So, the shortlist of this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction has been announced, and it is:
Emma Dooghue, Room
Aminatta Forna, The Memory of Love
Emma Henderson, Grace Williams Says It Loud
Nicole Krauss, Great House
Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife
Kathleen Winter, Annabel
My reaction? Well, Room is the only one of these that I’ve read (indeed, the only book on the whole longlist that I’ve read), and I thought it was good, so fair play to it. The Tiger’s Wife was already on my radar, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it (which I will get around to doing soon, honest). The Memory of Love wasn’t on my radar — and, judging by its synopsis (the lives of an English psychologist, a surgeon, and a patient reflecting on his past, intersect in Sierra Leone), is not something I would instinctively pick up — but I loved Forna’s entry in the BBC National Short Story Award last year, so I may well take a look at it.
I don’t have any experience of the three other authors’ works, so I can only go by how they sound to me. Grace Williams Says It Loud is a love story between two people who were placed in a psychiatric institution; I’ve come across a brief extract, which I thought well-written. I know Krauss received great acclaim for The History of Love, but the idea of Great House (three lives linked by the same desk) strikes me as potentially too gimmicky, and the excerpt I’ve read didn’t especially grab me. Annabel concerns a hermaphrodite in remote Canada; I suspect the quality of the prose will be key to the success of this book, and the extract I found was promising, very precise in its detail.
The winner of the Orange Prize will be announced on Wednesday 8 June.