The Blagger's Guide To...The Orange Prize

Sorry boys...the friendliest prize in town is back

*Awarded on Wednesday at a glamorous ceremony (well, we'll be going) at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Orange Prize celebrates "excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world", and rewards it with a cheque for £30,000 and a bronze statue known as a "Bessie".

This year's shortlist comprises: Emma Donoghue's Room; Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love; Grace Williams Says it Loud, by Emma Henderson; Great House, by Nicole Krauss; The Tiger's Wife, by Téa Obreht; and Annabel, by Kathleen Winter.

*This year's judges are: the historian Bettany Hughes; the actress and writer Helen Lederer; Liz Calder, the founder of Bloomsbury publishing; Susanna Reid, the journalist and broadcaster; and the author Tracy Chevalier.

*Judges and Orange insiders know it as the friendliest book prize in town. But outsiders can get a bit jealous. In 2008, the writer Tim Lott called the prize "a sexist con trick", asking: "Could the establishment of a men-only prize be justified?" and concluding that "the Orange Prize is sexist and discriminatory, and it should be shunned". Auberon Waugh was not a fan, nicknaming it the Lemon Prize. Nor John Sutherland, nor Alain de Botton. And it's not only men. The brilliant novelist A S Byatt claims that it "ghettoises" women writers. Zadie Smith, when she was shortlisted in 2000 for White Teeth, refused to turn up to the ceremony, dismissed the prize as irrelevant and said the judge, Ffion Hague, could "kiss my behind". She felt a bit better after a few years, and when she won the prize in 2006 for On Beauty she said: "I cannot believe it. I am stunned ... It's about being counted and being part of English writing."

*So why isn't there a men-only book prize? "Because no one has, as yet, put in the time, creativity, effort and enthusiasm necessary to start one up and keep it going," was a prize spokeswoman's response to Lott. The writer Susan Hill joked that she is to sponsor a new prize "for a novel written by anyone who was born before 1988 in Budleigh Salterton and who is an only child ... [People] can have a prize for whatever they damn well like." The 2008 winner, Rose Tremain (for The Road Home), put it quite succinctly: "Come on guys, stop grumping!"

*To add insult to injury, Orange Prize winners tend to outsell winners of the Booker Prize. The Orange's all-time bestseller is Andrea Levy's (inset, above) Small Island (which also won the Best of the Best prize on the Orange Prize's 10th anniversary), with sales of 834,958, followed by Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin (646,373). Only one Booker winner, Yann Martel's Life of Pi, has outsold any of these titles over that period, with its sales of more than a million.

*One of the aims of the prize is to bring the competition books to a wider audience. Of the current long list, Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, saw a 2,250 per cent week-on-week sales boost after the shortlist was announced.

*The prize's founder, Kate Mosse, is no stranger to bestsellers herself. Having been a novelist since the publication of Eskimo Kissing in 1996, she achieved international bestseller status in 2006 and 2007 with her novels Labyrinth and Sepulchre. Labyrinth won the British Book Award for Best Read of the Year, and has been used in a Standard Grade English exam.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power