Annal: 1999 Orange Prize for Fiction

Results of the Orange Prize in the year 1999.

Book:A Crime in the Neighborhood

A Crime in the Neighborhood

Suzanne Berne

An auspicious debut novel by a young writer who will remind readers of Anne Lamott and Anne Tyler

Crime in the Neighborhood centers on a headline event— the molestation and murder of a twelve-year-old boy in a Washington, D.C., suburb. At the time of the murder, 1973, Marsha was nine years old and as an adult she still remembers that summer as a time when murder and her own family’s upheaval were intertwined. Everyone, it seemed to Marsha at the time, was committing crimes. Her father deserted his family to take up with her mother’s younger sister. Her teenage brother and sister were smoking and shoplifting, and her mother was “flirting” with Mr. Green, the new next-door neighbor. Even the president of the United States seemed to be a crook. But it is Marsha’s own suspicions about who committed this crime that has the town up in arms and reveals what happens when fear runs wild.

Book:The Leper's Companions

The Leper's Companions: A novel

Julia Blackburn

The Leper’s Companions begins, we know only that the narrator has lost someone she loves. In her bereavement, she creates a past in which she might both lose and find herself: a fifteenth-century village in a land of saints and spirits, inexplicable afflictions and miraculous awakenings. With a band of pilgrims—among them an old man, his pregnant daughter, a priest, a dying woman, and a leper—she discovers a beached mermaid, watches a priest drive madness from a woman’s mouth, enters a mossy forest inhabited by a hunted man covered in shaggy hair, and witnesses a map being digested in the belly of a ravenous woman.

Moving effortlessly between the magical and the real, the past and the present, the journey of the narrator and her companions transcends the physical terrain and becomes a fantastical quest for rebirth. We are skillfully ushered into the emotional lives of each of the travelers as they reflect and ultimately redefine the life of the narrator.

The Leper’s Companions reaffirms Julia Blackburn’s status as one of the most original writers at work today, as she makes the fictional narrative do the work not only of storytelling but also of invention.

Book:Paradise (Toni Morrison)

Paradise

Toni Morrison

“Rumors had been whispered for more than a year. Outrages that had been accumulating all along took shape as evidence. A mother was knocked down the stairs by her cold-eyed daughter. Four damaged infants were born in one family. Daughters refused to get out of bed. Brides disappeared on their honeymoons. Two brothers shot each other on New Year’s Day. Trips to Demby for VD shots common. And what went on at the Oven these days was not to be believed…The proof they had been collecting since the terrible discovery in the spring could not be denied: the one thing that connected all these catastrophes was in the Convent. And in the Convent were those women.”

In Paradise—her first novel since she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature—Toni Morrison gives us a bravura performance. As the book begins deep in Oklahoma early one morning in 1976, nine men from Ruby (pop. 360), in defense of “the…[more]

Book:The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna…[more]

Book:The Short History of a Prince

The Short History of a Prince: A Novel

Jane Hamilton

Set in Jane Hamilton’s signature Midwest, The Short History of a Prince is the story of Walter McCloud and his ambition to become a great ballet dancer. With compassion and humor, and alternating between Walter’s adolescent and adult voices, the novel tells of Walter’s heartbreak as he realizes that his passion cannot make up for the innate talent that he lacks.

Introduced as a child to the genius of Balanchine and the lyricism of Tchaikovsky by his stern but cultured aunt Sue Rawson, Walter has dreamed of growing up to shine in the role of the Prince in The Nutcracker. But as Walter struggles with the limits of his own talent and faces the knowledge that Mitch and Susan, his more gifted friends, have already surpassed him, Daniel, his older brother, awakens one morning with a strange lump on his neck that leads to fearful consequences—and to Walter’s realization that a happy family, and a son’s place in it, can tragically change overnight. The year that follows will in fact transform…[more]

Book:Visible Worlds

Visible Worlds: A Novel

Marilyn Bowering

In Visible Worlds, award-winning Canadian poet and playwright Marilyn Bowering has created a beguiling, multilayered fiction that brings together two seemingly disparate stories as it races the shattering personal consequences of war. Spanning the middle part of our century, with World War II and the Korean War as its fulcrum, the novel expertly distills an epic story into a finely limned, elegant narrative of understated proportions.

Set in Canada, Germany, Korea, and the Soviet Union, Visible Worlds begins in 1960, with the death of Nate Bone on a Winnipeg football field, as his family and friends stand by and watch. The story then shifts to the tundra of Siberia, where, at the same time, a young woman identified only as Fika is trying to make her way from the Soviet Union to freedom. As the novel unfolds, these two seemingly unrelated events—literally worlds apart—become key pieces in Bowering’s astonishing fictional…[more]

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