Tonight the last winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction will take away a £30,000 prize and a place in the history books, as the organisers look for a new sponsor for the award. The award has been celebrating women's writing for the last 17 years.
The winning book will be chosen from a shortlist of six novels during the ceremony in London, which includes previous Orange Prize winner Ann Patchett, for State of Wonder.
Joining Patchett on the shortlist are Dubliner Anne Enright, Canadian Esi Edugyan, whose Half Blood Blues was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Londoner Georgina Harding. The shortlisted novels also include Madeline Miller's debut and Cynthia Ozick's seventh novel.
If Jonathan Ruppin, Web Editor of Foyle's bookstore is anything to go by, Edugyan's novel has the edge. He says of it, “I thought this was the best title on the Man Booker shortlist, so it’s great to see her up for another major award. This is witty, shocking and dramatic, driven by very snappy dialogue.”
Online books retailer Amazon has reported strong sales for Patchett and Miller, whose books accounted for half of the Kindle sales from the shortlist.
Ruppin says Miller's entry, The Song of Achilles is "the dark horse that could take everyone by surprise. Word-of-mouth has been spreading steadily for this stylishly told and fascinatingly detailed story of classical-era same-sex romance involving literature’s ultimate flawed hero.”
However, it is Harding, the only English author shortlisted, that Ruppin sees a bright future for, saying "Sooner or later, the literary world is going to realise quite how brilliant a writer Georgina Harding is."
Second-time shortlisted Patchett's novel, according to Ruppin, succeeds in its pace and popular appeal: "It has something for everyone: a beautifully described, exotic setting, a set of well-realised and complex characters and an elegantly paced plot that makes it very difficult to take a break as the end approaches.”
While Ruppin praised characterisation in the other entries. Saying that Enright's main character made her book "so memorable" and Ozick's characters all "come to life on the page", despite being a "demanding" read.
As for the prize's future, after the ending of the Orange sponsorship, novelist and award co-founder Kate Mosse has said organisers were in "active discussions" with potential new sponsors.
We've looked back at the Orange Prize's previous winners, to see where their success landed them. Check out our gallery below for more.
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