Hendon Library Reading Group shadowing the Orange Prize
The Hendon Library Reading Group took a turn as judges this summer shadowing the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction.
The Orange Prize is awarded to the best novel by a female author judged on excellence, originality and accessibility. These same elements were considered by the Hendon Library judges when reading the shortlist and selecting a winner.
Reviewing six books over three months, the Hendon judges faced a mammoth task. To help them keep track of all their reading, they used score cards to give marks on the judging criteria. Here they tell us how they got on:
What we thought
Our shadowing started with a debate on whether there should be a prize solely for women's writing. By the end we were firmly in favour of the prize as we so enjoyed reading the shortlist. At the final discussion, score cards were discarded in a heated debate over our two top books, State of Wonder and The Song of Achilles.
Ann Patchett impressed us with her unexpected story of adventure in the South American jungle, State of Wonder. One judge noted that while the ending was satisfying, you wanted to keep following the characters into the future. Patchett's plot read beautifully and turned on questions of morality in medical research, love and loyalty. High marks for excellence and originality.
The Song of Achilles was voted the most fun read. A tale of Greek heroes and goddesses for a modern audience. One judge called it "Rick Riordan for the adults". This was a page turning story of love and war, with high marks for accessibility and excellence. Judges questioned the originality of the writing, but the group decided that a new point of view on the Iliad qualified.
Our jazz aficionado was eagerly anticipating Half-Blood Blues, a story of mixed race jazz musicians tangled up in World War II Europe. The writing about music was absorbing, but we had difficulties connecting with the main characters. Also, we were hoping to hear more about Louis Armstrong. Film, please!
The other three candidates were for the Prize were, Painter of Silence, an accomplishment by the writer - a portrait of a man who never learned language; The Forgotten Waltz which was the finely described consciousness of woman who (we strongly felt) chose the wrong man. Finally, we enjoyed Foreign Bodies, another easy-to-read literary rewriting, this time of Henry James' The Ambassadors.
After much lively discussion and totting up our individual score-cards, our personal winner for the Orange Prize was: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
The judges found shadowing the Orange prize exhilarating and Hendon Library will be back for a new shortlist next year. In the meantime, we're off to read Ann Patchett's other novels.
Has your reading group or book club read any of this year's Orange Prize for Fiction's titles? We'd love to hear what you thought.
Post your reviews of Half Blood Blues here.
Post your reviews of The Song of Achilles here.
Read about how the Warwickshire Super Reading Group who also shadowed the Prize.