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Women's fiction prize shortlist

Published 13/04/2015

The Bees by Laline Paull, which is in the running for this year's Women's Prize For Fiction (Amanda Johnson PR)
The Bees by Laline Paull, which is in the running for this year's Women's Prize For Fiction (Amanda Johnson PR)
Campaign group Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti is the chair of judges for this year's Women's Prize For Fiction

A writer's first novel - the story of a lowly bee - has been shortlisted for this year's Women's Prize For Fiction.

Laline Paull, 51, is up for the prize alongside established names such as Tipping The Velvet writer Sarah Waters, for The Paying Guests, and Scottish author Ali Smith for How To Be Both.

A "thriller", The Bees tells the story of a beehive from the point of view of Flora 717, a female ''mutant'' bee and sanitation worker.

Paull penned her first novel at the age of seven but did not attempt another until she ''became obsessed'' with bees.

In the meantime, she built up a career as a screenwriter and playwright.

''You could honestly not invent the world of the beehive. It's like a hall of mirrors of our society,'' the London-born author previously told The Herald.

''As I read, I discovered that the truth really is stranger than fiction, that a beehive is a matriarchal society that hasn't changed in 40,000 years.''

She began reading about bees after a beekeeper friend she had met at a community choir died at a young age from cancer.

The novel took its author 14 months to write.

Six authors have been shortlisted for the award, previously known as the Orange prize and now in its 20th year.

They include Waters, who is favourite to win according to bookmakers William Hill, for her novel set in 1922.

At 74, US writer Anne Tyler is the oldest author on the list and has been shortlisted for her 20th novel A Spool of Blue Thread.

The other shortlisted authors are British writer Rachel Cusk, for her eighth novel Outline, and British-Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie for her sixth novel A God in Every Stone.

Chair of the judges, campaign group Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: "The novels we shared and the shortlist we ultimately honour form a body of great women's writing to entertain and inspire for many years to come."

The winner of the prize, open to all women writing in English, receives £ 30,000, and will be announced at a ceremony in London on June 3.

Previous winners include Zadie Smith for On Beauty (2006), Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2005) and last year's recipient Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2014).

:: The shortlist with odds from William Hill

Rachel Cusk, Outline (5/1)

Laline Paull, The Bees (6/1)

Kamila Shamsie, A God in Every Stone (6/1)

Ali Smith, How To Be Both (3/1)

Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread (5/1)

Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests (2/1)

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