Andrea Levy's 'Small Island' judged best book to win the Orange Prize

All the chairwomen from the first 10 years of judging panels, including the broadcasters Rosie Boycott and Sue MacGregor and the novelist Ahdaf Souief, came together to re-read all the first decade's winning novels.

And last night, at a ceremony in London, Andrea Levy, last year's winner with Small Island, a story of post-war immigration, was awarded the Orange Prize for fiction's best of the best.

Levy emerged victorious in a field which boasted writers such as Carol Shields, Helen Dunmore and Anne Michaels - whose novel Fugitive Pieces became a massive international success on the back of its Orange Prize win in 1997, having sold very few copies before being nominated.

The writer Kate Mosse, a co-founder of the prize and chair of the judges, said all of the books continued to have resonance with readers. But Small Island had proved particularly successful as it was a book that meant different things to different people.

"On the one hand, it's the most wonderful explanation of the country that we are now in terms of race and gender and class and how we all fit together," she said. "On the other hand, it's a wonderful comic novel and a lot of people enormously enjoy the humour and the voices and the dialogue. It's unusual to have at the heart of a novel four key characters - two men, two women, two black two white - and yet it's done so effortlessly."

Mosse admitted the prize seemed quite young to be celebrating in such a fashion. But she said the idea for marking the anniversary had come from libraries and booksellers. Many have been doing promotions or special book club sessions featuring the 10 winning books.

Radio 4's Woman's Hour held its own poll of listeners who also voted for Levy as best of the best. This year's victor, Lionel Shriver, came second in the radio vote with We Need to Talk about Kevin and Michaels' Fugitive Pieces was third.

Mosse said: "The booksellers said that as the Orange Prize has grown in reputation and profile, there would be people who have read some of the more recent ones, but might not have read the earlier ones. They thought they could sell all 10.

"Best of the best is a great opportunity to introduce a new generation of readers to some of the outstanding novels they may have missed first time round."

When the Orange Prize was first announced, it was not universally welcomed. Auberon Waugh called it the "Lemon Prize" and A S Byatt registered her opposition to "anything which ghettoises women". But the prize has largely overcome the initial opposition.

Andrea Levy, the British-born daughter of Jamaican parents, takes the experience of the Windrush generation of immigrants as the centre point of Small Island, her fourth novel. It tells the story of Gilbert Joseph, a young Jamaican who fights for the Allies with the RAF but finds he is less welcome in England after the war as a civilian. Married to Hortense, who is shocked at how the English live, the novel weaves together their lives with those of Queenie Bligh, their white English landlady whose husband, Bernard, was also with the RAF during the war.

Previous winners

1996 Helen Dunmore for A Spell of Winter

1997 Anne Michaels for Fugitive Pieces

1998 Carol Shields for Larry's Party

1999 Suzanne Berne for A Crime in the Neighbourhood

2000 Linda Grant for When I Lived in Modern Times

2001 Kate Grenville for The Idea of Perfection

2002 Ann Patchett for Bel Canto

2003 Valerie Martin for Property

2004 Andrea Levy for Small Island

2005 Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin

Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
    Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

    Hipsters of Arabia

    Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
    The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

    The cult of Roger Federer

    What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
    Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

    Malaysian munchies

    With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
    10 best festival beauty

    Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

    Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

    A Different League

    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

    Steve Bunce on Boxing

    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf