Naomi Alderman has won the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel The Power.
A feminist thought experiment in which women develop the ability to kill men with a single touch, The Power was chosen from a shortlist of six including Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me, Linda Grant’s The Dark Circle, CE Morgan’s The Sport of Kings, Gwendoline Riley’s First Love and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
Tessa Ross, the film producer and executive who chaired this year’s judging panel, said she was “thrilled” by the decision. “We debated this wonderful shortlist for many hours but kept returning to Naomi Alderman’s brilliantly imagined dystopia — her big ideas and her fantastic imagination.”
The award comes at a time when dystopian fiction is in vogue, with modern classics such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four re-entering the bestseller lists and the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — a mentor of Alderman’s — winning large audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Power is dedicated to Atwood, who was paired with Alderman in 2012 as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. The fourth novel by the London-born Alderman, it was described in a review as “a thrilling narrative stuffed with provocative scenarios”.
The £30,000 Baileys Prize is awarded annually for the best full-length novel in English by a woman of any nationality. Set up in 1996 in response to perceived sexism in literary prizes, it was sponsored by mobile phone company Orange until 2012. Previous winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith and Ali Smith.
The name of the award is set to revert to the Women’s Prize for Fiction next year after Diageo, the drinks group that owns the Baileys brand of liqueur, opted not to renew its title sponsorship. Kate Mosse, the novelist and co-founder of the prize, said last month that the award was moving on to a “family of sponsors model” in which Diageo would continue to have some involvement.
Judging the prize alongside Ms Ross this year were the journalist Sam Baker, the presenter and broadcaster Katie Derham, the novelist and memoirist Aminatta Forna, and the comic and author Sara Pascoe.
The winner was announced on Wednesday evening at a ceremony in London’s Royal Festival Hall.