Category Archives: Orange Prize

And The Winner of the Orange Prize 2012 is…

I meant to write something about the Orange Prize before the winning announcement, however the day seems to have somehow escaped me and so now the winner has been announced and it is… Madeline Miller with ‘The Song of Achilles’!

I am feeling rather ecstatic about this. Well beyond ecstatic, thrilled more like, as it is undoubtedly one of my favourites of the entire reading year (along with ‘Gillespie and I’ by Jane Harris which sadly didn’t get short listed, but am keeping this post positive). You can see my thoughts on ‘The Song of Achilles’ here and if that wasn’t enough you can see Madeline Miller getting a Savidge Reads Grills here.

So that’s all lovely isn’t it? Commiserations to all the other authors, especially Esi Edugyan which I have recently read and loved after finishing it second try, but a huge congrats to Madeline Miller. Have I said I am thrilled? What are your thoughts?

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The Orange Prize Short List 2012… Thoughts

So the six novels that make up the Orange Prize Short List have been announced. I don’t know if you could hear the cries of woe that came from ‘Gillespie and I’ by Jane Harris not being on the list, followed by the bellowing ‘what were they thinking?’ either way here is the actual list as it stands…

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

What do I think of the list? Well if I am being truly honest I am mainly sulking about the lack of one title which I just don’t understand not appearing. This isn’t just bias though as I have tried, and failed, with ‘The Forgotten Waltz’ and ‘State of Wonder’ and so have to assume that it is simply a case that the judges and I have very different tastes. That’s all part of fun of awards though isn’t it?

On more positive note, as I don’t want to come across as a spoil sport as I do love this prize, Madeline Miller’s marvellous debut novel ‘Song of Achilles’ is in the mix and I am going to hope that now wins. I will also be reading a couple of the others. Esi Edugyan is a title on The Readers Summer Book Club so I will be reading that in the next few weeks before Gavin and I interview her, ‘Foreign Bodies’ is on the incoming shelves at the moment and I have rather fancied reading ‘Painter of Silence’ since I saw Kim’s review on Reading Matters.

At the moment I just have everything crossed for Madeline Miller being triumphant on May the 30th! What do you make of the final six short listed titles?

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The Orange Prize Shortlist 2012?

I do like the Orange Prize, I really do. Last year I admit I did take that love a little bit too far by reading the whole long list. I haven’t done the same this year though, even though I was tempted a little for a small moment, you see last year was great but I did get a bit ‘oranged out’ at one point.  The shortlist is announced tomorrow morning and as I do it every  year, whether I have read the lot or not I am hazarding a guess at the final six which I would like to see make the cut…

Long term readers of the blog will know that I think ‘Gillespie and I’ by Jane Harris is one of the best reads I have had the joy of spending time with (more than once) so there is no surprise that I have that on my six without question. Ali Smith’s ‘There But For The…’ is a wonderful example of an author writing a great story which not only has deceptively much to say it also plays with words in a wonderful way. Whilst I haven’t reviewed it yet, I do think that Madeline Miller’s ‘The Song of Achilles’  is, please excuse the language, bloody brilliant, more on that very soon.

  

Out of the ones that I haven’t read I have picked three that I would really rather love to read (and have actually dipped into so I am not just going by blurbs and being totally 100% lazy ok). The first of those is ‘The Blue Book’ by A.L. Kennedy. This book looks like it is going to be a real treat as it plays games with you from the start, not only is the book not actually blue, the page numbers don’t always follow the natural numerical pattern and the book almost tells you itself in the first few paragraphs that it may beguile you and take you unawares. I have a feeling both Anne Enright’s ‘The Forgotten Waltz’ and Anne Patchett’s ‘State of Wonder’ will possibly make it onto the list, but I don’t fancy either of these so I wouldn’t mind seeing Esi Edugyan’s ‘Half Blood Blues’ (which is one of The Readers Summer Book Club titles) and Amy Waldman’s ‘The Submission’ on the list as I simply really want to read them.

  

I am sure I will be completely wrong, but expect some serious sulking if Jane Harris and Madeline Miller don’t make it ha, ha, ha. This year I think I might just read the short list whatever they are… we will see. What do you think will make it from the long list? Which of them have you read and loved?

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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.

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The Orange Prize Longlist 2012?

