith in 2006 for her book, On Beauty.