Barbara Kingsolver wins 2010 Orange Prize


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In London on Wednesday evening, American Barbara Kingsolver beat out homecountry favorite Hilary Mantel for the 15th Annual Orange Prize for fiction. Kingsolver’s book “The Lacuna” was a surprise winner over Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” which has taken many literary awards, including the Booker Prize. Also on the shortlist were “The Very Thought of You” by Rosie Alison, “Black Water Rising” by Attica Locke, “A Gate at the Stairs” by Lorrie Moore and “The White Woman on the Green Bicycle” by Monique Roffey.

Kingsolver’s novel is the story of a Mexican American man whose path crosses Frieda Kahlo’s, Diego Rivera’s and Leon Trotsky’s -- not to mention that of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. It was cited by the judging committee, headed by author Daisy Goodwin, for its “breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy.” From our review:


Given the current vogue for books that drape fictional flesh over the factual remains of Famous People, a novel starring any one of these figures would promise a solid hit. Put all three at the center of a 500-plus-page saga by Barbara Kingsolver, beloved author of “The Poisonwood Bible,” and you can watch a high drive into the grandstand. “The Lacuna” gets the inside scoop on the Fiery Threesome thanks to an entirely fictional hero whose diaries form the bulk of the novel. Harrison Shepherd is the offspring of an absent American father and a chill-hearted Mexican-born flapper on her way down the social scale rung by rung, lover by lover. Emerging self-educated and perfectly bilingual from the Dickensian ordeal of his childhood, the lad lands a job in Rivera’s politically and erotically charged bohemian household. As pastry cook, typist, general confidant and taker of dictation, he’s found a home.After some lyrical but unconvincing early scenes, the first half of the novel builds to page-turning tension.

The Orange Prize, now in its 15th year, was establish to honor novels by women, and is judged exclusively by women. Kingsolver will take home about $43,000, along with the Orange Prize sculpture she’s holding in the photo above.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Judge Daisy Goodwin, Barbara Kingsolver and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at the Orange Prize ceremony in London, June 9, 2010. Credit: Alastair Grant / Associated Press

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