Tomorrow is the announcement for the winner of the Orange Prize, the best novel written by a woman in English. This year I read all six of the shortlist titles:
- Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (4.5 stars)
- Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (4.5 stars)
- State of Wonder by Anne Patchett (4 stars)
- The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (4 stars)
- Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (3.5 stars)
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (3 stars)
The list above is in my order of preference. The top two titles are the ones I struggled choosing between the most. Foreign Bodies is a book I read in a single day and thought about for days afterward, while the writing in Painter of Silence was beautiful but more subtle. I read these two books before State of Wonder, and about 3/4 of the way through Patchett’s novel, I thought it was going to take the top spot. I found I didn’t really like parts of the ending, though the entire book engaged me and I listened to the audio over a portion of only two days. It was definitely a page turner (or should I say CD changer) for me. However, I didn’t love it as much as I loved Bel Canto.
Anne Enright is a writer I admire for being able to get into her character’s heads so well. I never like her characters, though, but we’re not meant to. In some ways I liked The Forgotten Waltz better than The Gathering, but in other ways I thought the latter was the better book. I found that I enjoyed the story of Half Blood Blues but it wasn’t a book I was dying to get back to when I put it down. It has already won the Giller in Canada and was on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize last year. Finally, The Song of Achilles didn’t ‘wow’ me mainly because I’ve read several retellings of the Iliad and I don’t think there was much new there. I didn’t find the writing to be nearly as good as the other five books. Many people have loved it, though. It has spurred me to read The Iliad itself.
It was fun to be on the LibraryThing 2012 Orange Prize Shadow Jury. Six of us had read all six titles and voted. The winner was Painter of Silence, which I was extremely happy about. It was, by far, the title that all six of us could get behind as our winner.
Which book do I think will win the prize? I truly think Painter of Silence will win, because it is a great consensus pick and also because the author is not American (as the last 3 winners in a row have been). I do not think the titles below will win for the following reasons:
- State of Wonder — Patchett has won previously for Bel Canto
- Song of Achilles — an American debut author, same as last year
- Half Blood Blues — already has recognition for winning the Giller Prize and for being on the Booker shortlist
Of the remaining two, I give the edge to Foreign Bodies, due to Ozick’s age, though she is American and Enright is Irish.
Mind you, none of these reasons should matter and wouldn’t to me if I were on the jury and thought a particular book the best of the lot.
I’m excited to see who the winner will be tomorrow!