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Orange Prize for Fiction Shortlist Announced

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Carrie Tiffany, author of Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living is the only debut novelist on the shortlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction, announced today.

The novel, set in Depression-era rural Australia, joins more predictable names, including Sarah Waters, for her much-praised The Night Watch (likely to be the early bookies’ favourite), and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty in the race for the 11th award, given to novels by women published in Britain that show “excellence, originality and accessibility”. The list is completed by The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, The Accidental by Ali Smith, and Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel.

Kimbofo, who writes on Reading Matters and knows the area of which Tiffany writes, says of the debut novel:

Tiffany’s assured writing perfectly captures the Australian landscape and the era within which the story is set. (I wooped with joy when she name-checked several places in South Gippsland that I know oh-so well.)
And despite the bareness of the prose, her eye for detail manages to convey so much in just a few short words.

My suggestion that Waters is likely to be the favourite might be challenged by Blogcritic Ashok K. Banker, who has described On Beauty as beautiful in every sense. He writes:

It takes bollocks to model oneself on an acknowledged master of the English novel of manners, that too no less a personage than E.M. Forster, whose mastery of craft was equalled only by his erudition on the craft of literary masterpieces. It takes even bigger bollocks to then take Forster’s most accomplished masterpiece, Howard’s End, raze it to the ground, strip its materials to brick, mortar, plank and panelling, relocate every item in the manner of a self-titled Lord of New England moving his just-purchased Scottish castle across the Atlantic, and rebuild it painstakingly into a literary edifice that seems perfectly at home in its new location and time.

Ashok has also reviewed The Accidental, although in less glowing terms:

It’s for her literary virtuosity that you really ride this tramcar through four reality-addled minds, not really for the story. Smith is firmly entrenched in the post-modern world of British literature, where the plot story is less relevant than how it’s narrated and structured, and middle-class British sensibility is just too boring to make up a whole novel without the eyelet-lace of literary texturing.

As for characters, oh, yes, like all short-story writers, Smith loves them to bits, taking them apart and putting them together until they are nothing more than literary inventions–devastatingly conceived and created, thoroughly drenched in real detail and nuance, but literary nonetheless.

The chair of the judges, journalist Martha Kearney, said: “We have been very lucky as some of the country’s finest writers have excellent books out this year and that is reflected in our choice. But that did mean it was difficult taking out some much loved novels from the long list.”

The winner, to be announced on June 6, will collect £30,000 (US$54,000).

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.