The Orange Prize for Fiction 2011: The Shortlist

by |April 13, 2011

The Orange Prize for Fiction, the UK’s only annual book award for fiction written by a woman, has announced the 2011 shortlist. Celebrating its sixteenth anniversary this year, the Prize celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.

THE 2011 SHORTLIST:


Emma Donoghue – Room

The story of a mother, her son, a locked room and the outside world

Jack is five and, like any little boy, excited at the prospect of presents and cake. He’s looking forward to telling his friends it’s his birthday, too. But although Jack is a normal child in many ways – loving, funny, bright, full of energy and questions – his upbringing is far from ordinary: Jack’s entire life has been spent in a single room that measures just 12 feet by 12 feet; as far as he’s concerned, Room is the entire world.

He shares this world with his mother, with Plant, and tiny Mouse (though Ma isn’t a fan and throws a book at Mouse when she sees him). There’s TV too, of course – and the cartoon characters he thinks of as his friends – but Jack knows that nothing else he sees on the screen is real. Old Nick, on the other hand, is all too real, but only visits at night – like a bat – when Jack is meant to be asleep and hidden safely in Wardrobe. And only Old Nick has the code to Door, which is otherwise locked…

Told in Jack’s voice, Room is the story of a mother’s love for her son, and of a young boy’s innocence.

READ TONI WHITMONT’S REVIEW HERE

Order Room here


Aminatta Forna – The Memory of Love

A heartbreaking story of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances by acclaimed writer Aminatta Forna.

Freetown, Sierra Leone: a devastating civil war has left an entire populace with terrible secrets to keep. In the capital’s hospital Kai, a gifted young surgeon is plagued by demons that are beginning to threaten his livelihood. Elsewhere in the hospital lies Elias Cole, a university professor who recalls the love that obsessed him and drove him to acts that are far from heroic. As past and present intersect, Kai and Elias are drawn unwittingly closer by Adrian, a British psychiatrist with good intentions, and into the path of one woman at the centre of their stories. The Memory of Love is a heartbreaking story of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

About the Author: Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland and raised in West Africa. Her first book The Devil that Danced on the Water was runner-up for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003. Her novel Ancestor Stones was winner of the 2008 Hurston Wright Legacy Award, the Liberaturpreis in Germany, was nominated for the International IMPAC Award and selected by the Washington Post as one of the most important books of 2006. In 2007 Vanity Fair named Aminatta as one of Africa’s most promising new writers. Aminatta has also written for magazines and newspapers, radio and television, and presented television documentaries on Africa’s history and art. Aminatta Forna lives in London with her husband.

Order The Memory of Love here


Emma Henderson – Grace Williams Says it Loud

A startling, first-person debut and a unique, spirit-soaring love story.

This isn’t an ordinary love story. But then Grace isn’t an ordinary girl.

‘Disgusting,’ said the nurse.

And when no more could be done, they put her away, aged eleven.

On her first day at the Briar Mental Institute, Grace meets Daniel. He sees a different Grace: someone to share secrets and canoodle with, someone to fight for. Debonair Daniel, who can type with his feet, fills Grace’s head with tales from Paris and the world beyond.

This is Grace’s story: her life, its betrayals and triumphs, disappointment and loss, the taste of freedom; roses, music and tiny scraps of paper. Most of all, it is about the love of a lifetime.

About the Author: Emma Henderson ran a ski chalet in France for several years. She now lives in London and this is her first novel.

Order Grace Williams Says It Loud here


Nicole Krauss – Great House

For twenty-five years, a solitary American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police; one day a girl claiming to be the poet’s daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer’s life reeling. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers, among her papers, a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer slowly reassembles his father’s study, plundered by the Nazis from Budapest in 1944.

Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or give it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.

Great House is a story haunted by questions: What do we pass on to our children, and how do they absorb our dreams and losses? How do we respond to disappearance, destruction, and change?

Nicole Krauss has written a soaring, powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.

