The widely-acclaimed book, Half of a Yellow Sun, by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been named the Bailey’s ‘Best of the Best’, chosen from the past decade’s winners of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Adichie’s 2007 prize-winning novel, set in 1960s Nigeria during the Biafran War, was judged ‘Best of the Best’ by the chairs of judges from the past 10 years: Martha Kearney, Muriel Gray, Kirsty Lang, Fi Glover, Daisy Goodwin, Bettany Hughes, Joanna Trollope OBE, Helen Fraser, Shami Chakrabarti CBE and Natasha Walter.
The announcement was made this evening (November 2nd) at an event hosted by Kate Mosse OBE, novelist and co-founder of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, at the Piccadilly Theatre in London.
Joined on stage by the chairs of the judging panels were actors Stanley Tucci, Sheila Hancock CBE, Prasanna Puwanarajah and Sia Kiwa, who read from each of the 10 prize-winning novels before the announcement.
Adichie said: “This is a prize I have a lot of respect and admiration for – over the years it’s brought wonderful literature to a wide readership that might not have found many of the books. I have a lot of respect for the books that have won in the past 10 years and also for the books that have been shortlisted – I feel I am in very good company. To be selected as ‘Best of the Best’ of the past decade is such an honour. I’m very grateful and very happy.”
Adichie will receive a special-edition Bessie statuette, cast in manganese bronze. Created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven, a bronze statuette known as the ‘Bessie’ is presented annually to each winner of the prize.
Adichie follows in the footsteps of Andrea Levy who was named winner of ‘Best of the Best’ of the prize’s first decade for her novel Small Island, which won the Women’s Prize in 2004.
Muriel Gray, author, broadcaster and journalist, and chair of judges in 2007 said: “While it’s sometimes pompous to call a book ‘important’, it’s appropriate to say it of Half of a Yellow Sun. For an author, so young at the time of writing, to have been able to tell a tale of such enormous scale in terms of human suffering and the consequences of hatred and division, whilst also gripping the reader with wholly convincing characters and spell binding plot, is an astonishing feat. Chimamanda’s achievement makes Half of a Yellow Sun not just a worthy winner of this most special of prizes, but a benchmark for excellence in fiction writing.”
The ‘Best of the Best’ prize announcement is the climax of celebrations marking 20 years of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which included a two-week collaboration with BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and a partnership with Waterstones.
Woman’s Hour also saw Half of a Yellow Sun chosen as the public’s ‘Best of the Best’ today (2nd November), after holding a separate vote for the public on its website.
The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was established in 1996 to celebrate and promote international fiction by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. The prize is awarded for the best novel of the year written by a woman.