Congratulations to Madeline Miller who has won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012 for The Song of Achilles

The Orange Prize for Fiction Winner 2012

From the Orange Prize website: 19.15pm, London, 30 May 2012 — American author Madeline Miller has won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction with her debut novel The Song of Achilles (Bloomsbury).

2012 marks the seventeenth year of the Orange Prize, which celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.

At an awards ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London – hosted by Orange Prize for Fiction Co-Founder and Honorary Director, Kate Mosse – the 2012 Chair of Judges, Joanna Trollope, presented the author with the £30,000 prize and the ‘Bessie’, a limited edition bronze figurine. Both are anonymously endowed.

Joanna Trollope, Chair of Judges, said: “This is a more than worthy winner — original, passionate, inventive and uplifting. Homer would be proud of her.”

The Orange Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction written by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. The Orange Prize is awarded to the best novel of the year written in English by a woman.

From the Guardian:

There seems something almost culturally inevitable about the fact that Madeline Miller, a Massachusetts teacher of Latin and Greek, has won the Orange prize with her first novel, The Song of Achilles. The book, which weaves a compelling story about Patroclus, a crucial yet fleetingly described character in Homer’s Iliad, joins a throng of recent works, all indebted to the epic poem, that have captured the imagination of the public and critics alike. Others include David Malouf’s melancholic novel Ransom, Alice Oswald’s diamond-cut poem Memorial, and Caroline Alexander’s admired non-fiction work The War That Killed Achilles.

Why the interest? We live in an age of cultural conflict, of wars pitching the east against the west. The Iliad – a foundational text of European literature – is still the greatest of all war poems, ready to be read afresh, and from a different perspective, by each generation. Alexander the Great, no peacenik, slept with a copy under his pillow. Today’s Iliad readers are more likely to draw from it a sense of the pity, grief, and waste of war.

Miller asks: who was Patroclus? Where did he come from? What was his experience of the war? What was the love between Achilles and Patroclus that caused Achilles to feel such overwhelming lust for revenge, such pounding grief, when his companion fell? In spinning her tale of boyhood, friendship and sexual passion – all played out against an exquisitely realised vision of the Greek landscape – Miller never drops a note. You don’t need to have read the Iliad to enjoy this novel, but chances are you’ll want to pick up Homer when you’ve finished. Read more…


The Song of Achilles

by Madeline Miller

A breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War – a devastating love story and a tale of gods and kings, immortal fame and the human heart

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not – strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess – and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship.

As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause.

Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

About the Author

Madeline Miller has a BA and MA from Brown University in Latin and Ancient Greek, and has been teaching both for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specialising in adapting classical tales to a modern audience. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

Click here to read more…

Click here to read an extract

Madeline has answered the Booktopia Book Guru’s Ten Terrifying Questions, click here

Click here to buy The Song of Achilles from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop


RUNNERS UP

Esi Edugyan – Half Blood Blues

This is a new part of an old story: 1930s Berlin, the threat of imprisonment and the powerful desire to make something beautiful despite the horror.

Chip told us not to go out. Said, don’t you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you.

The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again.

He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.

Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled. In “Half Blood Blues”, Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don’t tell your story, someone else might tell it for you.

And they just might tell it wrong…

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Half Blood Blues


Anne Enright – The Forgotten Waltz

The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009,it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for ‘the love of her life’, Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial.

Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina waits the arrival on her doorstep of Seán’s fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie – the complication, and gravity, of this second life.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of The Forgotten Waltz


Georgina Harding – Painter of Silence

When she leaves the ward she feels the whiteness of the room still inside her, as if she is bleached out inside. It is the shock, she tells herself. She feels the whiteness like a dam holding back all the coloured flood of memory.

1948. A man is found on the steps of the hospital in Iasi, Romania. Wet with morning dew, he is as frail as a fallen bird and utters no words. It is days before anyone realises that he is deaf and mute. The ward sister, Adriana, whose son still has not returned from the war in Russia, sits at the man’s bedside and whispers to him, keeping herself company. But it is a young nurse called Safta who thinks to bring paper and pencils with which he might draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page: a hillside, a stable, a racing car, a grand house as it was before everything changed for ever.

The man is Augustin, the son of a cook at the manor house in Dumbraveni where Safta was the privileged daughter. Born six months apart, they had a connection that bypassed words, but while Augustin’s world stayed the same size Safta’s expanded to embrace languages, society, the breathless possibility of Paris. And love, one dappled summer’s day, in the form of a fleeting young man in a green Lagonda.

Pictures are always in the present. But a war has raged and ebbed since those days, leaving in its wake a new, Communist regime. Walls have ears, words and images are more dangerous than ever before, and even neighbours with old-world mirrors and samovars cannot be trusted.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Painter of Silence


Cynthia Ozick – Foreign Bodies

The collapse of her brief marriage has stalled Bea Nightingale’s life, leaving her middle-aged and alone, teaching in an impoverished borough of 1950s New York. A plea from her estranged brother gives Bea the excuse to escape lassitude by leaving for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows; but the siren call of Europe threatens to deafen Bea to the dangers of entangling herself in the lives of her brother’s family.

Travelling from America to France, Bea leaves the stigma of divorce on the far side of the Atlantic; newly liberated, she chooses to defend her nephew and his girlfriend Lili by waging a war of letters on the brother she has promised to help. But Bea’s generosity is a mixed blessing: those she tries to help seem to be harmed, and as Bea’s family unravel from around her, she finds herself once again drawn to the husband she thought she had left in the past…

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Foreign Bodies


Ann Patchett – State of Wonder

There were people on the banks of the river.

Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns.

Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.

What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of State of Wonder


Orange Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2012

The Orange Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2012

Esi Edugyan – Half Blood Blues

This is a new part of an old story: 1930s Berlin, the threat of imprisonment and the powerful desire to make something beautiful despite the horror.

Chip told us not to go out. Said, don’t you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you.

The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again.

He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.

Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled. In “Half Blood Blues”, Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don’t tell your story, someone else might tell it for you.

And they just might tell it wrong…

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Half Blood Blues


Anne Enright – The Forgotten Waltz

The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009,it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for ‘the love of her life’, Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial.

Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina waits the arrival on her doorstep of Seán’s fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie – the complication, and gravity, of this second life.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of The Forgotten Waltz


Georgina Harding – Painter of Silence

When she leaves the ward she feels the whiteness of the room still inside her, as if she is bleached out inside. It is the shock, she tells herself. She feels the whiteness like a dam holding back all the coloured flood of memory.

1948. A man is found on the steps of the hospital in Iasi, Romania. Wet with morning dew, he is as frail as a fallen bird and utters no words. It is days before anyone realises that he is deaf and mute. The ward sister, Adriana, whose son still has not returned from the war in Russia, sits at the man’s bedside and whispers to him, keeping herself company. But it is a young nurse called Safta who thinks to bring paper and pencils with which he might draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page: a hillside, a stable, a racing car, a grand house as it was before everything changed for ever.

The man is Augustin, the son of a cook at the manor house in Dumbraveni where Safta was the privileged daughter. Born six months apart, they had a connection that bypassed words, but while Augustin’s world stayed the same size Safta’s expanded to embrace languages, society, the breathless possibility of Paris. And love, one dappled summer’s day, in the form of a fleeting young man in a green Lagonda.

Pictures are always in the present. But a war has raged and ebbed since those days, leaving in its wake a new, Communist regime. Walls have ears, words and images are more dangerous than ever before, and even neighbours with old-world mirrors and samovars cannot be trusted.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Painter of Silence


Madeline Miller – The Song of Achilles

A breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War – a devastating love story and a tale of gods and kings, immortal fame and the human heart

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not – strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess – and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship.

As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause.

Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Click here to read more…

Madeline has answered the Booktopia Book Guru’s Ten Terrifying Questions, click here

Click here to order your copy of The Song of Achilles


Cynthia Ozick – Foreign Bodies

The collapse of her brief marriage has stalled Bea Nightingale’s life, leaving her middle-aged and alone, teaching in an impoverished borough of 1950s New York. A plea from her estranged brother gives Bea the excuse to escape lassitude by leaving for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows; but the siren call of Europe threatens to deafen Bea to the dangers of entangling herself in the lives of her brother’s family.

Travelling from America to France, Bea leaves the stigma of divorce on the far side of the Atlantic; newly liberated, she chooses to defend her nephew and his girlfriend Lili by waging a war of letters on the brother she has promised to help. But Bea’s generosity is a mixed blessing: those she tries to help seem to be harmed, and as Bea’s family unravel from around her, she finds herself once again drawn to the husband she thought she had left in the past…

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Foreign Bodies


Ann Patchett – State of Wonder

There were people on the banks of the river.

Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns.

Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.

What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of State of Wonder


The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht Wins the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction: Read Toni W’s review…

The winner of the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction was announced in the UK last night. Room by Emma Donoghue, which many thought should have won the Man Booker, was the crowd favourite and expected to win. But it was not to be.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht won and this would not come as a surprise to anyone who has read it. Booktopia’s Toni Whitmont called it ‘a revelatory and completely engrossing read.’ And ‘one I want to keep in hard copy form in my bookcase.’

High praise from very big reader!


WINNER:

Téa Obreht – The Tiger’s Wife


Bettany Hughes, Chair of Judges, said: “‘The Tiger’s Wife is an exceptional book and Téa Obreht is a truly exciting new talent. Obreht’s powers of observation and her understanding of the world are remarkable. By skilfully spinning a series of magical tales she has managed to bring the tragedy of chronic Balkan conflict thumping into our front rooms with a bittersweet vivacity.”

She continues, “The book reminds us how easily we can slip into barbarity, but also of the breadth and depth of human love. Obreht celebrates storytelling and she helps us to remember that it is the stories that we tell about ourselves, and about others, that can make us who we are and the world what it is.”

‘Tea Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years.’ – Colum McCann (and she’s only 24!).

As Natalia and a friend travel across the former Yugoslavia, immunising villagers, the body of her grandfather turns up in a hospital in the middle of nowhere. She and her family have no idea why.

Recalling stories he told her as a child, she becomes convinced that he went in search of the Deathless Man, a mythical figure, that her grandfather claimed to have met a number of times in his life.

Tea Obrecht

In her quest to find out how her grandfather, a man of hard fact and science, could turn to this fantasy, she discovers something particular about his childhood: a tiger escaped from a zoo during World War II bombings and wandered deep into the woods, settling just outside his peasant village. It terrorized the town, the devil incarnate to everyone, except for her grandfather and ‘the tiger’s wife’…

About the Author: Tea Obreht was born in 1985 in the former Yugoslavia and was raised in Belgrade. In 1992, her family moved to Cyprus, eventually emigrating to the US in 1997. She was the youngest author on The New Yorker’s Top 20 Writers under 40 List and one of the youngest authors ever to be extracted in the magazine. She lives in Ithaca, New York.

READ TONI WHITMONT’S REVIEW HERE

Order The Tiger’s Wife here


RUNNERS UP:


Emma Donoghue – Room

The story of a mother, her son, a locked room and the outside world

Jack is five and, like any little boy, excited at the prospect of presents and cake. He’s looking forward to telling his friends it’s his birthday, too. But although Jack is a normal child in many ways – loving, funny, bright, full of energy and questions – his upbringing is far from ordinary: Jack’s entire life has been spent in a single room that measures just 12 feet by 12 feet; as far as he’s concerned, Room is the entire world.

He shares this world with his mother, with Plant, and tiny Mouse (though Ma isn’t a fan and throws a book at Mouse when she sees him). There’s TV too, of course – and the cartoon characters he thinks of as his friends – but Jack knows that nothing else he sees on the screen is real. Old Nick, on the other hand, is all too real, but only visits at night – like a bat – when Jack is meant to be asleep and hidden safely in Wardrobe. And only Old Nick has the code to Door, which is Continue reading

Trespass by Rose Tremain

Trespass 9780701178017 Trespass opens with a young girl bullied away from a school picnic in a remote corner of the Cevennes in southern France. Longing for escape, she finds a woodland pool but her cooling swim turns to horror when she sees something unspeakable.

The sense of menace in Trespass is set from that opening scene. And it is not just the menace wrought by human hands. There is a palpable feeling throughout that the earth itself is alive, seeking, indeed reclaiming ,what was taken by those who trespassed.

Trespass tells the intersecting stories of two sets of brother and sister. Anthony Verey is an aging gay antique dealer from London who seeks respite with his sister Veronica. Veronica is a gardening writer living in the Cevennes, with her own lover, the untalented painter Kitty. Meanwhile, Aramon Lunel, the obsessive and violent alcoholic who is living amongst the ruins of his once prosperous inherited farm, decides to make his fortune by selling the farmhouse to the increasingly reclusive Englishman. His sister Audrun, who has experienced a lifetime of cruelty and drudgery, has other ideas.

This is a story about space, place, territory and the iron grip of the past. The characters are stalked by the memory of soil in the same way as those in Andrew McGahan’s The White Earth and Alex Miller’s Landscape of Farewell. I couldn’t put this book down.

Rose Tremain won the Orange Prize for The Road Home. She is sure to garner a wider audience with Trespass and it is no surprise that she is a favourite for the Man Booker.

Barbara Kingsolver Wins The Orange Prize

LONDON (AP) – American novelist Barbara Kingsolver took home the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction on Wednesday with her sixth novel, The Lacuna, beating bookmakers’ favorite Hilary Mantel.

Kingsolver, who had not published a novel in nine years, said she was “stunned and thrilled” as she received the 30,000 pound ($45,000 ) prize — open to any novel by a woman published in English — at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

“We chose The Lacuna because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy” Daisy Goodwin, chair of judges said.

WINNER!

The Lacuna

Barbara Kingsolver

‘You had better write all this in your notebook, she said, the story of what happened to us in Mexico. So when nothing is left of us but bones, someone will know where we went.’

The Lacuna is a gripping story of identity, connection with our past, and the power of words to create or devastate. Crossing two decades, from the vibrant revolutionary murals of Mexico City to the halls of a Congress bent on eradicating the colour red, The Lacuna is as deep and rich as the New World itself.

$16.95 Save 32% Buy Now – Click Here

Runners Up:

The Very Thought of You

Rosie Alison

England, 31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple.

Soon Anna gets drawn into their unravelling relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes – and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with unforeseen consequences. A story of longing, loss and complicated loyalties, combining a sweeping narrative with subtle psychological observation, The Very Thought of You is not just a love story but a story about love. Buy Now.

Black Water Rising

Attica Locke

“This is a stunning crime noir read from début author, and it has been getting a lot of attention overseas. Black Water Rising is laid out so clearly you can feel the sweat of the Bayou heat trickling down between your shoulder blades, you can see the marshes oozing, you can feel the pulse in the temple of its hero, journeyman Afro American lawyer Jay Porter.

Attica Locke weaves a tangled web of murder and intrigue, court room drama, set-up and counter set-up, unholy alliance of politics and business. Most of all, she tells a story of a man held ransom by his past. And Porter’s past plunges straight right back to the birth, and some might say abrupt strangling, of the civil rights movement in America.

Attica Locke has been getting a lot of attention for her début novel, and a lot of excellent reviews. With an action-oriented plot she has made a tight, tense thriller out of it, a story where the big picture is just as menacing as the personal drama. Talk about the sins of the father being visited on the son. I couldn’t put this one down.” Toni Whitmont, Booktopia BUZZ Editor-in Chief. Buy Now.

Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel

Go backstage during the most dramatic period in English history: the reign of Henry VIII.

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor.

From one of our finest living writers, WOLF HALL is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion, suffering and courage. Buy Now.

A Gate at the Stairs

Lorrie Moore

With America quietly gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, a ‘half-Jewish’ farmer’s daughter from the plains of the Midwest, has come to university – escaping her provincial home to encounter the complex world of culture and politics. When she takes a job as a part-time nanny to a couple who seem at once mysterious and glamorous, Tassie is drawn into the life of their newly-adopted child and increasingly complicated household. As her past becomes increasingly alien to her – her parents seem older when she visits; her disillusioned brother ever more fixed on joining the military – Tassie finds herself becoming a stranger to herself.

As the year unfolds, love leads her to new and formative experiences – but it is then that the past and the future burst forth in dramatic and shocking ways. Refracted through the eyes of this memorable narrator, A Gate at the Stairs is a lyrical, beguiling and wise novel of our times. Buy Now.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

Monique Roffey

When George and Sabine Harwood arrive in Trinidad from England as young newlyweds, they have with them just a couple of suitcases and Sabine’s prized green bicycle. Their intention is to stay for not more than three years, but George falls in love with the island. Sabine, however, is ill at ease with the racial segregation and unrest in her new home, and takes solace in the freedom of her green bicycle.

George and Sabine become more entangled in their life on the island – in all its passion and betrayals – and Sabine’s bicycle takes her places she wouldn’t otherwise go. One day George makes a discovery that forces him to realise the extent of the secrets between them, and is seized by an urgent, desperate need to prove his love for her – with tragic consequences. Buy Now.
Click Here to View Past Winners

FEATURE: So Much for That by Lionel Shriver – what is a human life worth? A Review By Kylie Ladd

Sharp-eyed followers of our Ten Terrifying Questions will know that Kylie Ladd, author of After the Fall, is an unabashed Lionel Shriver fan so she was the perfect person to be a guest reviewer for Shriver’s stunning new novel, So Much for That.

Kylie is currently packing her life into boxes for a move to the tropical north of Western Australia. On the strength of her review, I am going to have to ask her to fish out my copy of So Much for That and return it. Shriver is famous for her harrowing, psychologically astute tales and this one sounds like her typical Rubik’s Cube take on modern times. Can’t wait!

Now, over to Kylie to tell you all about it.

Lionel Shriver has long been a favourite author of mine, and thus I have to confess that I didn’t come to her latest novel, So Much for That, as objectively as a reviewer probably should. We Need To Talk About Kevin, which was feted worldwide and won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2005, is one of the most intriguing, complex and sometimes downright scary books I have ever read, a sophisticated study of the psychology of both a teenage mass-murderer and of motherhood. Shriver’s follow-up, The Post-Birthday World, would also make it into my personal top twenty, if only for its cunning parallel narratives exploring the divergent paths our lives can take following one central choice.

All that said however, I must admit the premise of So Much for That initially left me quite cold. Shepherd Knacker is a middle-aged American man dreaming of what he calls the Afterlife, where he will ditch his job along with his middle-class comforts and responsibilities, to live self-sufficiently on a small island off the coast of Africa. Shepherd has been planning his escape for at least the last decade, and as the novel opens, he is packing his bags, determined to leave whether his wife Glynis and son Zach decide to come with him or not.

Then Glynis, unaware of his plan, arrives home to announce that Continue reading

Winners of the Orange Prize for Women’s Fiction

9780297855507anequalstillnessHas anyone out there read An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay? Kay has just picked up the Orange Award for New Writers which celebrate emerging female literary talent. An Equal Stillness came into my hands a couple of months ago – along with a swag load of  glowing reviews –  but I am afraid it got swamped by a whole lot of next big things. Well, after this week’s announcement, it has just made the huge leap to the top of the pile. In the meantime, I certainly would be interested in the thoughts of anyone who has read it.

While the Orange Award for New Writers has only been going for a few years, the Orange Prize for  Fiction is now in its 13th year. Born out of frustration that the major  literary prizes were ignoring women’s writing, the Orange Prize has brought into the main stream people such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of the Yellow Sun), Zadie Smith (On Beauty), and Carol Shields (Unless). A few of my all time favourites have been either winners or on the short list, namely Valerie Martin’s Property and Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto.

9781844085491homeThe judges have just awarded Marilynne Robinson the overall winner for Home. Home is a companion novel to her earlier Gilead. You can listen to Robinson reading from her book at the awards ceremony here.

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