Gender balancing the books

On Wednesday night, hundreds of bottles of Baileys cream liqueur were doled out to eager partygoers, who also got a novel to thank them for turning up to celebrate what used to be called the Orange prize. For this year only, it was the Women’s prize for fiction and will henceforth take on the name of its new sponsor, who generously provided the aforementioned goody bag treat. The sponsorship announcement – made at the beginning of the week, ahead of the prize being awarded to AM Homes for her novel May We Be Forgiven – was greeted with a mixture of pleasure and relief, not least because this year’s especially strong shortlist, which also included Barbara Kingsolver, Kate Atkinson, Maria Semple, Hilary Mantel and Zadie Smith, reminded people that this is a prize seriously worth protecting. But in and among the general approval, there was

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