The Orange Prize originates in Great Britain, but is given to the best work of fiction written in English by any author, from any country, who happens to be a woman. The prize, being founded by women, for women authors, administered and judged by women, has caused controversy and ill-will among some in the writing world. However you see it, the list of winning books, as well as the books short-listed for the top spot, make for some most-excellent reading. An author whose work is connected with the prize in any way, is guaranteed an increase in sales of all her work. Here is an archive of all the books which have won or were short-listed since the first Orange was awarded in 1996.
Sometimes there is interesting controversy connected with the choice of the winner. Last year, there were ripples created in the book world when Wolf Hall, a strong and favored title for the winner, was beat out by Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna. They are both outstanding books – hard call. This year the winner is twenty-five year old Téa Obreht, and with her first novel, The Tiger’s Wife, she has created more like a tsunami of mixed opinions. While she has some serious fans, and she did win the Orange after all, not everyone is enamored, such as this reviewer, who finds her talent profoundly underdeveloped.
The book I have found compelling from this year’s short-listed authors is Annabel by Kathleen Winter, which tells the story of a hermaphrodite born into the rigid culture of 1960s Labrador, whose father decides he will be a boy, but who, nonetheless, has a girl buried inside him. It explores all the right questions about culture, identity, friendship and love.