The Orange Prize seems to have snuck up on me this year. I had it in my head that the announcement was on the 16th of March until I realised that actually that was 2011’s dates. It took ages to then get confirmation (by searching round the internet for hours) that it was to be the 8th and suddenly now Orange has a lovely new sparkly website, and indeed it will be announced in mere hours. Well I love guessing any prize list, and the Orange is no exception. I have a lot of love for this prize as generally I do prefer female writers (sweeping statement alert) to male ones overall, so I am always excited to see the final list of twenty. In the meantime here are my twenty guesses and why I made those calls…

First up my favourite four books by women last year have to be my first choices. Those were without question ‘Gillespie and I’ by Jane Harris, ‘The Proof Of Love’ by Catherine Hall, ‘There But For The…’ by Ali Smith and ‘The Borrower’ by Rebecca Makkai. I would absolutely love to see this four make the cut, you can click on their titles to see my reviews and gushings over each one – seriously these are four blooming brilliant books!

Next up were books, if any, that have made the cut this year and how could I not include ‘The Snow Child’ by Eowyn Ivey which I loved and ‘Girl Reading’ by Katie Ward which I haven’t reviewed on here yet (though I have on the telly, ha). Next up were the books that I started last year, didn’t finish though no idea why as I was enjoying them, and so wouldn’t mind reading/starting again should the mood take me. In come ‘Go To Sleep’ by Helen Walsh and ‘Half Blood Blues’ by Esi Edugyan.

Then I chose four eligible books which I have in the TBR and have yet to crack open. ‘The Blue Book’ by A.L. Kennedy, ‘Solace’ by Belinda McKeon, ‘The Submission’ by Amy Waldman and ‘All is Song’ by Samantha Harvey are all books that have been on my radar, and pulled out and put back in the TBR over the last few months and I must have a read of them soon.

You may notice there haven’t been many of the ‘big names’ yet and whilst I am sure Ann Patchett and some other expected contenders will show up on the list I am not that fussed about them personally. I almost popped Anne Tyler on the list but hers comes out after the eligible dates. However there are for books receiving a lot of hype/buzz that I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the list and they are; ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgensten, ‘The Buddha in the Attic’ by Julie Otsuka, ‘The Land of Decoration’ by Grace McCleen and ‘The Lifeboat’ by Charlotte Rogan.

The final four are all a little bit random and have come from popping into Waterstones and having a mooch around all the tables covered in books. They are simply books I thought sounded really interesting and loved the first chapter of (that’s not how I judge on The Green Carnation Prize by the way) they may not appear but I’d use it as an excuse to read them all the quicker if they did. These are; ‘My Policeman’ by Bethan Roberts, ‘Then’ by Julie Myerson, ‘The White Shadow’ by Andrea Eames and ‘The Cowards Table’ by Vanessa Gebbie.

Realistically I know this will be nowhere near the actual list. I just love the guessing, but I am realistic enough to admit despite my love of books I have only a small idea of all the eligible books and no idea what has been submitted and what hasn’t. I also actually want to be a million miles off, one of the reasons I love prize longlists is that they invariably throw up some titles that have passed you by and you want to go off and find out more about. I am hoping for lots of those.

I am not the only one who likes a guess; Jackie of Farmlanebooks, Nomadreader, Open Letters and Her Royal Orangeness have had a crack too, plus Jessica (who has become one of my new favourite bloggers, she makes me howl) has done her top five. I will report back with the list of books and my thoughts when it’s been announced. Until then, what books would you like to see (not necessarily the same as the books you think will) end up on the Orange Prize Longlist when it gets announced?

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The Tiger’s Wife – Téa Obreht

You could be forgiven for thinking that as it won the Orange Prize on Wednesday I have banged out a review of ‘The Tigers Wife’ by Téa Obreht quick sharp. You would also be half right. I’ve speeded up finally publishing my thoughts about it, which have been rewritten, edited and rewritten and then edited again and again on and off since I finished it. You see myself and this book felt like we had unfinished business and thoughts, not necessarily bad ones, just puzzling ones. But in the name of it winning said prize I thought I should write about it sooner rather than later.

I probably would have wanted to read Téa Obreht’s debut novel at some point regardless of its inclusion on the Orange Prize long and short lists and then winning it because, regardless of the hype of her being claimed a young writer to watch, I like books that are rather magical and ‘fairytale for grown ups’ was one of the things I kept hearing in regard to ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ when it was mentioned. It is also a novel about the country formerly known as Yugoslavia and its break up, a subject which fascinates me. I actually holidayed there as a child and was fascinated by the news as this country was torn apart. So its interesting that while aspects of it were brilliance, overall I was left a tiny bit let down. Let me explain…

For me one of the greatest charms of ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ was the story of the relationship between grandfather and grandchild.  Our narrator, Natalia a doctor, tells us the tale of her grandfather’s life from the memories she has of him and the tales that he told her of his former life after she learns from her grandmother that he has died in mysterious circumstances and after he disappeared telling everyone he was going to see Natalia. It’s the mystery, the fact some of his possessions are missing and the need to understand him that sets Natalia on a mental, rather than physical, journey to work out just who her grandfather was.

“Everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between two stories: the story of the tiger’s wife, and the story of the deathless man. These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories of his life – of my grandfather’s days in the army; his great love for my grandmother; the years he spent as a surgeon and a tyrant of the University. One, which I learned after his death, is the story of how my grandfather became a man; the other, which he told to me, is of how he became a child again.”

The thing I loved about the novel also became the thing that I didn’t love so much about it. As the story goes on we are introduced to the myths and fables of her grandfather’s life. Whilst I love these sort of ‘fairytales for adults’, sometimes I was just confused by them. I would read them, like the tale of the deathless man, really enjoy them and yet be left wondering as to their relevance as a whole. In being rather surreal I felt that Téa Obreht lost me in places no matter how enjoyable, funny and magical the mini story which creates the overall story (anyone else getting a bit confused?) was I couldn’t get it to work overall.

“I would be insane to stay here,” he says to me in an exasperated voice. “Any minute now your Hungarian is going to go outside and call the others, and then there will be business with garlic and stakes and things. And even though I cannot die, I have to tell you that I do not enjoy having a tent peg put in my ribs. I’ve had it before, and I do not want it again.”

The same applied to the title character/fable of ‘The Tiger’s Wife’, it was all wonderfully written and inventive but… but… but… something wasn’t quite working for me. It seemed in some ways to be a book made up of many things, yes I know most books are but these things didn’t quite connect. It seemed to want to be a book of myth and of storytelling, a book of war and a book of love – both of the family and a love story in some ways. I thought the way Obreht discussed how the country was fracturing and yet no one initially sensed danger until loved ones went missing was superb. It was only a part of the book though. In some ways there were two books in one. In fact the best way to summarise this novel would be to say that I think the sum of its parts are fantastic, and would have made a great short story collection yet as a body of work it didn’t quite gel in the way I was hoping or maybe even expecting, that could be me more than the book or the author.

That said I did like this novel a lot. I particularly enjoyed the mini-stories, and would happily read a collection of fables should Téa Obreht write one, in fact I am hoping she does. As for the hype around Téa Obreht being one of the finest young authors around, I would agree to an extent. I found the writing in ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ was impressive, funny, dark, honest, and quite compelling in many respects. I just didn’t quite connect with it personally (where emotion is occasionally lacking imagination is certainly in abundance) yet I certainly enjoyed getting lost, and occasionally confused by it. I will definitely read her next novel or collection. 7.5/10

This book was kindly sent by the publisher.

Do I think that ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ should have won the Orange prize? I wouldn’t want to take anything away from Téa Obreht who must be the happiest 25 year old (seriously, though it is a little sickening how young she is, ha) at the moment, plus I wasn’t asked to judge the prize. It’s great to see a young, clearly talented, author celebrated like this too. What do you think? Has anyone else read ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ and what did you make of it? If you haven’t, will you be in the near future, or does the whole hype put you off?

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And The Winner of The Orange Prize 2011 is…

…Well we will know in just a few hours. I think this is the year that I have done the most Orange Reading ever. Sadly it has seemed I suffered a citrus book based burn out and the initial excitement of reading the whole longlist at one point became borderline frustration with having set myself such a task. The thing was though it brought forward some absolute gems, along with a few books I loathed (see this post for more longlist details), and its two of those gems, which I would have missed, that I would be equally overjoyed to see win the prize…

Yes, if Annabel’ by Kathleen Winter or ‘Grace Williams Says It Loud’ by Emma Henderson win (interestingly both debut novels) then I would be very pleased indeed. I have a strange feeling about the latter which niggled and niggled at me when I didn’t include it in my original guessing post, so hence why I put £1 on it at the bookies. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the other four won, and no not just because they are on the short list, because they are all good in varying ways. Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’ is the favourite, I wouldn’t be shocked if ‘Great House’ by Nicole Krauss went and did it though, or Aminatta Forna’s ‘Memory of Love’, or ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ by Téa Obreht. Oh is mentioning them all not allowed? I am aware that I still haven’t put all of my longlist and shortlist reviews up. I just got orange’d out (I’m all about Green Carnations at the moment prize-wise) but they will come, I will get round to it. They are all worthy winners… I do have those two favourites though.

Good luck to the six finalists, I will update this post when the announcement has been and gone. Does anyone know what time that might be? Who do you think will win and/or who do you want to win?

Update… The winner was ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ and you can see my thoughts, which are still all over the shop and in need of reigning in, on here soon.

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