The Orange Prize Longlist 2012… My Thoughts

Note: There will be a lot of very good reportage on this today in all the broadsheets; I decided to do a layman’s reaction post. You can also see my guessing post here.

So here they are the twenty books that make up this year’s Orange Prize longlist. I was actually up until midnight and so I saw the list appear on The Guardian website. I then decided that if I wrote anything at that time it probably wouldn’t make sense and so I have waited. Anyway, less about my thoughts, for now, here is the list of twenty books that have made the cut…

  • Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (Quercus) – Swedish; 1st Novel
  • On the Floor by Aifric Campbell (Serpent’s Tail) – Irish; 3rd Novel
  • The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (The Clerkenwell Press) – American; 4th Novel
  • The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (Picador) – Irish; 7th Novel
  • Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent’s Tail) – Canadian; 2nd Novel*
  • The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape) – Irish; 5th Novel
  • The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki (Headline Review) – British; 5th Novel
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (Quercus) – American; 4th Novel
  • Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (Bloomsbury) – British; 3rd Novel
  • The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – British; 2nd Novel
  • The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape) – British; 6th Novel*
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker) – American; 1st Novel*
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury) – American; 1st Novel
  • Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (Atlantic Books) – American; 7th Novel
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury) – American; 6th Novel*
  • The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard (Alma Books) – British; 2nd Novel
  • Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (Chatto & Windus) – British; 1st Novel
  • The Submission by Amy Waldman (William Heinemann) – American; 1st Novel*

The first two initial thoughts, and I am being very honest here, were how many of them have I read (those are in italics with a link if I finished and reviewed them) followed by how many of them did I guess correctly (those six have a * next to them). My next thought was to jump for joy for both Jane Harris and Ali Smith. At the moment they are my favourites to win, possibly in a tie, ha.

My next thought, and if anyone says they don’t do this then they are big liars, was to think ‘are the judges mad, what about including…’ We all do this with a prize and it is completely natural, if you are passionate about certain books, like ‘The Snow Child’ or ‘The Proof Of Love’ (the books I am the most bemused didn’t make the longlist at all), then you are going to be slightly disheartened that those five judges didn’t put them in and then leads you to feeling a bit non-plussed that they included books you tried but didn’t finish. But let’s not judge the judges shall we.

In this list both Anne Enright and Ann Patchett I tried and failed with, though I know they both have some real fans, some of whom I know and respect, I just don’t quite get them myself. I did say yesterday that I thought they might appear on the list however. Then we have Esi Edugyan who I tried to read for the Man Booker shenanigans last year and didn’t finish but meant to, so now might. Then there is Emma Donoghue which I tried, because it sounded deliciously Victorian (and will actually be in a post next week of ‘unreviews’ as I couldn’t finish it) and which I didn’t think was eligible as I thought it was a re-issued book and not a new one. Where I invented this idea from I have absolutely no idea, but it seems I did.

I then dust the slight mini-sulk off and look at all those I didn’t guess yesterday (the small inner glow about the ones I did helps) and see what I think. There’s a few names I know like Madeline Miller (who I lent a copy to my mother as she is a classicist knowing I would realistically never see it again but did actually quite want it back), Georgina Harding (whose novel ‘The Spy Game’ I really wanted to read and yet didn’t), Roopa Farooki (who in my head has been on this list every year for about the last ten years even though that’s not possible as it’s her fifth novel, this to me says I should read her, she must be good), Francesca Kay and Erin Morgensten (if you haven’t heard about this book where on earth have you been?).

The excitement builds the most with the books I know nothing about. So I open up one of two possible book shopping based websites and look them up, deciding if they are ones I want to read. These were my instant thoughts; don’t judge me on them too much…

  • Karin Altenberg – described as ‘captures a world that disappears in the act of description, and the love, so inescapable and elusive, of the outsiders who try to tame it’ I’m sorry what does that actually mean? Turns out it means a book with boats and sailing in, oh dear, and life on a new settlement in the Hebrides. Bit religious looking. Not sure is my cup of tea.
  • Aifric Campbell – I was tempted by her spooky sounding ‘The Loss Adjustor’ a while back so thought this might be my cup of tea, but it’s about banking. Very current I admit, but maybe not very me.
  • Jaimy Gordon – a book about horses. If you know me well and haven’t fallen upon this post by googling ‘orange prize longlist 2012’ (though hello and welcome if you have, pull up a chair and make a cuppa) books set on boats or books about horses aren’t really me. Could this change this, I don’t know.
  • Cynthia Ozick – I am very excited about this one, I have looked at it in Waterstones on several occasions, the cover had me at hello, and the premise appeals, a failed marriage, leaving 1950’s New York for Paris. Yes, I would like to read this one.
  • Anna Stothard – sounds a bit ‘estranged mother and daughter, mother dies, daughter finds out about the mother she never really knew when on a road trip routing though her mother’s letters from the past’ could be brilliant, could not be.
  • Stella Tillyard – interestingly though the title ‘Tides of War’ put me off, I quite like the sound of a book set in the Regency period and the Spanish Peninsular War because I know very little about that period. A maybe book.

