One-time winner Ann Patchett and debut novelist Madeline Miller are finalists in the Orange Prize for Fiction, whose winner takes home 30,000 pounds ($47,850) and a bronze statuette called “the Bessie.”
Created in 1996, the annual Orange Prize celebrates fiction by women worldwide. The shortlisted novels evoke settings as remote as the Amazon and Communist Romania. American authors have claimed the past three prizes and dominate this year’s shortlist, announced at the London Book Fair today.
In “State of Wonder” (Bloomsbury), Patchett, who won the 2002 prize, tells the story of Dr. Marina Singh, a scientist dispatched by a pharmaceutical company to trace her mentor, who has gone rogue in the Brazilian rain forest while developing a valuable new drug.
Classics teacher Miller is also American. Ten years in the writing, her first novel, “The Song of Achilles,” unfolds against a backdrop of the Trojan War and describes the intense bond between Homeric heroes Patroclus and Achilles.
The other finalists include Esi Edugyan’s Man Booker Prize finalist, “Half Blood Blues” (Serpent’s Tail), and Cynthia Ozick’s “Foreign Bodies” (Atlantic), a retelling of Henry James’s “The Ambassadors.” Anne Enright’s “The Forgotten Waltz” (Cape) and Georgina Harding’s “Painter of Silence” (Bloomsbury) complete the list.
The winner will be announced at a ceremony in the Royal Festival Hall at London’s Southbank Centre on May 30.
Previous winners have included Tea Obreht for “The Tiger’s Wife,” Barbara Kingsolver for “The Lacuna” and Marilynne Robinson for “Home.”
The shortlist “includes six distinctive voices and subjects, four nationalities and an age range of close on half a century,” said Joanna Trollope, chairwoman of the judges.