This means war! Conflict novels in thick of fight for Orange Prize

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Panel hails a shortlist that 'proves women don't just write about domestic subjects'

This year's battle for the Orange Prize for fiction could be particularly brutal. Despite what judges called the "stereotype" that women can't write about war, that is the subject at the heart of no fewer than half the shortlisted titles for the £30,000 female-only award.

Books by the Canadian author Esi Edugyan and Georgina Harding are set against the backdrop of the Second World War, while the debut novel of Madeline Miller, a Latin teacher, follows the fortunes of some of the heroes of the Trojan War.

Joanna Trollope, who chaired the judging panel, said that the list proves that women can take on big topics: "I wasn't remotely surprised by how well these novels deal with the subject of war. It puts to bed the old stereotype that women just write about domestic and smaller issues rather than epics. These books are as strong as anyone writing in the world at the moment."

Kate Mosse, who co-founded the prize in 1996 and is the best-selling author of Labyrinth, added that "maybe in the past the perception that women couldn't write about war came from the publishers. The books on this list have such ambition. The women who have written them have been so successful whatever the backdrop," she said.

Yet the bookies' favourite on the six-strong shortlist announced yesterday at the London Book Fair was Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick. Yesterday was also the New Yorker's 84th birthday, making her the oldest ever to compete for the prize. Ozick, who has written seven novels, hopes to make it over for the ceremony in London at the end of May, although there is some doubt over the trip as her husband is unwell. She has been a finalist for both the Pulitzer and the Man Booker International Prize, and is a full half-century older than Miller, whose debut novel The Song of Achilles also made the shortlist and which the judges called "terrific".

Ann Patchett, who is shortlisted for State of Wonder, is a more experienced hand, having written five novels and already won the Orange Prize a decade ago with Bel Canto. Coincidentally, while the authors had never met before, Miller was due to give a reading at the bookshop Patchett owns in Nashville, Tennessee, last night. "We do see the writers involved in the Prize as a community," Mosse said.

Harding is the only Briton on the list dominated by four north Americans, but Mosse was confident that there is plenty of female writing talent on this side of the pond: "This goes in cycles. There is a great deal of great writing in this country, but many of the books didn't fall into the window covered by this year's awards. I suspect next year it will be a very different story."

The final nominee is the Dublin-born Anne Enright, shortlisted for The Forgotten Waltz. The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in London in late May.

In the running: The shortlist

1. Esi Edugyan

The Canadian author wrote her first novel at the age of 25. Half Blood Blues was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year.

2. Ann Patchett

Patchett won the Orange Prize in 2002 for Bel Canto. She also runs an independent bookshop.

3. Anne Enright

The Irish writer, a former TV producer and director, won the Man Booker for The Gathering in 2007.

4. Cynthia Ozick

The New Yorker is the oldest author to compete for the award, beating the previous record by a decade.

5. Madeline Miller

Boston-born Miller has taught Latin, Greek and Shakespeare at high school. She worked on her debut The Song of Achilles for 10 years.

6. Georgina Harding

Painter of Silence is Harding's third novel, and she has also written several non-fiction works.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

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.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?