Three debut novelists on Orange Prize shortlist

Three debut novelists are on the shortlist for this year's Orange Prize for Fiction.

Emma Henderson, from London, joins other first-time novelists Tea Obreht and former Sesame Street scriptwriter Kathleen Winter in the running for the £30,000 prize.

Chairman of the judges Bettany Hughes said she was "proud and pleased" to announce the shortlist for the women-only prize.

She said: "Our judging meeting fizzed for many hours with conversations about the originality, excellence and readability of the books in front of us - credit to the calibre of submissions this year.

"The clarity and human understanding on the page is simply breathtaking.

"The number of first-time novelists is an indicator of the rude health of women's writing.

"The verve and scope of storylines pays compliment to the female imagination. There are no subjects these authors don't dare to tackle.

"Even though the stories in our final choices range from kidnapping to colonialism, from the persistence of love to Balkan folk-memory, from hermaphroditism to abuse in care, the books are written with such a skilful lightness of touch, humour, sympathy and passion, they all make for an exhilarating and uplifting read.

"This shortlist should give hours of reading pleasure to the wider world."

The other shortlisted writers are Irish-born Emma Donoghue, who missed out on the Booker Prize last year, American Nicole Krauss and Aminatta Forna who was born in Scotland and raised in west Africa.

Jonathan Ruppin, from Foyles bookshop, said the judges, who include Girl With A Pearl Earring author Tracey Chevalier and BBC Breakfast presenter Susanna Reid, would "find it very difficult" to pick a winner.

The prize, which was set up in 1996, is awarded for the best novel of the year written by a woman in the English language.

Previous winners include Zadie Smith and Carol Shields.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on London's Southbank in June 8.