All in all if the Orange Prize Longlist 2012 had a ‘like’ button I would press it. Bear in mind the fact I think pressing a ‘like’ button is one of the laziest ways of complimenting anyone (I could start a rant on this but I won’t, maybe another day) so I shall comment in a little more detail. There are the books I read and loved which I will now be backing all the way and am chuffed to bits made the list. Then there are A.L. Kennedy, Cynthia Ozick, Leah Hager Cohen and Amy Waldman who I come away wanting to read more than I did before, oh and Esi Edugyan and Erin Morgensten are sort of in that group but I have heard so much, it’s almost too much, about both.

Will I be reading the longlist this year? No, but I will be intrigued to see the shortlist next month and if it includes my two favourites then I might just read the lot as I will know the judging panel (of whom apparently only Joanna Trollope read all 143 submissions) are on a wave length with me and my reading tastes. At the moment though, despite some books I loved being on the list there are a couple I have tried and not finished and so I am left pondering the ones I knew nothing about until today; the premises don’t quite do anything for me, but if I see them in a bookshop I might give them a test chapter or two and see how I feel then.

What about your thoughts?  Oh, and Happy International Women’s Day to all my female readers.

23 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Orange Prize

23 responses to “The Orange Prize Longlist 2012… My Thoughts

  1. Fearing pressing the “Like” button! But loving the humour in this post, you must have got up early to write it!
    Having read none (yes, a big fat zero) of the long list, which, of the ones you’ve read, would you recommend to someone who’s just realised how few books by women she reads?

    • I am a bit of a miserable git when it comes to the ‘like’ button, its lovely when people do it but with it being a Facebook thing (and hating facebook) it just winds me up. You can’t really interact with a ‘like’. Grumble, grumble. Ha!

      Glad you liked the humour, I need to bring it to the fore more and always think people won’t get it. Mind you my post tomorrow is on Anne Frank so I won’t be throwing jokes left right and centre there. I just wanted to do an non academic ‘laymans’ reaction.

      My recommendations.. Gillespie and I or There But For The… from this list. Or pop and have a gander at yesterdays post if you want a list of books I would have liked to have seen on the list or read in the future.

      • Great, thanks! Just writing a post about my ignorance when it comes to modern Women’s fiction…but before you write your Anne Frank thing check out the Guardian podcast on Anne Frank from a couple of weeks back. It’s mainly about books referencing Anne Frank, but some of it’s quite funny.

      • I am sure you aren’t ignorant at all.

        I heard the Anne Frank podcast, I am so keen to read Hope: A Tragedy. I managed to get ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank’ from the library though.

  2. sharkell

    I’ve only read two – Half Blood Blues and State of Wonder. I loved both of them and would recommend them both. I feel a little excited about the list given that both the ones I have read I really liked but I’m not sure how that sits with trying to get my 200+ unread books I have sitting in my bookshelf down to a manageable number! Ali Smith’s name is coming up again and again, maybe I should give her a try.

    Well done for picking 6 of the books. That must mean you are really clever!

    I can’t wait to hear what you thought of Anne Frank, I read it for the first time last year and it really touched me. Given your misgivings, I’ve been wondering how it turned out for you.

    • I did think that the Ali Smith was wonderful, pop and see my review if you will.

      Ha I don’t think it was being that clever, I just went with the books I wanted to see on the list.

  3. “There but for the” & “Gillespie and I” have both been on my wishlist for a long time. Unfortunately, I only own The Night Circus, and I have yet to read it. I always fele so uneducated about modern fiction when the Orange Prize Longlist appears, although I admit I am always wishing I could try to read all the books on there. Somehow I am a little less excited about some of the books on there this year, but I am still curious about the majority of the books listed. I need to take more time to think of which I’d like to read and put on my wishlist as I haven’t had the time to Google them all. I agree that the title “Tides of War” doesn’t sound all that good, but I am curious after having read the description. As for Island of Wings, I admit the fact that the author is Swedish and one of the characters is a minister actually makes me very curious, but I think that’s because I like seeing how religion is depicted in fiction.

