Now in it’s seventeenth year, The Orange Prize for Fiction is a celebration of excellence in women’s writing, on the 17th of April the shortlist was announced for 2012:
Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women forever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investor’s, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns.
Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home,Marinaleaves the snowy plains ofMinnesotaand retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.
The collapse of her brief marriage has stalled Bea Nightingale’s life, leaving her middle-aged and alone, teaching in an impoverished borough of 1950s New York. A plea from her estranged brother gives Bea the excuse to escape lassitude by leaving for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows; but the siren call of Europe threatens to deafen Bea to the dangers of entangling herself in the lives of her brother’s family.
Travelling from America to France, Bea leaves the stigma of divorce on the far side of the Atlantic; newly liberated, she chooses to defend her nephew and his girlfriend Lili by waging a war of letters on the brother she has promised to help. But Bea’s generosity is a mixed blessing: those she tries to help seem to be harmed, and as Bea’s family unravels around her, she finds herself once again drawn to the husband she thought she had left in the past.
The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymus