- Date: 19 May 2010
- Area: National
Shortlisted titles for the Orange Prize for New Writers. Credit: After the Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld (Jonathan Cape); Book of Fires by Jane Borodale (Harper Press); The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini (Sceptre)
The award, which was launched in 2005 in partnership with the Arts Council, celebrates the work of emerging female authors. Gemma Seltzer, Relationship Manager, Literature, talks us through this year's shortlist.
Book prizes have a unique and important role in the literary sector. They have an unparalleled ability to propel new writers into the limelight, bring 'must reads' to a wider audience and provide new opportunities that allow authors to pursue writing with greater freedom.
Alongside the Orange Prize is the Orange Award for New Writers, which is co-sponsored by the Arts Council and offers a bursary of £10,000. This year's shortlist spans the globe from Australia to Zimbabwe to eighteenth century Britain, taking in childbirth, incest, fireworks, arson, the Australian outback and - happily - cake decorating along the way.
The Orange Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 in response a concern that many of the biggest literary prizes appeared to overlook writing by women. In 2005, Arts Council England joined with Orange to celebrate shorter fiction - both short story collection and novellas - and promote work by emerging authors in the Award for New Writers.
The 2010 judging panel is chaired by BBC Radio 4's Di Speirs, who is joined by Rachel Cooke, of The Observer and novelist Bernadine Evaristo. For this year's shortlist, they chose:
The Book of Fires, Jane Borodale (Harper Press)
Pregnant and with a handful of stolen coins, Jane Borodale's empathetically drawn character Agnes Trussel leaves her Sussex home for London. Through a series of chance encounters, she finds herself assistant to a firework-maker. This is a novel with fear at its centre: it's fear that drives Agnes from her family, towards a stranger offering a pyrotechnical apprenticeship, and it's also fear that inadvertently protects her unborn child from a life of destitution. The book is full of strong images - London's twisted, grimy streets, the fireworks exploding as white stars in the unlit sky, the chemical reactions bubbling in the workshop - and is a remarkable read.
The Boy Next Door, Irene Sabatini (Sceptre)
He's not the conventional boy next door, having been imprisoned for killing his step-mother and having a reputation for erratic moments of rage, but Lindiwe loves Ian, a white 'Rhodie'. Set during the time of Zimbabwean independence, this is a stunning debut of astonishing power exploring the blossoming romance in a society facing severe political upheaval. A very personal novel about ordinary people discovering how to navigate their way through life, as the world around them changes so dramatically.
After The Fire, A Still Small Voice, Evie Wyld, (Jonathan Cape)
Eastern Australia forms the backdrop of this spectacularly self-assured first novel. Frank leaves his violent past to live in his grandparent's old shack, while Leon learns how to decorate cakes as he witnesses the gradual deterioration of his parents' relationship in the 1950s, when his father volunteers to fight in the Korean war. From a new voice in contemporary fiction, this is a tender story of several generations of men and the consequences of not being able to express their grief in words.
The judges also commended Jacqueline Yallop's Kissing Alice (Atlantic) for its compelling story and fine prose. A rather marvellous novel offering a series of family portraits beginning just before the First World War. Arthur returns from the trenches powerless to communicate or accept his wife and two daughters, finding solace only in a copy of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. As the story unfolds, Yallop explores sibling rivalry, incest, unrequited love, frustrated adolescents and serious, deep loss.
The literature unit at Arts Council England are very much looking forward to the announcement of the winner at the prize ceremony in June 2010.
Date for your diaries:
Orange Prize at 15 celebratory event including Bernardine Evaristo hosting a reading with the three Orange Prize for New Writers 2010 shortlisted authors.
Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre, 7pm, Monday 7 June