Honor roll: Orange Prize for Fiction

Each of these works has been nominated for one of these awards: Orange Prize for Fiction, Women's Prize for Fiction. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:The Outcast

The Outcast: A Novel

Sadie Jones

A mesmerizing portrait of 1950s hypocrisy and unexpected love, from a powerful new voice

It is 1957, and Lewis Aldridge, straight out of prison, is journeying back to his home in Waterford, a suburban town outside London. He is nineteen years old, and his return will have dramatic consequences not just for his family, but for the whole community.

A decade earlier, his father’s homecoming has a very different effect. The war is over and Gilbert has been demobilized. He reverts easily to suburban life—cocktails at six-thirty, church on Sundays—but his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert’s wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her. …[more]

Book:Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun: A Novel

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,” Half of a Yellow Sun re-creates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed.

With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their…[more]

Book:Fingersmith

Fingersmith

Sarah Waters

From the author of the New York Times Notable Book Tipping the Velvet and the award-winning Affinity: a spellbinding, twisting tale of a great swindle, of fortunes and hearts won and lost, set in Victorian London among a family of thieves.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves-fingersmiths-for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives-Gentleman, a somewhat elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be left to live out her days in…[more]

Book:Amy and Isabelle

Amy and Isabelle

Elizabeth Strout

With compassion, humor, and striking insight, Amy and Isabelle explores the secrets of sexuality that jeopardize the lovebetween a mother and her daughter. Amy Goodrow, a shy high school student in a small mill town, falls in love with her math teacher, and together they cross the line between understandable fantasy and disturbing reality. When discovered, this emotional and physical trespass brings disgrace to Amy’s mother, Isabelle, and intensifies the shame she feels about her own past. In a fury, she lashes out at her daughter’s beauty and then retreats into outraged silence. Amy withdraws, too, and mother and daughter eat, sleep, and even work side by side but remain at a vast, seemingly unbridgeable distance from each other.

This conflict is surrounded by other large and small dramas in the town of Shirley Falls—a teenage pregnancy, a UFO sighting, a missing child, and the trials of Fat Bev, the community’s enormous (and enormously funny and compassionate) peacemaker…[more]

Book:The Night Watch

The Night Watch

Sarah Waters

Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit liasons, and sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch tells the story of Londoners: three women and a young man with a past-whose lives, and those of their friends and lovers, connect in ways that are surprising not always known to them. In wartime London, the women work-as ambulance drivers, ministry clerks, and building inspectors. There are feats of heroism, epic and quotidian, and tragedies both enormous and personal, but the emotional interiors of her characters that Waters captures with absolute and intimacy.

Waters describes with perfect knowingness the taut composure of a rescue worker in the aftermath of a bombing, the idle longing of a young woman her soldier lover, the peculiar thrill convict watching the sky ignite through the bars on his window, the hunger a woman stalking the streets for encounter, and the panic of another who sees her love affair coming end. At the same time,…[more]

Book:The Road Home

The Road Home: A Novel

Rose Tremain

In the story of Lev, newly arrived in London from Eastern Europe, Rose Tremain has written a wise and witty book about the contemporary migrant experience.

On the coach, Lev chose a seat near the back and he sat huddled against the window, staring out at the land he was leaving…. Lev is on his way to Britain to seek work, so that he can send money back to Eastern Europe to support his mother and little daughter.

Readers will become totally involved with his story, as he struggles with the mysterious rituals of “Englishness,” and the fashions and fads of the London scene. We see the road Lev travels through Lev’s eyes, and we share his dilemmas: the intimacy of his friendships, old and new; his joys and sufferings; his aspirations and his hopes of finding his way home, wherever home may be.

Book:On Beauty

On Beauty: A Novel

Zadie Smith

Howard Belsey, a Rembrandt scholar who doesn’t like Rembrandt, is an Englishman abroad and a long-suffering professor at Wellington, a liberal New England arts college. He has been married for thirty years to Kiki, an American woman who no longer resembles the sexy activist she once was. Their three children passionately pursue their own paths: Levi quests after authentic blackness, Zora believes that intellectuals can redeem everybody, and Jerome struggles to be a believer in a family of strict atheists. Faced with the oppressive enthusiasms of his children, Howard feels that the first two acts of his life are over and he has no clear plans for the finale. Or the encore.

Then Jerome, Howard’s older son, falls for Victoria, the stunning daughter of the right-wing icon Monty Kipps, and the two families find themselves thrown together in a beautiful corner of America, enacting a cultural and personal war against the…[more]

Book:Lullabies for Little Criminals

Lullabies for Little Criminals: A novel

Heather O'neill

Lullabies for Little Criminals is the heartbreaking and wholly original debut novel by This American Life contributor Heather O’Neill, about a young girl fighting to preserve her bruised innocence on the feral streets of a big city.

Baby, all of thirteen years old, is lost in the gangly, coltish moment between childhood and the strange pulls and temptations of the adult world. Her mother is dead; her father, Jules, is scarcely more than a child himself, and always on the lookout for his next score. Baby knows that ‘chocolate milk’ is Jules’ slang for heroin, and sees a lot more of that in her house than the real article. But she takes vivid delight in the scrappy bits of happiness and beauty that find their way to her, and moves through the threat of the streets as if she’s been choreographed in a dance.

Soon, though, a hazard emerges that is bigger than even her hard–won survival skills can handle. Alphonse, the local…[more]

Book:Beyond Black

Beyond Black: A Novel

Hilary Mantel

A paragon of efficiency, Colette took the next natural step after finishing secretarial school by marrying a man who would do just fine. After a sobering, do-it-yourself divorce, Colette is at a loss for what to do next. Convinced that she is due an out-of-hand, life-affirming revelation, she strays into the realm of psychics and clairvoyants, hungry for a whisper to set her off in the right direction. At a psychic fair in Windsor she meets the charismatic Alison.

Alison, the daughter of a prostitute, beleaguered during her childhood by the pressures of her connection to the spiritual world, lives in a different kind of solitude. She cannot escape the dead who speak to her, least of all the constant presence of Morris, her low-life spiritual guide. An expansive presence onstage, Alison at once feels her bond with Colette, inviting her to join her on the road as her personal assistant and companion. …[more]

Book:The White Family

The White Family

Maggie Gee

This ambitious, groundbreaking novel takes on the taboo subject of racial hatred as it looks for the roots of violence within the family and within British society.

The Whites are an ordinary British family. Alfred White, a London park keeper, still rules his home with fierce conviction and inarticulate tenderness. May, his clever, passive wife loves Alfred but conspires against him. Their three children are no longer close; the elder son has left for America and the youngest son is a virulent racist. The daughter is involved in an interracial relationship with a black social worker. When the father’s sudden illlness forces the children to come together, their deep fears and prejudices come to the surface, raising issues about kinship, trust, and hatred.

Maggie Gee expertly illustrates the tensions and prevailing social problems of modern day England in this fascinating novel.

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