The longlist for the 2012 Orange Prize
The Orange Prize for Fiction, the UK’s only annual book award for fiction written by a woman, has announced the 2012 longlist. Now in its seventeenth year, the Prize celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing throughout the world.
- Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg
On the ten-hour sailing west from the Hebrides to the islands of St Kilda, everything lies ahead for Lizzie and Neil MacKenzie. Neil is to become the minister to the small community of islanders and Lizzie, his new wife, is pregnant with their first child. Neil’s journey is evangelical: a testing and strengthening of his own faith against the old pagan ways of the St Kildans, but it is also a passage to atonement. For Lizzie – bright, beautiful and devoted – this is an adventure, a voyage into the unknown. She is sure only of her loyalty and love for her husband, but everything that happens from now on will challenge all her certainties. As the two adjust to life on an exposed archipelago on the edge of civilization, where the natives live in squalor and subsist on a diet of seabirds, and babies perish mysteriously in their first week, their marriage – and their sanity – is threatened. Is Lizzie a wilful temptress drawing him away from his faith? Is Neil’s zealous Christianity unhinging into madness? And who, or what, is haunting the moors and cliff-tops?
- On the Floor by Aifric Campbell
In the City, everything has a price. What’s yours? At the age of twenty-eight, Dubliner Geri Molloy has put her troubled past behind her to become a major player at Steiner’s investment bank in London, earning $850k a year doing business with a reclusive hedge fund manager in Hong Kong who, in return for his patronage, likes to ask her about Kant and watch while she eats exotic Asian delicacies. For five years Geri has had it all, but in the months leading up to the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991, her life starts to unravel. Abandoned by her corporate financier boyfriend, in the grip of a debilitating insomnia, and drinking far too much, Geri becomes entangled in a hostile takeover involving her boss, her client and her ex. With her career on the line as a consequence, and no one to turn to, she is close to losing it, in every sense.
- The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
The Ryries have suffered a loss: the death of a baby just fifty-seven hours after his birth. Without words to express their grief, the parents, John and Ricky, try to return to their previous lives. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy for themselves and for their two older children, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but that their marriage, their family, have always been intact. Yet in the aftermath of the baby’s death, long-suppressed uncertainties about their relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges with reverberations that reach far into their past and threaten their future. The couple’s children, ten-year-old Biscuit and thirteen-year-old Paul, responding to the unnamed tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely – perhaps courageously – idiosyncratic ways. But as the four family members scatter into private, isolating grief, an unexpected visitor arrives, and they all find themselves growing more alert to the sadness and burdens of others-to the grief that is part of every human life but that also carries within it the power to draw us together.
- The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
Miss Emily “Fido” Faithfull is a “woman of business” and a spinster pioneer in the British women’s movement, independent of mind but naively trusting of heart. Distracted from her cause by the sudden return of a once-dear friend, the unhappily wed Helen Codrington, Fido is swept up in the intimate details of Helen’s failing marriage and obsessive affair with a young army officer. What begins as a loyal effort to help a friend explodes into an intriguing courtroom drama complete with accusations of adultery, counterclaims of rape, and a mysterious letter that could destroy more than one life.
- Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Berlin, 1939. The Hot Time Swingers, a popular jazz band, has been forbidden to play by the Nazis. Their young trumpet-player Hieronymus Falk, declared a musical genius by none other than Louis Armstrong, is arrested in a Paris café. He is never heard from again. He was twenty years old, a German citizen. And he was black. Berlin, 1952. Falk is a jazz legend. Hot Time Swingers band members Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, both African Americans from Baltimore, have appeared in a documentary about Falk. When they are invited to attend the film’s premier, Sid’s role in Falk’s fate will be questioned and the two old musicians set off on a surprising and strange journey. From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, Sid leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world as he describes the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that led to Falk’s incarceration in Sachsenhausen. Half-Blood Blues is a story about music and race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.
- The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
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.
