A Q&A with Tracey Thorn

With just a week to go until this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist is announced, we grabbed a couple of minutes with one of our brilliant 2016 judges – singer, songwriter and columnist Tracey Thorn. We asked Tracey all about the judging process and what she’s looking for in a Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winning novel.

What are you looking for in a winning book?

Energy. Not necessarily in plot terms – I don’t need a book to be action-packed – but a sense of vitality or conviction.

Insight. A book that tells me something I don’t know, or didn’t know I thought, till I saw it written down.

Wit. An optional extra, not all books have it, but by God it helps.

If you had to use three words to summarise the judging of the Prize so far, what would they be?

Daunting, engaging, surprising.

Why did you want to judge the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction?

For a completely selfish reason – so that I could read novels all day long, and be able to say to anyone who asked me to do anything else, “I can’t, I’m afraid, I’m doing terribly important reading.”

If you could only have three books on your bookshelf what would they be?

Middlemarch – long, and I love it.

Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall – never fails to make me laugh.

War and Peace – long, and I have never read it.

What was the first book by a woman you loved?

As a child – The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton

As a teen – The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie

As an adult – Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf.

Want to find out more about this year’s brilliant panel of judges? Head to our 2016 judges section to find out about the inspiring women heading up the 2016 judging panel of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.