Sunday, June 12, 2011

Orange Prize for Fiction 2011 - Liverpool style

On Wednesday night, while the nation waited in the Royal Festival Hall, London for the result of the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction, Liverpool was enjoying its own evening in the Bluecoat Arts Centre. Organised by Liverpool Libraries, the event which has been running for years now, gives local readers the chance to discuss the shortlist and make its own choice.

I went along as a member of the KVFM online readers club, The Reading Room, where we had held our own discussion about the prize at our session on Monday morning.

The prize is given to the best of fiction written by women - it celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world.

 The shortlist was
•Emma Donoghue (Irish) - Room; Picador; 7th Novel
•Aminatta Forna (British/Sierra Leonean) - The Memory of Love; Bloomsbury; 2nd Novel
•Emma Henderson (British) - Grace Williams Says it Loud; Sceptre; 1st Novel
•Nicole Krauss (American) - Great House; Viking; 3rd Novel
•Téa Obreht (Serbian/American) - The Tiger's Wife; Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1st Novel
•Kathleen Winter (Canadian) - Annabel; Jonathan Cape; 1st Novel

Each book was presented and discussed by different book group leaders from around the city and then we voted for the book we thought most likely to win. Liverpool voted for Room by Emma Donoghue which you may recall was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize last year too. I thought it was marvellous and have bought and shared copies with friends since I first read it. But I didn't think it would win the Orange prize, because unlike young Jack the protagonist, it had had its day in the sun last year and I thought it very unlikely that it would win this new prize.

In fact the national judges went for the same book that our book group had chosen as its winner earlier in the week - Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife. I have not read it yet, but when I tell you that the author is only 25 and not writing in her first language, you will agree that she must have a skill beyond her years and beyond the ability of most of us. I am looking forward to discussing it at a future readers' group but the demand will be high for copies so it could be months before we have the opportunity.

In July we are going to read Jane Eyre, which I love and shall enjoy debating with our readers.

Well done to the authors, well done to all of our Liverpool presenters, well done to our dedicated book groups and readers, well done to Peter and the staff at Liverpool libraries for organising another great evening.

Photo: I was invited up from the audience by Peter Wallace, Liverpool's Reader Development Officer and member of the KVFM Reading Room book group to present book gifts to the lucky quiz and prize draw winners. I think this photo shows us struggling to read the surname of the winner, congratulations to Anne Lev on winning the prize and commiserations to Anne Lee who thought for a happy moment that it had been she who was successful. You couldn't make it up!

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