The Orange Prize for Fiction is the UK’s only book prize celebrating works of fiction written by women. This year’s shortlist was announced of 17 April 2012 and includes both new and established authors. The shortlist includes Madeline Miller’s debut novel The Song of Achilles as well as previous Orange prize winner Ann Patchett who won the prize in 2002 for Bel Canto. You can check out previous prize winners and 2010 & 2011 shortlists right here on Lilolia. If you are looking for good books to read then I think the shortlists of most book prizes are a good place to start. Here is what the Orange prize judges had to say about the shortlisted novels:
“This is a shortlist of remarkable quality and variety,” commented Joanna Trollope, Chair of judges. “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.”
She continues, “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”.
Here are the 2012 Orange prize shortlisted novels:
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Canadian 2nd Novel
“The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymus Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a café and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.
Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled.
Esi Edugyan is a graduate of the University of Victoria and John Hopkins University. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Best New American Voices 2003. Her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, written when she was 25, was published internationally. Half Blood Blues was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize and won the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2011. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.”
The judges said: “We were all struck by the sustained and powerful voice, and sense of place and period, in this wonderful novel of jazz, war-torn Europe, and remorse.”
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
Irish 5th Novel
“The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for ‘the love of her life’, Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina walks through the weather to meet a girl she calls his ‘beautiful mistake’: Seán’s fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie.
Anne Enright was born in Dublin, where she now lives and works. She has published two volumes of stories, collected as Yesterday’s Weather, one book of non-fiction, Making Babies, and four novels, most recently The Gathering, which was the Irish Novel of the Year and won the Irish Fiction Award and the 2007 Man Booker Prize.”
The judges said: “What an achievement, we all thought — a flawed heroine, a modern tale of unromantic adultery and conflicted parental loyalties, and a compelling, believable, lyrical read.”
Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
British 3rd Novel
“Iasi, Romania, the early 1950s. A man is found on the steps of hospital, frail as a fallen bird. He carries no identification and utters no words, and it is days before anyone discovers that he is deaf and mute. And then a young nurse called Safta brings paper and pencils with which he can draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page: a hillside, a stable, a car, a country house, dogs and mirrored rooms and samovars in what is now a lost world.
The memories are Safta’s also. For the man is Augustin, son of the cook at the manor at Poiana that was her family home. Born six months apart, they grew up with a connection that bypassed words. But while Augustin’s world remained the same size, Safta’s expanded to embrace languages, society — and love, as Augustin watched one long hot summer, in the form of a fleeting young man in a green Lagonda.
Safta left before the war, Augustin stayed. But even in the wide hills and valleys around Poiana he did not escape its horrors. He watched uncomprehending as armies passed through the place. Then the Communists came, and he found himself their unlikely victim. There are many things that he must tell Safta that may be more than simple drawings can convey.
Georgina Harding is the author of two novels: The Solitude of Thomas Cave and The Spy Game, a BBC Book at Bedtime and shortlisted for the Encore Award. Her first book was a work of non-fiction, In Another Europe, recording a journey she made across Romania by motorbike in 1988 during the worst times of the Ceausescu regime. It was followed by Tranquebar: A Season in South India, which documented the lives of the people in a small fishing village on the Coromandel coast. Georgina Harding lives in London and on a farm in the Stour Valley, Essex.”
The judges said: “We were impressed by this deceptively quiet book, which grows in effect and strength as it goes on, portraying a deep understanding of unconventional ways of self-expression, and of relationships. The writing is beautiful.”
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
American 1st Novel
“Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to Phthia to live in the shadow of King Peleus and his strong, beautiful son, Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Madeline Miller was born in Boston, MA, and grew up in both New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she graduated magna cum laude with a BA and MA in Classics. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama specialising in adapting classical tales to a modern audience. Since graduation she has taught Latin, Greek and Shakespeare, both at her high school, The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA, and elsewhere. Madeline began writing fiction when she was in high school, and has been working on The Song of Achilles, her first novel, for the last ten years. She currently lives in New England, where she teaches Latin and writes.”
The judges said: “Terrific. The Trojan Wars and the legendary love story of Patroclus and Achilles told with all the intensity and accuracy that this world of violence and superstition and romance deserves.”
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
American 7th Novel
“The collapse of her brief marriage has stalled Bea Nightingale’s life, leaving her middle-aged and alone, teaching in an impoverished borough of 1950s New York. A plea from her estranged brother gives Bea the excuse to escape lassitude by leaving for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows; but the siren call of Europe threatens to deafen Bea to the dangers of entangling herself in the lives of her brother’s family.
Travelling from America to France, Bea leaves the stigma of divorce on the far side of the Atlantic; newly liberated, she chooses to defend her nephew and his girlfriend Lili by waging a war of letters on the brother she has promised to help. But Bea’s generosity is a mixed blessing: those she tries to help seem to be harmed, and as Bea’s family unravels around her, she finds herself once again drawn to the husband she thought she had left in the past.
Cynthia Ozick’s novels, essays, and short stories have won numerous prizes and awards, among them the Presidential Medal for the Humanities and the PEN-Nabokov Award for Lifetime Achievement. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Man-Booker International Prize, and her fiction has garnered four O. Henry First Prizes, the Rea Award for the Short Story, the PEN-Malamud Award for the Short Story, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for the Essay. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband.”
The judges said: “This novel is so fresh, and so sophisticated, in its clear eyed look at family dynamics, and so exquisitely written — we were charmed by it.”
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
American 6th Novel
“Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women forever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investor’s, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns.
Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.
What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.
Ann Patchett is the author of five previous novels, including Bel Canto, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction. She is also the author of two works of nonfiction; What Now? and the bestselling Truth & Beauty. She writes for the New York Times Magazine, Elle, GQ, Financial Times, Paris Review and Vogue. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she has her own independent bookshop. In April 2012, Ann Patchett was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.”
The judges said: “An extraordinary novel of science and adventure handled with equally extraordinary grace and lightness and wit.”