Eimear McBride, who struggled for years to find a publisher for her debut novel before it went on to win a host of prizes, has been shortlisted for the Goldsmiths award for her second, The Lesser Bohemians.
McBrideâ€™s stream-of-consciousness debut, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, was rejected by most of the major publishers before it found a home with small independent Galley Beggar Press almost a decade after it was written. The novel won the inaugural Goldsmiths prize in 2013, the Baileys and the Desmond Elliott. The Lesser Bohemians is McBrideâ€™s second book, this time about a young Irish girlâ€™s relationship with an older actor in London. It was published this month by Faber & Faber.
It is one of six works of fiction, chosen from 111 submissions, in the running for the Â£10,000 Goldsmiths prize, which goes to â€œfiction at its most novelâ€, and to works that judges feel embody â€œthe spirit of invention that characterises the novel genre at its bestâ€.
McBride is up against Rachel Cusk, shortlisted for her story of a writer and her two sons moving to London, Transit, and Deborah Levy, picked for her Booker-shortlisted novel about a mother and a daughter in Spain, Hot Milk.
Just one male writer makes the shortlist: Mike McCormack, chosen for Solar Bones, set on All Souls Day in the west of Ireland just before the recession. In a Guardian review, Ian Sansom called it â€œexceptional indeed: an extraordinary novel by a writer not yet famous but surely destined to be acclaimed by anyone who believes that the novel is not dead and that novelists are not merely lit-fest fodder for the metropolitan middle classesâ€.
Solar Bones, published by Tramp Press, is one of three novels on the shortlist from tiny independent publishers. Sarah Ladipo Manyikaâ€™s Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, about an ageing Nigerian woman in San Francisco whose independence is curtailed by a fall, is published by Cassava Republic, while Anakana Schofieldâ€™s Martin John, detailing the life of an eccentric, sinister loner, is published by And Other Stories.
Chair of judges Blake Morrison, professor of creative and life writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, said that the list was arrived at by him and his fellow judges, the writers Bernardine Evaristo, Erica Wagner and Joanna Walsh, â€œwithout rancour or compromiseâ€, and â€œdemonstrates the healthy state of British and Irish fiction todayâ€.
â€œInnovative novels used to suffer from the stigma of â€˜difficultyâ€™ but one thing weâ€™ve learned, since the prize was launched four years ago, is what a large and responsive readership they reach,â€ Morrison said.
Previously won by Ali Smith and Kevin Barry as well as McBride, the prize was established in 2013 in association with the New Statesman â€œto reward fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel formâ€, and is open to works by authors from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. This yearâ€™s winner will be announced on 9 November.