About the Author: Nicole Krauss was born in New York in 1974. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, also to be published by Penguin, was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire and Best American Short Stories. The History of Love has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Nicole Krauss lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Order Great House here


Téa Obreht – The Tiger’s Wife

‘Tea Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years.’ – Colum McCann (and she’s only 24!).

As Natalia and a friend travel across the former Yugoslavia, immunising villagers, the body of her grandfather turns up in a hospital in the middle of nowhere. She and her family have no idea why.

Recalling stories he told her as a child, she becomes convinced that he went in search of the Deathless Man, a mythical figure, that her grandfather claimed to have met a number of times in his life.

In her quest to find out how her grandfather, a man of hard fact and science, could turn to this fantasy, she discovers something particular about his childhood: a tiger escaped from a zoo during World War II bombings and wandered deep into the woods, settling just outside his peasant village. It terrorized the town, the devil incarnate to everyone, except for her grandfather and ‘the tiger’s wife’…

About the Author: Tea Obreht was born in 1985 in the former Yugoslavia and was raised in Belgrade. In 1992, her family moved to Cyprus, eventually emigrating to the US in 1997. She was the youngest author on The New Yorker’s Top 20 Writers under 40 List and one of the youngest authors ever to be extracted in the magazine. She lives in Ithaca, New York.

READ TONI WHITMONT’S REVIEW HERE

Order The Tiger’s Wife here


Kathleen Winter – Annabel

An incredibly moving first novel about a young hermaphrodite growing up in the frozen Canadian wilderness.

In 1968, into the beautiful, spare environment of remote coastal Labrador in the far north-east of Canada, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once. Only three people share the secret – the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbour, Thomasina. Together the adults make a difficult decision: to go through surgery and raise the child as a boy named Wayne. But as Wayne grows to adulthood within the hyper-male hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self – a girl he thinks of as ‘Annabel’ – is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life. As Wayne approaches adulthood, and its emotional and physical demands, the woman inside him begins to cry out. The changes that follow are momentous not just for him, but for the three adults that have guarded his secret.

Haunting and sweeping in scope, this is a first novel as much concerned with its characters as it is with their predicament, as much about humanity as it is about a rigidly masculine culture that shuns the singular and the unique. Told with great elegance and empathy, Annabel is the powerfully moving story of one person’s struggle to discover the truth and the strength to change, to find tenderness in a severe and unforgiving land.

About the Author: Kathleen Winter has written dramatic and documentary scripts for Sesame Street and CBC Television. Her first collection of short stories, boYs, was the winner of both the Winterset Award and the Metcalf–Rooke Award. A long-time resident of St. John’s, Newfoundland, she now lives in Montreal.

Order Annabel here


The judges for the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction are:

Bettany Hughes, (Chair), Broadcaster, Historian and Author

Liz Calder, founder-director of Bloomsbury Publishing and Full Circle Editions

Tracy Chevalier, Novelist

Helen Lederer, Actress and Writer

Susanna Reid, Journalist and Broadcaster

This year’s shortlist honours both new and well-established writers featuring three first novels and one previously shortlisted author; Nicole Krauss (2006).

“We are proud and pleased to announce our shortlist for the Orange Prize 2011,” commented Bettany Hughes, Chair of judges. “Our judging meeting fizzed for many hours with conversations about the originality, excellence and readability of the books in front of us – credit to the calibre of submissions this year.”

She continues, “The clarity and human-understanding on the page is simply breathtaking. The number of first-time novelists is an indicator of the rude health of women’s writing. The verve and scope of storylines pays compliment to the female imagination. There are no subjects these authors don’t dare to tackle. Even though the stories in our final choices range from kidnapping to colonialism, from the persistence of love to Balkan folk-memory, from hermaphroditism to abuse in care, the books are written with such a skilful lightness of touch, humour, sympathy and passion, they all make for an exhilarating and uplifting read. This shortlist should give hours of reading pleasure to the wider world.”

The Prize was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible and is awarded for the best novel of the year written by a woman.

The winner will be presented with a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze statue known as ‘the Bessie’, created by artist Grizel Niven. Both are anonymously endowed.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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