You may recall the inordinate amount of pride I felt when I called last year's Orange Prize Winner correctly: Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife. Looking back at my frenzy to read the complete Longlist, then make guesses on which would make the Short, I wonder how on earth I had the energy.
Just reading over this year's list makes me feel exhausted! I own, or have read, the following books highlighted in red:
* Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (Quercus) – Swedish; 1st Novel
* On the Floor by Aifric Campbell (Serpent's Tail) – Irish; 3rd Novel
* The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (The Clerkenwell Press) – American; 4th Novel
* The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (Picador) – Irish; 7th Novel
* Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent's Tail) – Canadian; 2nd Novel
* The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape) – Irish; 5th Novel
* The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki (Headline Review) – British; 5th Novel
* Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (Quercus) – American; 4th Novel
* Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (Bloomsbury) – British; 3rd Novel
* Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (Faber & Faber) – British; 2nd Novel
* The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – British; 2nd Novel
* The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape) – British; 6th Novel
* The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker) – American; 1st Novel
* The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury) – American; 1st Novel
* Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (Atlantic Books) – American; 7th Novel
* State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury) – American; 6th Novel
* There but for the by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton) – British; 5th Novel
* The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard (Alma Books) – British; 2nd Novel
* Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (Chatto & Windus) – British; 1st Novel
* The Submission by Amy Waldman (William Heinemann) – American; 1st Novel
Honestly, I don't recognize more than half the titles or authors listed. I have read a grand total of one: There but for the by Ali Smith, which I'd gladly just hand the award, I loved it so much. It fits the definition of unique and imaginative, with lyrical language.
Unfortunately, I haven't once been contacted to casually hand the award to an author whose book I enjoyed. I know, life is so unjust.
I have The Forgotten Waltz on my Kindle and it's my current "before I fall asleep" read. So far it keeps my attention, the writing style is good to good plus but I can't see this as a prize-winning novel. There but for the kicks its butt.
I'm not sure I'll have time to read just the ones I own or can get hold of easily via interlibrary loan. And I simply can't afford my normal Grand Search to find and purchase what's in print via Amazon/Amazon.uk. I've outgrown that bit of insanity. No time, no money, no energy to pick them up. My membership in the Longlist Club has officially lapsed.
When it comes to the Shortlist, the odds are better I'll read a couple of those. But before I get that far, instinct tells me it'll come down to Ann Patchett v. Ali Smith, judging from critical attention and the fact Patchett's book was passed over entirely for the NBA. Sometimes that acts to boost the profile of a really great book – because judges seem to pay attention to this – and look, here it is on the Orange Prize List.
I'm just saying.
* This year's list carries eight British authors, seven American authors, three Irish authors, one Swedish author and one Canadian author.
* The following author has previously won the Orange Prize for Fiction: Ann Patchett (2002)
* The following authors have previously been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction: Emma Donoghue (2011), Jane Harris (2007), Ann Patchett (1998) and Ali Smith (2006, 2001).
* The following authors have previously been longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction: Roopa Farooki (2010), Anne Enright (2008) and A.L Kennedy (2000, 1996).
* The following author has previously won the Orange Award for New Writers: Francesca Kay (2009).
* The following author has previously been shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers: Roopa Farooki (2007).
* There are five first novels on the 2012 longlist.
Five first novels! Amazing. But I know some are stuck in there to encourage authors who've produced fantastic first efforts (Tea Obreht, anyone?), challenging them not to buckle under in their sophomore attempt after such huge attention the first time around.
Pressure… Pressure… Pressure
The Shortlist will be announced sometime around May 29, when each author will read from her nominated book. Soon I'll post on a few I've prematurely whittled out, based on such solid guesses scholarship as judging the level of skill illustrated in first paragraphs (which actually speaks volumes), or what I've read about the author which I liked or didn't.
Remember: there is a method to my madness. And that's all I'll say.