The Orange Prize Shortlist Challenge

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The Orange Shortlist was announced a few days ago, and I have decided to try to read all the books on the list, before the winner is announced on 3rd June.

These six books are:
All summaries taken from the Orange Prize Website

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman

In Alabama, 1931, a posse stops a freight train and arrests nine black youths. Their crime: fighting with white boys. Then two white girls emerge from another freight car, and as fast as anyone can say Jim Crow, the cry of rape goes up. One of the girls sticks to her story. The other changes her tune, again and again. A young journalist, whose only connection to the incident is her overheated social conscience, fights to save the nine youths from the electric chair, redeem the girl who repents her lie, and make amends for her own past. Intertwining historical actors and fictional characters, stirring racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism into an explosive brew.

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey

It’s Jake’s birthday. He is sitting in a small plane, being flown over the landscape that has been the backdrop to his life – his childhood, his marriage, his work, his passions. Now he is in his early sixties, and he isn’t quite the man he used to be. He has lost his wife, his son is in prison, and he is about to lose his past. Jake has Alzheimer’s. As the disease takes hold of him, Jake struggles to hold on to his personal story, to his memories and identity, but they become increasingly elusive and unreliable. What happened to his daughter? Is she alive, or long dead? And why exactly is his son in prison? What went so wrong in his life? There was a cherry tree once, and a yellow dress, but what exactly do they mean?As Jake, assisted by ‘poor Eleanor’, a childhood friend with whom for some unfathomable reason he seems to be sleeping, fights the inevitable dying of the light, the key events of his life keep changing as he tries to grasp them, and what until recently seemed solid fact is melting into surreal dreams or nightmarish imaginings. Is there anything he’ll be able to salvage from the wreckage? Beauty, perhaps, the memory of love, or nothing at all?

The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt

Louisa is an imaginative and curious chambermaid who, while cleaning rooms at the New Yorker Hotel, stumbles across a man living permanently in room 3327, which he has transformed into a scientific laboratory. Brought together by a shared interest in the pigeons that nest in the hotel, Louisa discovers that the mysterious guest is Nikola Tesla, one of the most brilliant – and most neglected – inventors of the twentieth century.

Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden

Dublin, Midsummer: While absent in New York, the celebrated actor Molly Fox has loaned her house to a playwright friend, who is struggling to write a new work. Over the course of this, the longest day of the year, the playwright reflects upon her own life, Molly’s, and that of their mutual friend Andrew, whom she has known since university. Why does Molly never celebrate her own birthday, which falls upon this day? What does it mean to be a playwright or an actor? How have their relationships evolved over the course of many years? Molly Fox’s Birthday calls into question the ideas that we hold about who we are; and shows how the past informs the present in ways we might never have imagined.

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Hundreds of thousands of readers were enthralled and delighted by the luminous, tender voice of John Ames in Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Now comes HOME, a deeply affecting novel that takes place in the same period and same Iowa town of Gilead. This is Jack’s story. Jack ? prodigal son of the Boughton family, godson and namesake of John Ames, gone twenty years ? has come home looking for refuge and to try to make peace with a past littered with trouble and pain. A bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold down a job, Jack is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton’s most beloved child. His sister Glory has also returned to Gilead, fleeing her own mistakes, to care for their dying father. Brilliant, loveable, wayward, Jack forges an intense new bond with Glory and engages painfully with his father and his father’s old friend John Ames.

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

In a prison cell in the US, a man stands trembling, naked, fearfully waiting to be shipped to Guantanamo Bay. How did it come to this? he wonders August 9th, 1945, Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanaka steps out onto her veranda, taking in the view of the terraced slopes leading up to the sky. Wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, she is twenty-one, in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. In a split second, the world turns white. In the next, it explodes with the sound of fire and the horror of realisation. In the numbing aftermath of a bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. In search of new beginnings, she travels to Delhi two years later. There she walks into the lives of Konrad’s half-sister, Elizabeth, her husband James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu. As the years unravel, new homes replace those left behind and old wars are seamlessly usurped by new conflicts. But the shadows of history – personal, political – are cast over the entwined worlds of the Burtons, Ashrafs and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York, and in the novel’s astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound them together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.

So for the next few weeks I will mainly be reading Orange books! 

Have you read any of the shortlist?

Do you plan to try reading them all?

I look forward to hearing your opinions!


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21 Comments

  1. Jamie Klingler says:

    I’m doing the same challenge for bitchbuzz.com starting the reading fest tomorrow!