    • Also, I thought “The Sealed Letter” was a reissue too. Not sure why I thought so, but I guess I just assumed wrong.

    • The NIght Circus is a funny one for me, it had so much hype upon release, I tried the start and wasn’t quite in the mood but I wonder if after the magical reads I have read in the past few months, along with my taste for the Victorian again, now might just be the time.

  4. David

    I have copies of 10 of the longlisted titles and have read five of them. Of those Harding’s, Harris’s and Smith’s I think are very good books, while the Enright and Kay I thought were just okay. I also have copies of the Altenberg, Donoghue, Gordon, Morgenstern and Waldman.
    I’m particularly keen to read “The Lord of Misrule”, “The Submission” and “State of Wonder”, but few of the others.
    I was introduced to Aifric Campbell’s work by her Orange longlisting (for “The Loss Adjustor”) in 2010, and I must say I found her writing to be pretty unremarkable – coupled with the finance theme I can’t see myself rushing out to buy “On the Floor”.
    I just had a read of the first couple of pages of the Tillyard on Amazon and would forgive anyone for not getting past the first line, which sounds like it should be delivered (finger on chin) by a really bad actress in a 1980s children’s TV drama – it might be a brilliant book, but I don’t think I’ll be bothering to find out unless it is shortlisted. Surprising to see something like that on the same longlist as a book which seems as wilfully literary as the Ozick (presumably you have to have read Henry James’s ‘The Ambassadors’ to get the most out of it) and I think that perhaps highlights the problem I have with really long longlists, which is it becomes too easy to see the tastes of individual judges, whereas a shortlist, or even the Booker Dozen, has about it a bit more consensus over which are really the best books.

    Personally I’d have loved Vanessa Gebbie’s ‘The Coward’s Tale’ (wonderful book), Cressida Connolly’s ‘My Former Heart’ and I.J. Kay’s ‘Mountains of the Moon’ to have made the longlist, but like you I’m glad to see Ali Smith and Jane Harris getting the nod, after being left off the Booker longlist last year.

    • Hahaha I will have a look at the Tillyard first line. I have to say I haven’t read ‘The Ambasssadors’ but am keen to read ‘Foreign Bodies’ so I will see if it matters or not. I do wish you had a blog with all the books you read. Oh and… fancy joining the Manchester book group myself and Lucy have started? (See today’s post!)

  5. I’m surprised that The Snow Child didn’t make the list, but other than that I think it is a good selection. I’ve given up on a fair few, but I can see why others enjoyed them and there are a lot that interest me. At this early stage I’m quite happy!

  6. Louise

    I didn’t finish The Sealed Letter either, it was absolute pants to be honest! I do love the cover though, and so does my cat, who sits on my reject pile! Looking forward to your Anne Frank thoughts…

    I think last years list was a lot better, half of the books on this years list I won’t go near, banking and boats, boats! I hate friggin boats!!

    • Hahaha you put your thoughts on The Sealed Letter much better that I would, or maybe more bluntly 😉 I will be giving it a brief mention next week actually.

      Hahaha you and I are alligned on boats, I am so not bothered about boats, or horses, or banks.

  7. Some familiar authors, but sadly I’ve not read any of the books (yet), I often have to wait for the price to come down to read newly published books, though my recent Netgalley subscription and a kindle should change things this year.
    I have read ‘The Snow Child’ and so am disappointed not to see it acknowledged here, but feel sure it must be cited elsewhere, it will certainly be a word of mouth sensation I am sure and in multiple languages.
    I do like your alternative list, more on there that I know of and have read.

    • I think quite a few of these are out in paperback in the next few months or so, so you won’t have too long to wait. I was very saddened by the fact that The Snow Child wasn’t on the list, especially considering a few titles that were. Odd. But the judges will judge, we must not judge them.

  8. Pingback: International Women’s Day Hurray! « chasing bawa

  9. Pingback: Orange Prize 2012 Longlist – Thoughts «

  10. I’m not a fan of this prize, but this year’s list seems quite interesting (although I’m still annoyed at how northern hemisphere centric it is). I’ve read the Georgina Harding, Enright, Morgenstern and Edugyan and would say that the Enright has been my favourite, closely followed by Harding, which I finished last week and will review in the next day or two.

    • Interesting you mention the variety, or lack of, in the books and where the authors are from… I mention it on Monday’s episode of The Readers. I think the list is ok, I am normally more excited about it but oddly relieved I don’t have a desire to read them all.

      Enright I wasn’t getting and I can’t remember why, though the paperback has just arrived here so I might try again. I think I fancy the Harding but I am not sure.

  11. Pingback: The Orange Prize Shortlist 2012? | Savidge Reads

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