Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Salon: Orange Prize picks, prediction and thoughts

The much-anticipated announcement of the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction winner will be on Wednesday. As you likely read earlier this week, this year will be the last the Prize is sponsored by Orange. Many in the U.S. were surprised to hear that Orange is even a company. Linda Grant, who won the second Orange Prize for When I Lived in Modern Times (my review), wrote a beautiful response in The Guardian this week. Although Orange has sponsored the Prize since its inception in 1996, a private benefactor donates the prize money. It's a relief to know "if a new sponsor can be found, all that will change is the name – and what matters is not what the prize is called, but what it represents." Readers of this blog know I'm a both a fan and advocate for the Orange Prize. My initial sadness at the news of Orange's withdrawal has been tempered by the support. While the Prize will likely soon have a new name, it will live on. I do, however, hope the shortlisted authors can enjoy this week of festivities.

My vote and my prediction
This year's shortlist is quite strong, and for the first time in my obsessive reading of prize lists, I can say I will cheer and celebrate any winner this year. Will I cheer more loudly for some winners than others? Yes, but all the titles are deserving of the Prize, even though I happened to prefer two titles more.  Honestly, I won't be surprised with any name called Wednesday evening in London; a case can be made for any of these books to win. Several members of the Orange January/July group on Library Thing who have read the entire shortlist are participating in a shadow jury. It's been fascinating to see how different our reactions are to some titles. Here's how I ranked the six titles for the shadow jury (title links go to my reviews):

  1. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (6 stars)
  2. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (4.5 stars)
  3. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (4 stars)
  4. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (4 stars)
  5. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (4 stars)
  6. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (4 stars)

If I were on the Orange Prize jury, I would do all I could to convince my peers to pick State of Wonder and make Ann Patchett the first author to win this Prize twice. It was my favorite novel of 2011, and I haven't stopped singing its praises since I read it last summer. If I were a betting woman, however, I'd pick Georgina Harding to win for Painter of Silence. It's a lovely novel, and it appears to have more of a consensus behind it than the other novels.

Enjoying staycation
I'm using my last four days of vacation this week, as I have to use it all by the end of May. It's wonderful to have seven days off of work, and I'm hoping to finish reading the last four titles on the Orange Prize longlist before I go back to work Friday. This afternoon, I'm staying indoors to avoid the oppressive heat and reading On the Floor by Aifric Campbell. What are you reading this weekend?

21 comments:

  1. I've not read them all, but Song of Achilles is by far and away my favourite for the prize, I will be very happy if it wins. I just finished Painter of Silence and I was a bit disappointed by it, for me it was only a 3 star read.

    Whoever wins, like you I hope the Prize remains as unchanged as possible after this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really liked Song of Achilles too, Sam, although clearly not as much as you did! Although it's one I would recommend to most readers, I don't think it was quite as literary as the other shortlisted titles. I'll still be happy if it wins--and I cannot wait to see what Madeline Miller does next!

      Delete
  2. State of Wonder is the only one I've read of those, but I'd be super happy if that one won!

    ReplyDelete
  3. You seem to have enjoyed the shortlist a lot more than I did. My favourite was The Forgotten Waltz, but I think I'm rooting for Esi Edugyan as unlike you I don't like authors to win a big prize twice :-) If I was a betting woman I wouldn't put any money on this year - it could realistically go to any of them! I look forward to seeing who the judges select.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jackie--it sounds like you're a smarter betting woman than I am! I'm not against authors winning the big prizes twice, as long as they're among my favorite authors as Patchett is!

      Delete
  4. I've decided to reread State of Wonder later this year because your passion for it has me seriously questioning my taste and my ability to rate anything. :)

    I had NO idea Orange was a company and wasn't sponsoring the prize anymore -- this frightens me!! I do hope a new sponsor comes through, and stat!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Audra--State of Wonder seems to be quite a divisive novel, or at least its ending is! I utterly adored it and am planning to re-read it this year too simply to relive it's wonder;-)

      Delete
  5. It is a great list, and I can't wait to tackle more of its titles (already read State of Wonder). Looking forward to the announcement!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andi, I hope you find time for more of this year's shortlist!

      Delete
  6. I also really hope that State of Wonder wins because, as you know, it was one of my top reads of last year. I am finding that my self directed reading is much more rewarding to me than other types, and I credit you for a lot of the books I have been choosing and adding to my TBR mountain. Lets both keep our fingers and toes crossed for Patchett, shall we?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Zibilee! I've been noticing how many high rated books I've been reading lately, and I like to think I'm continuing to get better at picking books for me. Fingers crossed for State of Wonder!

      Delete
  7. Go Achilles!!!

    It's the only one of read, but I adored that book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was good, and it was so unique. Even though it was my least favorite on the shortlist, I *did* like it!

      Delete
  8. I'm still reading State of Wonder; for some reason, it took me forever to get past the second page (I did, however, remember how MUCH you've enjoyed it, so I kept my copy for multiple renewals), but I'm now quite hooked on the story, though less than 100 pages in.

    So far, I can't tell if there are layers here (so far, it reads more like Miller's novel for me, and I think we've read that one similarly) that would take it to another level of literary-ness, but I definitely won't be returning this copy of Patchett's novel without finishing it, that's for sure!

    I'm curious which book will win (I understand your thinking that there might be more consensus for Harding's novel), but I'm actually just enjoying the longlist this year.

    (I see you're into Campbell's now. That one particularly intrigues me, and it's one that I bought straight away. I'll file your thoughts until I've read it!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been having such fun with the longlist this year too! I still have two titles to go, so I didn't *quite* make my goal of finishing them all in time for the winner's announcement, but I will soon. I can certainly see where you are with State of Wonder. It's an immensely readable novel, but what I think makes it so literary is when you reach the end and see how much patience and restraint there was. I think there are layers, and it has certainly stuck with me. I'm also a huge Patchett fan, so perhaps her layers work particularly well for me:-)

      Delete
  9. Well, I hope they find a sponsor … but it would be awful it turned into something like the Cheetos Prize or the Verizon prize like it does with sports.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I'm all for a sponsor, but I like the way most European book prizes operate: with sponsors many of us stateside don't recognize as being sponsors!

      Delete
  10. I really enjoy your predictions. I keep one eye on the prize announcements but your posts keep me in the loop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ti! I have such fun following the prizes, but it's also nice to know someone else gets something out of it!

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!