Orange Prize 2011

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Orange Prize 2011

Winner

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

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Téa Obreht's 'The Tiger's Wife' comes with a fair degree of hype from the US, and largely it lives up to it, which is no small achievement. The main story is set in Yugoslavia and explores a young doctor, Natalia, seeking for the truth about her grandfather's death, while on a mission to deliver much needed medical aid to an orphanage in the war-ravaged Balkans. But what sets this book apart is the intricate weaving of reality with the myths and stories of the region. In particular there are two myths that represent a good chunk of the page count: the story of a tiger who has escaped from captivity after the World War two bombing of Belgrade and who has settled near a remote mountain village where Natalia's grandfather is growing up, and who develops a strange relationship with a deaf-mute girl who becomes known as 'the tiger's wife'; and a mysterious story of the 'Deathless Man' whom the grandfather encounters at various points in his life who appears to have the power to foresee others' death without being able to die himself. Full review...

Short-listed Books

Room by Emma Donoghue

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Narrated in the voice of five year old Jack, this is a haunting, innovative and brave story that will stay with you long after the final page. A sad situation, lightly and movingly told. Full review...

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

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A story of three men, life after war, memory, love and many other things in Sierra Leone. Full review...

Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson

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Grace, aged eleven, is sent to the Briar Mental Institute as her parents can no longer cope with her care. She is befriended there by a young boy, Daniel, who is epileptic and also has no arms after a terrible accident. Together we see the horrors of life in the Briar, and also their slowly growing love affair with each other. Full review...

Great House by Nicole Krauss

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This is a demanding, but rewarding read. It's unashamedly literary in style. While certainly not to everyone's taste, it's exceptionally clever and beautifully written. Just don't expect much in the way of laughs here. Full review...

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

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A book about a very sensitive and emotive subject. In 1960s rural Canada a baby is born but there is confusion as to whether the baby is a boy or a girl - and so starts a tortuous life journey for Wayne/Annabel. Full review...

Other books on the long list

Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela

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The front cover photograph is eye-catching and lovely and has the appeal of saying to potential readers - read me. The book's title is both poetic and enigmatic. I was keen to get reading but before I could, I'm faced with a page listing the Principal Characters and another page setting out the Abuzeid family tree. It did put me off slightly, I have to admit. I tend to think that with a modern, average-paged work of fiction a list of characters is well, a list too far. So, yes, for the first couple of chapters I was constantly flicking back and forth to remind myself who everyone was. Not so good for those lazy readers out there, I'm thinking. Full review...

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

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Jaffy Brown lives a poor existence in the east end of London. But one day he literally comes across a tiger - and his life is changed forever. Full review...

The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi

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This novel is about meshing two very different cultures and of how the families of each cope with the many changes involved. Doshi's poetic voice gives the whole story a strong element of charm. Full review...

Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty

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Laura plans revenge after losing her nine year old daughter in an accident, in a beautifully written and utterly compelling novel. Full review...

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

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Full of clever literary stylish tricks but this never detracts from wonderful storytelling. Using the music industry as a lens to explore time, this is an episodic and highly amusing collection of inter-related stories - like a concept album but without the tedious bits! Full review...

The London Train by Tessa Hadley

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I have to say, overall I was slightly disappointed with this novel. It is very much a work of two parts - which is a good enough approach in itself. Yet when the two parts are so dreadfully uneven, then it is either going to be a resounding success, or potentially a disastrous flop. Fortunately, this managed to avoid the latter conclusion - but only due to the vastly superior quality of part two. Full review...

The Seas by Samantha Hunt

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A quirky, melancholy tale of love in a lonely seaside town. Full review...

The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna

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A complex novel about childbirth in the past, present and future, which is a challenging but rewarding read. Recommended, (but if you’re pregnant, wait until after the birth). Full review...

The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone

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Na Ga finds herself in Wanting, on the China / Burma border where her former American boyfriend has arranged for her to cross the border to her native Burma. Exposing aspects of Southeast Asia that are not normally seen by Westerners, encompassing rural Burma, Rangoon, northern China, the brothels of northern Thailand and Bangkok, the book relates her difficult life and is ultimately about acceptance and forgiveness. It's beautiful, sad and uplifting all at the same time. Full review...

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

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Heavy to hold but incredible to read. I lived and breathed this brilliant, haunting novel from start to finish. Full review...

Repeat It Today With Tears by Anne Peile

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A dark and haunting novel about an incestuous relationship between father and daughter. This book is written with such attention to detail that it feels like so much more than just fiction; while the characters are presented in a way that makes the events seem a necessary and natural progression. Full review...

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

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A story of a teenage alligator wrestler and her family in a failing Florida theme park. Full review...

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin

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A lightly written tale of dark secrets amongst the wives of a Nigerian man's polygamous household. Secrets, scheming and general unsavoriness abound. Full review...

The Swimmer by Roma Tearne

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Ria, solitary, middle-aged poet, was idly watching the river one night when she saw a swimmer. It wasn't just the time of day which was unusual, but the river was hardly clean – and then she heard a noise downstairs. In this remote part of Suffolk it wasn't unusual to leave doors unlocked and the following morning she realised that a loaf of bread had been stolen. It was strange that she didn't really feel fear, but when the visits and minor thefts continued she waited up to catch the swimmer, who stole small amounts of food – and played the piano like an angel. Full review...