- The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki
Meet Maqil – also known as Mike, Mehmet, Mikhail and Miguel – a chancer and charlatan. A criminally clever man who tells a good tale, trading on his charm and good looks, reinventing himself with a new identity and nationality in each successive country he makes his home, abandoning wives and children and careers in the process. He’s a compulsive gambler – driven to lose at least as much as he gains, in games of chance, and in life. A damaged man in search of himself. From the day he was delivered in Lahore, Pakistan, alongside his stillborn twin, he proved he was a born survivor. He has been a master of flying escapes, from Cairo to Paris, from London to Hong Kong, humbled by love, outliving his peers, and ending up old and alone in a budget hotel in Biarritz some eighty years later. His chequered history is catching up with him: his tracks have been uncovered and his latest wife, his children, his creditors and former business associates, all want to pin him down. But even at the end, Maqil just can’t resist trying it on; he’s still playing his game, and the game won’t be over until it’s been won.
- Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
He planned to steal with these horses, who were all better than they looked on paper. The trick was to get in and get out fast. But could he really pull it off? Could he be that sure, could he count on being that lucky? Listen carefully my dear. Lord of Misrule, he whispered loudly. Lord of Misrule, Margaret. Memorize that name.
- Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
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. Iasi, Romania, the early 1950s. A man is found on the steps of a hospital, frail as a fallen bird. He carries no identification and utters no words, and it is days before anyone discovers that he is deaf and mute. And then a young nurse called Safta brings paper and pencils with which he can draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page: a hillside, a stable, a car, a country house, dogs and mirrored rooms and samovars in what is now a lost world. The memories are Safta’s also. For the man is Augustin, son of the cook at the manor at Poiana that was her family home. Born six months apart, they grew up with a connection that bypassed words. But while Augustin’s world remained the same size Safta’s expanded to embrace languages, society – and love, as Augustin watched one long hot summer, in the form of a fleeting young man in a green Lagonda. Safta left before the war. Augustin stayed. But even in the wide hills and valleys around Poiana he did not escape its horrors. He watched uncomprehending as armies passed through the place. Then the Communists came, and he found himself their unlikely victim. There are things that he must tell Safta that may be more than simple drawings can convey.
- Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
As she sits in her Bloomsbury home with her two pet birds for company, elderly Harriet Baxter recounts the story of her friendship with Ned Gillespie – a talented artist whose life came to a tragic end before he ever achieved the fame and recognition that Harriet maintains he deserved. In 1888, young Harriet arrives in Glasgow during the International Exhibition. After a chance encounter with Ned, she befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in their lives. But when tragedy strikes, culminating in a notorious criminal trial, the certainty of Harriet’s new world rapidly spirals into suspicion and despair.
- The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay
Mary-Margaret O’Reilly is seemingly a harmless enough young woman, ready and willing to help out Father Diamond in the Sacred Heart church in Battersea. She may not be very bright, and she is sadly overweight, but she can certainly clean. She is also very good with children, and helps out an Asian woman on her estate whose little boy Shamso is adorable. It is the statue of Jesus on the cross Mary-Margaret is especially drawn to, and one day she decides to give Him a thorough and loving cleansing. But then something strange happens, and moments later she lies unconscious, a great gash in her head, blood on the floor. Word gets out that this strange happening is the opening of the statue’s eyes and the flowing of blood from its head. Soon a full-scale religious mania descends on the quiet church, and everyone, from Father Diamond to his small but loyal band of parishioners, is affected by it. When she has recovered, Mary-Margaret returns to the church, and to her duties caring for her housebound and even fatter mother Fidelma. Among the parishioners, Stella Morrison meanwhile impatiently awaits the return of her son Felix from boarding school, and Alice Armitage the return of her much older son from Afghanistan. Mary-Margaret goes back obsessively to the statue of Jesus. He has told her things, things she must act on, and urgently. But He has become remote and uncommunicative once again, and she is in despair. The act she decides on is a shocking one, and it will bring together the lives of the O’Reillys and the Morrisons in a way that will change their lives forever.
