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April 29, 2013

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – review

AmericanahChimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s third novel is a superb dissection of race in the UK and the USA

By Elizabeth Day

There are some novels that tell a great story and others that make you change the way you look at the world. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is a book that manages to do both.

 It is ostensibly a love story – the tale of childhood sweethearts at school in Nigeria whose lives take different paths when they seek their fortunes in America and England – but it is also a brilliant dissection of modern attitudes to race, spanning three continents and touching on issues of identity, loss and loneliness.

This is Adichie’s third and most ambitious novel – her first, Purple Hibiscus, was longlisted for the Booker prize and her second, Half a Yellow Sun, won the Orange prize. A highly acclaimed 2009 collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, cemented her position as one of the most promising African writers of her generation. She was awarded a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” grant and in 2010, the New Yorker featured her in its list of the 20 best authors under the age of 40.

So a lot is expected of her. Gratifyingly, Americanah does not disappoint.

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March 13, 2013

Hilary Mantel faces six newcomers in contest for women’s fiction prize

Some of the books on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist.

Some of the books on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist.

Previous Orange Prize winners Zadie Smith and Barbara Kingsolver also on list of 20 nominees

By Mark Brown

Among the contenders for the leading prize for fiction written by women is a bestselling thriller and a how-to-live-your-life memoir so divisive it had some reviewers wanting to throw it across the room. Also in the running are novels by literary heavyweights Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith and Barbara Kingsolver.

They are all longlisted for what was the Orange prize until the phone company withdrew last year to concentrate on cinema sponsorship.

For one year only it will be called the Women’s Prize for Fiction, funded by several companies and individuals including Cherie Blair, Martha Lane Fox and Joanna Trollope.

This year 140 writers entered and 20 were longlisted. Most prominent is the all-conquering Mantel, winner of the Man Booker and Costa prizes for Bring Up the Bodies. Last week she won an award thought of as the “British Nobel” – the £40,000 David Cohen prize for lifetime achievement. Her successes have provided ammunition for voices who say she has won enough. “I think it’s important to not think like that,” said Natasha Walter, a member of the judging panel. “You’ve got to choose what makes this set of judges most passionate and try not to think about the prizes that have gone before.”

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November 14, 2012

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver – review

Barbara Kingsolver’s climate change tale is urgent and masterly

By Liz Jensen

Climate change: the spectre hanging over every child, is the single most urgent issue of our times – and a challenge to any novelist. But how to write fiction about the Earth’s storm-filled future without a whiff of the pulpit?

Barbara Kingsolver’s paradoxical solution is to set her story on a sheep farm in the depressed Bible Belt. By recruiting traditional images of Heaven, Hell and sacrificial lambs to convey the impact of climate change on a community, an ecosystem and a species, the repercussions of man-made disaster lie firmly where they belong: in moral territory.

Kingsolver has been building up to this. In The Poisonwood Bible, in which a Christian missionary sacrifices his family to his own zealotry in the Belgian Congo, her preoccupation is as much with self-delusion as it is with doctrine. In Flight Behaviour, successor to the Orange prize-winning The Lacuna, she expands on the theme of deaf ears, blind eyes and belief-versus-evidence with the trademark human sympathy that has won her the devotion of readers worldwide.

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October 11, 2012

Orange prize saved by private donors after organisers fail to find sponsor

Cherie Blair and Martha Lane Fox are among backers for women’s fiction prize after Orange stops sponsorship.

By Claire Armitstead

High-profile private donors have stepped in to save the UK’s only prize for female writers after a scramble for a sponsor failed to come up with a long-term backer to replace Orange for 2013.

Cherie Blair, the “internet tsar” Martha Lane Fox and the novelist Joanna Trollope are among the supporters who have stepped up to save the Orange prize, which will now be known as the women’s prize for fiction.

The mobile services company Orange announced in May that it would not be renewing its sponsorship of the prize that has carried its name since its inception 17 years ago.

Set up to “celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from around the world”, the award is given annually to the best book by a woman written in English.

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May 24, 2012

Orange to cease sponsorship of Fiction Prize

Filed under: Literary Prizes — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:17 am

Kate Mosse

| By Benedicte Page

Orange will not renew its title sponsorship of The Women’s Prize for Fiction after this year’s award, to be made on 30th May.

The mobile services company, which has been the award’s sponsor since the prize was first set up 17 years ago, is to focus on its film industry sponsorship going forward.

Kate Mosse, co-founder and honorary director of the Prize (pictured), said she was “in active discussions with a number of potential new sponsors” and was hopeful of being able to announce a replacement by the end of the summer.

Mosse told The Bookseller: “It sounds daft but we’re very excited about the future of the prize going forward. It is very, very unusual for a massive arts sponsorship like this to come onto the market, it has great value, and this is a moment to be looking to the future, that’s how the business community has reacted.”

She added: “Orange has put millions into the book market, not just the Prize, but also in literacy and library projects, and for that they deserve a massive pat on the back. Now our aim is to grow the Prize and we’re looking for a sponsor interested in engaging not just in the UK but internationally.”

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March 8, 2012

Orange prize for fiction longlist shows diversity of historical novels

Madeline Miller, a teacher of Latin and Ancient Greek, took 10 years to write her debut, The Song of Achilles, which is longlisted for the Orange prize. Photograph: Nina Subin

Five debut novelists among 20 vying for prize for women writers.

By Mark Brown

Historical fiction – from love among heroes in ancient Greece to bickering jazz musicians in Nazi-occupied Paris – forms a significant chunk of this year’s Orange prize longlist, which has been revealed to coincide with International Women’s Day. Twenty novels made the list for Britain’s only annual prize for fiction written by women, including books by Emma Donoghue, Anne Enright, AL Kennedy and Ali Smith.

There were five books by debut novelists and four from writers with their “tricky” second novel. Joanna Trollope, the chair of judges, said the breadth of subject matter was particularly striking.

“It is the diversity that really characterises this longlist,” she said. “Yes, there are a fair number of historical novels, but they vary hugely from a gay cabaret artist in Berlin in the second world war to a preacher going off to deal with lost souls on a Hebridean island in the 1830s.”

A total of 143 novels were submitted for the prize, many dealing with historical subjects and many set during the second world war, said Trollope. “It is because, I think, it is just so unresolved. Writers inevitably go back to unfinished business and try and work it out somehow, so it is a very natural topic.”

Many serious subjects had been tackled, she said, which was a good thing. “There’s an extraordinarily unafraid quality in women when it comes to both emotions and writing. Fiction is a way into life’s great dilemmas and it is more than justified that serious stuff gets aired in fiction – quite apart from the fact that comic fiction is unbelievably hard to write.”

The list for this year’s prize, the 17th, consists of eight British writers, seven American, three Irish, one Swedish and one Canadian author.

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September 10, 2011

The world of book awards – a longlist

The 2010 Man Booker prize shortlisted books. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

We’ve all heard of the Man Booker and the Bad Sex prizes – but do you know your Impac from your Boardman Tasker?

By Claire Armitstead

The announcement of the Booker shortlist this week signals the start of the new awards season. In a sense, though, we’re halfway through it, with the Orange prize stealing a march by announcing its winner in June, thereby appearing to take command of the calendar year when their judging year actually runs from April to March. This sleight of hand worked particularly well this year, as Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife was published in March and is therefore very much a 2011 title.

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January 19, 2011

Kingston Uni acquires Orange Prize archive

18.01.11 | Graeme Neill

The archive of the Orange Prize has been acquired by Kingston University.

Material held at the university dates back 20 years to the first meeting that discussed founding a new prize for women’s writing. It also includes information about the various projects funded by the prize….read more

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