1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Baileys Prize goes to darkly funny look at Irish underworld

Elizabeth SchumacherJune 8, 2016

A novelist renowned for her honest representations of working-class Irish life was awarded the most prestigious prize for English-language fiction written by women. Judges praised McInerney as "a fresh new voice."

London Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Award Lisa McInerney
Image: picture-alliance/AP Images/V. Le Caer

Irish writer Lisa McInerney was awarded the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction on Wednesday for her novel "The Glorious Heresies." The book tells the story of a group of outcasts struggling to cope with the realities of post-financial crisis Ireland.

The themes may be familiar to fans of McInerney well-known blog, "The Arse End of Ireland," which documented, among other things, the harsh realities of life in Galway leading up to and following the global financial crisis. Written under her online pseudonym "SwearyLady," the blog offered an unflinching look at life for working-class Irish people in Galway as a spiral of debt threatened to ruin the country.

"The Glorious Heresies" takes a similarly uncompromising view of the Cork city underworld, and features as its heroes a gangster, a teenage drug dealer, a prostitute and a murderer all scraping by in the aftermath of Ireland's economic woes.

Margaret Mountford, who led the panel of judges, hailed McInerney as a "fresh new voice," before the writer received her award – 30,000 pounds ($43,500) and a bronze statue known as the "Bessie."

"After a passionate discussion around a very strong shortlist, we chose Lisa McInerney's The Glorious Heresies, a superbly original, compassionate novel that delivers insights into the very darkest of lives through humour and skilful storytelling. A fresh new voice and a wonderful winner," said Mountford, according to the prize's website.

The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (originally known as the Orange Prize) has become one of the most prestigious awards for English-language literature since its inception in 1996. Among its past recipients are Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

McInerney faced stiff competition from Hawaiian writer Hanya Yanagihara epic "A Little Life," Elizabeth McKenzie's "The Portable Veblen," Cynthia Bond's "Ruby," Hannah Rothschild's "The Improbability of Love," and "The Green Road," by Anne Enright, which won the event's competition for best first chapter.