Two ultra-distinguished writers welcomed guests to the announcement of the 2012 Orange Prize shortlist at the London Book Fair yesterday morning. First up was Kate Mosse, author of the phenomenally successful Labyrinth and co-founder of the prize, who was wearing the grooviest black lace-up platform shoes I’ve seen in a long time. Then came Joanna Trollope, who’s written 17 bestselling novels and is this year’s chair of the Orange Prize judges, tall and elegant in a pink jacket and black jeans.
It was a rainy morning in Earl’s Court, with commuters queuing under dripping umbrellas to get into the book fair. But once we were inside the PEN literary café and sipping copious cups of coffee, the excitement about the shortlist was palpable.
Announcing this year’s shortlist, Trollope paid tribute to the judging panel of Lisa Appignanesi, Victoria Derbyshire, Natalie Haynes and Natasha Kaplinsky. She described the judging process as “very amicable” and noted the “incredible quality of submissions.” The Orange Prize celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing throughout the world, but she said that she would add another element this year – “distinction.”
“This is a shortlist of remarkable quality and variety,” she said. “It includes six distinctive voices and subjects, four nationalities and an age range of close on half a century. It is a privilege to present it. My only regret is that the rules of the prize don't permit a longer shortlist. However, I am confident that the fourteen novels we had to leave out will make their own well-deserved way.”
The six shortlisted books for the Orange Prize for Fiction, now in its 17th year, are:
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
This year’s shortlist includes both new and well-established authors, including debut novelist Madeline Miller (can she emulate last year’s winner, Téa Obreht, who won the prize with The Tiger’s Wife, her first novel) and previous winner Ann Patchett, who scooped the Orange Prize in 2002 with Bel Canto.
The award ceremony takes place in London on May 30, so to quote Trollope from yesterday: “Go forth and enjoy six perfectly astonishingly good books.” I’ve only read one of them so far, so I can’t wait to get cracking.
PS. If you have a flair for writing and dream of becoming a novelist, buy this week’s Grazia. The magazine has teamed up with the Orange Prize for Fiction to find a new star female writer. Rosamund Lupton, author of Sister and Afterwards, has written the opening paragraph of a new story called The Journey. All you have to do is complete the first chapter in 800 to 1,000 words…