  2. Sandy says:

    Good for you! See now, this is why the TBR challenge doesn’t get touched! Still, this should be fun! I can’t wait to hear about each of these books!

  3. Jackie says:

    Sandy – I know! I can’t resist doing things like this! I’m going to read the Booker shortlist when it comes out too! I’ll try to squeeze those TBRs in when I can though.

  4. Jackie says:

    Jamie – I’ve never heard of that site before – I’ll have to go and take a look! Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment for the first time.

  5. claire says:

    All of them sound lovely. I would like to try to read at least a few, probably. I’m especially drawn to The Invention of Everything Else, The Wilderness, and Burnt Shadows. Also Scottsboro. Good luck and have fun reading!

  6. Jackie says:

    Claire – It looks as though you’re a big Orange fan! It’s great that you are drawn towards 4/6. I look forward to comparing notes on a few of them.

  7. Kim says:

    You are so brave to take on this challenge, especially with your TBR pile watching you spend time with another new book whilst it waits patiently and continues to be ignored! However, the challenge is out there so cover up your TBR pile and forward ho!

    Would love to hear what you think of Scotsboro – I’ve been looking at it and can’t bring myself to read it because, having lived in the South for a while and knowing the original story, I don’t think I could allow my imagination to walk along with the book.
    Also, Molly Fox’s Birthday sounds interesting too, but, don’t tell you TBR pile I said that!! Good Luck, Jackie!

  8. Simon S says:

    Oh you beat me to blogging about the short list and I am going to hold off until next week. I think though I will definately be joining you in this read-a-thon! Is it wrong I already think I know the winner without reading a word?

  9. Simon – Really? Who do you think will win?
    I haven’t read a word yet, so just from reading the summaries above I would guess that Home would win – as she has won the Pulitzer.

    I haven’t read Gilead yet, but managed to find it in a charity shop today, so will have to squeeze that into the reading schedule too! I look forward to comparing notes with you.

  10. Kim – I received Scottsboro in the post this morning, so it will probably be my first Orange read – I don’t know the original story, but I’ll let you know what I think of it.

  11. FleurFisher says:

    Good luck! I’ll get to them all eventually but probably not before the award. I have Scottsboro and Molly Fox’s Birthday on order and Burnt Shadows downloaded.

    I have a zombie chicken award for you here.

  12. megan says:

    I’m very keen to read Burnt Shadows after reading an extract earlier in the week. It sounds amazing. I’d love to make my way through them all, though.

  13. Beth F says:

    Looks like a great list of books. I’m kind of busy this weekend, but I plan to come back to this post and take a closer look.

  14. LizzySiddal says:

    I’m in too, Jackie.

    I don’t usually succumb to shortlists in this way but I must admit all 6 appeal to me this year. On that basis, this is the shortlist to sample in full.

    I reviewed Molly Fox here and am currently half way through the quite brilliant Burnt Shadows.

    Very much looking forward to comparing notes with you and Simon S for it is sounding very much as though he’s also about to capitulate to the challenge.

  15. FleurFisher – Thank you for the award!

    I’ve just started Scottsboro – the dialect takes a bit of getting used to, but I think it will be a good book. I look forward to comparing notes.

    Beth – I hope your busy weekend if full of fun things, and not work. I look forward to hearing from you later in the week.

  16. Jackie says:

    Megan – Thanks for commenting on my blog for the first time! I love your blog, so have just added it to my RSS feed. I haven’t read anything about Burnt Shadows yet, but the cover is really drawing me towards it!

    LizzySidal – You’re way ahead of me in this then! I’ve only read the first chapter of Scottsboro so far. Good luck in the challenge!

  17. Matthew says:

    I haven’t heard of the books except for Home. Guess I’m in for this one! :)

  18. Jackie says:

    Megan – Thank you for the links!

    Matthew – Great! I notice you’re doing the same as me – starting with the Pulitzer winner, before moving on to the Oranges!!

  19. Sugar says:

    I’ve finally finished the shortlist and am pondering the winner before going to tonight’s readings…. I share your feelings about much of this year’s list; I haven’t got quite as excited as usual and have found some of the books quite heavy-going for little reward. I’m sorry to say this included ‘Wilderness’ for me, I really feel I’m missing something there!

  20. Jackie says:

    Sugar – Which book was your favourite? I’m sorry to hear that Wilderness was heavy going for you. I think it just struck a chord for me, and from that point on I was hooked. I realise it wasn’t the easiest of reads, but I found it so thought provoking. I think if I hadn’t enjoyed Wilderness I’d have been very disappointed with the list, as you can see with my averaage reviews for the rest of them.

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