Orange Prize for Fiction Shortlist

Get The Skinny on the Orange Prize shortlist

Feature by Keir Hind | 15 Jun 2006
The shortlist for the Orange Prize for fiction has been announced, and on June 6th we find out who will receive the world's largest literary prize for women. The winner will receive a bronze statue, called a 'Bessie' and £30,000 prize money. Of course, the huge publicity and increase in sales won't hurt either.

Nominee Zadie Smith won't need that increase, as her latest novel will sell by the bucketload anyway. 'On Beauty' is a good comic novel - with some basis in E.M. Forster's 'Howards End' - and would be a deserving winner. The unrelated Ali Smith has already won the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award and been nominated for the Booker for 'The Accidental', and that's no accident - her tale about a dull holiday enlivened by a stranger's arrival is very cleverly crafted and well told. Hilary Mantel unfolds a stranger plot still in 'Beyond Black', about a clairvoyant who passes on mundane messages whilst screening the horrors of the next life from her clients.

The surprise on the list is Carrie Tiffany's 'Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living', the only debut novel on the shortlist. The story initially follows the 'Better Farming Train' across Australia and uses prose that moves along relentlessly like the locomotive.

Wartime forms the backdrop for Sarah Waters' 'The Night Watch' which may well be the favourite to win here, a sprawling tale about the interconnected lives of three gay women and one gay man. Nicole Krauss uses a similarly crowded plot in 'The History of Love', which is written with intelligent intricacy, but since it made Richard and Judy's book club it hardly needs to win this prize.

Which one will win? Well, they'd all deserve it, but here's hoping Scotland's own Ali Smith gets it, because winning this would put her firmly and deservedly on the literary map.