This year’s Orange Prize for fiction shortlist (announced this morning) has boasts an international quality that reminds of the Orange Prize’s aim of celebrating fiction from “throughout the world” — the six shortlisted writers hold six nationalities between them: Serbian, American, Canadian, British, Sierra Leonean and Irish.
Emma Donoghue – Room; Picador
Aminatta Forna – The Memory of Love; Bloomsbury
Emma Henderson – Grace Williams Says it Loud; Sceptre
Nicole Krauss – Great House; Viking
Téa Obreht – The Tiger’s Wife; Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Kathleen Winter – Annabel; Jonathan Cape
Whereas Henderson, Obreht and Winter have all been shortlisted on the strength of first novels, Emma Donoghue’s Room is the 7th novel of the self-proclaimed “novice to the world of big prizes” (see her interview with Jonathan Derbyshire in an October 2010 issue of NS). Alongside a coveted place on the Man Booker shortlist, Room has already won cross-Atlantic awards in the Hughes&Hughes Irish Novel of the Year, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for Best Canadian Novel.
Aminatta Forna’s second novel is also proving to be worthy of international acclaim, having already won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011. Forna is known as a documentary-maker as well as a novelist, having made three films about the African continent (Through African Eyes (1995), Africa Unmasked (2002) and The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu (2009).)
Nicole Krauss, whose third novel has already been decorated with 2010 National Book Award, is famously multi-national — although being born in New York to an English mother and American father, her maternal grandparents were German and Ukrainian, and her paternal grandparents Hungarian and Belarusian (they met in Israel). Yugoslavian-born Tea Obreht, meanwhile, spent her childhood in Cyprus and Egypt, before emmigrating to America in 1997.
Kathleen Winter lives in Canada, and beginning her career as a script-writer on Sesame Street, progressed to writing short stories (for which she won prizes). Annabel has previously been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the 2010 Governor General’s Awards (all Canadian awards).
Emma Henderson breaks the international trend by being born in London. Despite a brief spell in France, she still lives in London. Nevertheless, her novel was shortlisted for both the Commonwealth Writers Prize in the Best First Book category and for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2010.
This year’s winner will be announced at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 8 June.