The shortlist for the 2012 Orange Prize for fiction was announced on Tuesday. As regular readers know, I've been trying to read as many of the longlisted books as possible this year and then predict which ones would make it into the shortlist and even go on to win the prize. It seems that I'm definitely not an expert yet but I have had some small successes.
I was pleased to see Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles make the list as I completely fell in love with the love story of Patroclus and Achilles when I read it. Song Of Achilles remains my pick for the overall prize. Similarly, I very much enjoyed Esi Edugyan's Half Blood Blues, a tale of a black American jazz player caught up in the seizure of Paris by the Nazi's during World War Two. I didn't love it as much as Song of Achilles, but thought Half Blood Blues was a well crafted book with a strong narrator that stands a decent chance of winning.
I also had some success with books I had more lukewarm reactions too as they didn't make the cut. Stella Tillyard's Tides Of War had a decent story of women finding their own way during the Peninsular war but simply had too much going on. Emma Donoghue's The Sealed Letter had a great closing section but a slow start. And Francesca Kay's The Translation of the Bones was lovely, but too quiet and understated for the Orange Prize.
However, I was completely wrong about Jane Harris' Gillespie and I, about an elderly spinster that isn't all she makes out to be. I simply adored the book and felt certain it would be short-listed and was torn between backing this and Song of Achilles for the overall prize. Maybe the judges didn't want too much historical fiction in the shortlist? Or maybe it was too similar to The Sealed Letter? Either way, I was most definitely wrong!
I also dismissed some of the shortlisted books without reading them. I had intended to read both State of Wonder and Painter of Silence already (just waiting for my holds to come in) but I didn't reserve either Foreign Bodies or The Forgotten Waltz. Now that they have been shortlisted I will give them a go, to see if my initial reaction was too hasty.
Have you read any of the shortlist? If so, what would your pick for the prize be?