The shortlist for the prestigious Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction has been released this week, with British authors featuring prominently in the final six nominees for the award. Among the highly acclaimed list of writers is Laline Paull, whose book "The Bees" has been likened by the chair of the judges to a modern-day "Animal Farm", praise indeed for a first-time novelist but whose plays have been staged at the National Theatre in the past.

She will face stiff opposition for the £30,000 first prize though from five previously nominated writers in the competition, that was formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, which is open to women writing in the English language.

The other nominees are Pakistani-born Kamila Shamsie, Canadian writer Rachel Cusk, Scottish author Ali Smith, Welsh novelist Sarah Waters and Pulitzer-Prize winning American writer Anne Tyler.

Ms Paull was delighted to have been nominated, saying that it was "what you dream of" when she heard the news. She was inspired to write the book by the tragic death of her friend, Angie Biltcliffe to breast cancer, who had been a beekeeper and gave the author-to-be her first insight into the life of an apiarist. After her death, Ms Paull became emotionally connected to bees and intent on finding out more about them as a form of ongoing connection to her late friend. As a result of her fascination (bordering on obsession) with any literature that was bee related that she could get her hands on, she began to see the possibility for creating stories around their lives and the characters that ultimately featured in her book began to come to life in her mind.

Her book centres around a rebellious sanitation bee called Flora 717, who seeks to alter the existing way of things in the hive, which is clearly where the comparison to George Orwell's celebrated text came from, with the hive replacing the farm as the backdrop. The text cleverly included observations on both society and politics, while bringing the main character to life according to the chair of judges Shami Chakrabarti, who praised the author for making "you believe Flora is a person."

Chakrabarti has been full of praise for all of the six nominated books, stating that although they are all very different in their style and subject matter, they all share the common thread that once you have started reading them you can't put them down.

The bookies' initial choice as favourite seems to be Waters, whose previous work has included "Tipping the Velvet" which was ultimately made into a mini-series for television that featured Keeley Hawes and Rachael Stirling.

The full list is:

  • The Bees - Laline Paull

  • How to be Both - Ali Smith

  • A Spool of Blue Thread - Anne Tyler

  • The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters

  • A God in Every Stone - Kamila Shamsie

  • Outline - Rachel Cusk

The winner will be announced on 3rd June 2015.