- The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy
Elizabeth Barber is crossing the Atlantic by liner with her perfectly adequate boyfriend, Derek, who might be planning to propose. In fleeing the UK – temporarily – Elizabeth may also be in flight from her past and the charismatic Arthur, once her partner in what she came to see as a series of crimes. Together they acted as fake mediums, perfecting the arcane skills practised by effective frauds. Elizabeth finally rejected what once seemed an intoxicating game. Arthur continued his search for the right way to do wrong. He now subsidises free closure for the traumatised and dispossessed by preying on the super-rich. The pair still meet occasionally, for weekends of sexual oblivion, but their affection lacerates as much as it consoles.She hadn’t, though, expected the other man on the boat. As her voyage progresses, Elizabeth’s past is revealed, codes slowly form and break as communication deepens. It’s time for her to discover who are the true deceivers and who are the truly deceived. What’s more, is the book itself – a fiction which may not always be lying – deceiving the reader?
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breath-taking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The legend begins… Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks” – strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess – Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine – much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
- Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
Bea Nightingale is a fiftyish divorced schoolteacher whose life has been on hold during the many years since her brief marriage. When her estranged, difficult brother asks her to leave New York for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows, she becomes entangled in the lives of her brother’s family and even, after so long, her ex-husband. Every one of them is irrevocably changed by the events of just a few months in that fateful year. Traveling from New York to Paris to Hollywood, aiding and abetting her nephew and niece while waging a war of letters with her brother, facing her ex-husband and finally shaking off his lingering sneers from decades past, Bea Nightingale is a newly liberated divorcee who inadvertently wreaks havoc on the very people she tries to help.
- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina’s assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina’s research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend’s death, the state of her company’s future, and her own past. Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher’s expectations.
- There but for the by Ali Smith
At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. An eclectic group of neighbours and friends slowly gathers around the house, and Miles’s story is told from the points of view of four of them: Anna, a woman in her forties; Mark, a man in his sixties; May, a woman in her eighties; and a ten-year-old named Brooke. The thing is, none of these people knows Miles more than slightly. How much is it possible for us to know about a stranger? And what are the consequences of even the most casual, fleeting moments we share every day with one another?
- The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard
A seventeen-year-old London girl flies to Los Angeles for the funeral of her mother Mandy, from whom she had been separated in her childhood. After stealing a suitcase of letters, clothes and photographs from her mum’s bedroom at the top of a hotel on Venice Beach, the girl spends her summer travelling around Los Angeles returning love letters and photographs to the men who had known her mother. As she discovers more about Mandy’s past and tries to re-enact her life, she comes to question the foundations of her own personality.
- Tides of War by Stella Tillyard
Tides of War opens in England with the recently married, charmingly unconventional Harriet preparing to say goodbye to her husband, James, as he leaves to join the Duke of Wellington’s troops in Spain. Harriet and James’s interwoven stories of love and betrayal propel this sweeping and dramatic novel as it moves between Regency London on the cusp of modernity—a city in love with science, the machine, money—and the shocking violence of war in Spain. With dazzling skill Stella Tillyard explores not only the effects of war on the men at the front but also the freedoms it offers the women left behind. As Harriet befriends the older and protective Kitty, Lady Wellington, her life begins to change in unexpected ways. Meanwhile, James is seduced by the violence of battle, and then by love in Seville.
- The Submission by Amy Waldman
Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath. A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name—and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam. Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country’s. The memorial’s designer is an enigmatic, ambitious architect named Mohammad Khan. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself—as unknowable as he is gifted. In the fight for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy.
The judges for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction are Joanna Trollope, Lisa Appignanesi, Victoria Derbyshire, Natalie Haynes and Natasha Kaplinsky.
“I am very proud of this year’s Orange longlist,” commented Joanna Trollope, Chair of Judges. “It not only demonstrates the judges’ eye for quality, but is also evidence of the breadth of subject matter, and individuality of voice, in women’s writing today. We were looking for excellence, accessibility and originality, and we found all three, over and over. I congratulate the twenty chosen writers warmly.”
The Prize was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote international fiction by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible and is awarded for the best novel of the year written by a woman in the English language. Any woman writing in English, whatever her nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter, is eligible. The winner will receive a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie’, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven.
The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony to be held in The Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall on 30 May 2012.
Previous winners include Téa Obreht for The Tiger’s Wife (2011), Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna (2010), Marilynne Robinson for Home (2009) and Rose Tremain for The Road Home (2008).
- Orange Prize for Fiction shortlist announcement: 17 April
- Orange Prize for Fiction shortlist readings: 29 May
- Awards ceremony: 30 May