Some of you may already know that I co-host The Orange Prize Project which celebrates the books nominated each year for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and Award for New Writers. Anyone interested in reading and reviewing “orange” books can join the project by emailing me and asking to be invited to the group blog. Jill from The Magic Lasso helps me with the project and also administrates the Facebook Page for Orange July/January which is wonderful (and actually is pretty active even in other months).
So, I am always excited in March when the Orange Prize judges announce the long list. I have four of the nominees on my physical TBR shelf which I cannot wait to get to (highlighted in brown), and have read one which was one of my top reads in 2010 (follow the link below to read my review). There are several more on this list I am very excited to read. Here is the full list:
- Lyrics Alley, by Leila Aboulela
- Jamrach’s Menagerie, by Carol Birch
- Room, by Emma Donoghue (read my review)
- The Pleasure Seekers, by Tishani Doshi
- Whatever You Love, by Louise Doughty
- A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
- The Memory of Love, by Aminatta Forna
- The London Train, by Tessa Hadley
- Grace Williams Says it Loud, by Emma Henderson
- The Seas, by Samantha Hunt
- The Birth of Love, by Joanna Kavenna
- Great House, by Nicole Krauss
- The Road to Wanting, by Wendy Law-Yone
- The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht
- The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer
- Repeat it Today with Tears, by Anne Peile
- Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell
- The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, by Lola Shoneyin
- The Swimmer, by Roma Tearne
- Annabel, by Kathleen Winter
Out of the twenty nominated titles, there are fourteen which I want to talk a little about (and which are high on my list of “to reads”):
Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (Grove Press – March 2011) is “the evocative story of an affluent Sudanese family shaken by the shifting powers in their country and the near-tragedy that threatens the legacy they’ve built for decades.” This is Aboulela’s third novel. I read her novel The Translator way back in March 2007 and loved it. I found Aboulela to be a controlled, meditative writer who wove a deeper meaning into what was, on the surface, a love story (read my review).
Leila Aboulela is a Sudanese playwright and author who was born in Cairo, Egypt. She has written three novels and published one collection of short stories.
Jamrach’s Menagerie, by Carol Birch (Canongate Books – February 2011) is an epic novel set in 1857 which “brings alive the smells, sights and flavors of the nineteenth century, from the docks of London to the storms of the Indian Ocean. This great salty historical adventure is a gripping exploration of our relationship to the natural world and the wildness it contains.” I really love sagas, and this one sounds especially intriguing.
Carol Birch is a prize winning British novelist who has authored ten previous novels. Turn Again Home (2003) was longlisted for the Booker Prize. She has also won the Geoffrey Faber Award and the David Higham Award for Best First Novel.
Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty (Faber & Faber – April 2011) revolves around a woman who seeks her own justice when her nine-year-old daughter is killed. Described as “a heart-wrenching novel of revenge, compulsion and desire,” this novel looks spellbinding. Read an interview with the author about the book. Whatever You Love was also shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Novel Prize.
Louise Doughty is the author of six novels and one book of non-fiction. She also writes radio plays, is a journalist, and broadcasts regularly for BBC Radio 4, as well as teaching for the Faber Academy. She lives in London. To learn more about Doughty and her work, visit the author’s website.
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Atlantic Monthly Press – January 2011) is set in Sierra Leone at the turn of the twenty-first century a devastating civil war has left an entire populace with terrible secrets to keep. The novel “seamlessly weaves together the lives of three men to create a powerful story of loss, absolution, and the indelible effects of the past—and, at the end of it all, the very nature of love.” Listen to the author talk about the book on The Diane Rehm Show. The Memory of Love is also the winner of the 2011 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa)
Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow and raised in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. She is also the author of Ancestor Stones, a novel, and The Devil That Danced on the Water, a memoir of her activist father, and her country, Sierra Leone. In 2002 Aminatta helped to build a primary school in her family’s village of Rogbonko. The building of the school was the first step in what would become known as the Rogbonko Project: a community effort to create an escape route from poverty through multiple initiatives in the spheres of education, agriculture, infrastructure and health. In 2007 Aminatta was named by Vanity Fair as one of Africa’s most promising new writers and her work has been translated into ten languages. Read more about Aminatta and her work, by visiting the author’s website.
The London Train by Tessa Hadley (Harper Perennial – May 2011) is a novel in two parts which are connected around a single moment. It is described as “a vivid and absorbing account of the impulses and accidents that can shape our lives, alongside our ideas; about loyalty, love, sex and the complicated bonds of friends and family.” Published in January in the UK, this novel has been getting amazing reviews and is called “haunting” and “brilliant.”
Tessa Hadley teaches literature and creative writing at Bath Spa University College. Her first novel, Accidents in the Home was longlisted for The Guardian’s First Book Award. She lives in Cardiff, Wales.
The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna (Metropolitan Books – April 2010) is set in 1865 and tells three stories spanning centuries to “explores the most basic plight of women, from the slaughterhouse of primitive medicine to a futurisic vision of technological oppression.” The novel is about “the creation of human life, science and faith, madness and compromise, and the epic journey of motherhood.”
Joanna Kavenna grew up in various parts of Britain, and has also lived in the USA, France, Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltic States. Her second novel, Inglorious, received the Orange Award for New Writers, while The Ice Museum, a work of travel writing, was short-listed for the Ondaatje Prize. Kavenna’s writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, and The Times Literary Supplement, among other publications. Kavenna has held writing fellowships at St Antony’s College, Oxford and St John’s College, Cambridge. She lives in Oxford, England. Read more about Kavenna and her work by visiting the author’s website.
Great House by Nicole Krauss (W. W. Norton & Company – October 2010) is a novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through. “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 also a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award in Fiction. Read an excerpt from the book.
Nicole Krauss is the author of the international bestseller The History of Love (W. W. Norton & Company 2005) which won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Ėtranger, and was short-listed for the Orange, Médicis, and Femina prizes. In 2007, she was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists, and in 2010 The New Yorker named her one of the 20 best writers under 40. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, and Best American Short Stories, and her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Read more about Krauss and her work by visiting the author’s website.
The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone (Vintage Books USA – April 2011) features Na Ga, a woman in search of a better life. But now she sits, alone, in a hotel room in Wanting, a godforsaken town on the Chinese-Burmese border. How long can Na Ga belong nowhere and with no one?
Wendy Law-Yone was born in Mandalay, Burma, and grew up in Rangoon, where her father founded the leading English-language daily, The Nation. She was exiled to the United States where she published two novels, The Coffin Tree and Irrawaddy Tango, before she moved to the UK. She lives in London and Rye.
Watch this video interview with the author:
Repeat It Today With Tears by Anne Peile (Serpent’s Tail – August 2011) centers around Susanna, a secretive child, obsessed with the father she has never known and determined that one day she will find him. When, as an adolescent, she finally discovers her father’s address and seeks him out, she conceals her identity, beginning an illicit affair that can only end in disaster. Reviewers all agree this is a controversial novel which is tender and elegantly written.
Anne Peile was born in London. She has lived in the South West and Belfast and worked as a cook, writing emails for the BBC and in educational support. She works for a London bookstore. Repeat it Today With Tears is her first published novel.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin (William Morrow – June 2010) is “a perceptive, entertaining, and eye-opening novel of polygamy in modern-day Nigeria.” This debut novel is set against the background of contemporary Africa and explores the comedies, tragedies and secrets of Baba Segi’s life with five wives and seven children.
Lola Shoneyin was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, but spent most of her childhood at boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland. She studied English at Ogun State University and lives in Abuja, Nigeria, where she teaches English and drama at an international school. She is married to Olaokun Soyinka, the son of Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka. They have four children and four dogs. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is her first published novel.
Watch this entertaining video where Shoneyin introduces the novel:
And here are the books which I already have on my shelves…and so will be the first from the list which I’ll dip into:
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (Random House – March 2011) is set in a Balkan country mending from years of conflict. “Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.” In the stories of her grandfather, Natalia will find the answer she is looking for.
Tea Obreht was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1985 and has lived in the United States since the age of twelve. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker and The Atlantic. She has been named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty and included in the National Book Foundation’s list of 5 Under 35. Obreht lives in Ithaca, New York. Read more about Obreht and her work by visiting the author’s website.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (Knopf; First Edition Hardcover – 2010. Vintage; Reprint edition – January 2011) is a grand love story set against the backdrop of Budapest and Paris, an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are ravaged by war, and the chronicle of one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it.
Julie Orringer is a 1996 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a two-year Creative Writing Teaching Fellowship. She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford from 1999-2001, and was Stanford’s Marsh McCall Lecturer in Fiction from 2001-2003. Her short story collection, How to Breathe Underwater, won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award and the Northern California Book Award; it was a San Francisco Chronicle and LA Times Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book. Orringer’s stories have been published in The Yale Review, the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Zoetrope All-Story, and the Washington Post Magazine. Orringer is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband. Read more about Orringer and her work by visiting the author’s website.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Knopf – February 2011) is set in the Florida Everglades and centers around a young heroine by the name of Ava Bigtree and her family who make up an alligator-wrestling dynasty called Swamplandia! Filled with quirky characters and completely original, Russell’s novel is being lauded as “brilliant,” “dazzling,” and “lavishly imagined.” Author Emma Donaghue writes: “Vividly worded, exuberant in characterization,this novel is a wild ride: Russell has style in spades. ”
Karen Russell is a native of Miami and has been honored on The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, was chosen as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists, and received the 2009 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. She is currently a writer-in-residence at Bard College.
Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Grove Press, Black CatOut of – January 2011) was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the 2010 Governor General’s Awards. The novel centers around Wayne, born into the rural landscape of Labrador, Canada, in 1968 as a hermaphrodite. His father decides to raise him as a male. Only Wayne’s parents and their friend Thomasina Baikie, also present at his birth, are aware of his gender duality. The two women are against Wayne’s father’s gender assignment. As Wayne grows older, he struggles with who he really is while his father tried to steer Wayne away from his feminine side, and his mother mourns the loss of her female child. Described as “a simple yet eloquent coming-of-age tale,” this debut novel challenges our assumptions about gender.
Read this piece by Kathleen Winter about the setting for Annabel.
Kathleen Winter won both the Winterset Award and the Metcalf-Rooke Award for her short story collection boYs. Although she lived for years in St. John’s, Newfoundland, she now resides in Montreal. Annabel is her first novel.
What about YOU? Are you planning to read any books from the Orange Prize for Fiction long list?
And, in case you’re wondering…here is the timeline for selection of the short list and winner:
- Shortlist Announcement: 12 April 2011
- Orange Prize Shortlist Readings at the Southbank centre: 6 June 2011
- Awards Ceremony: 8 June 2011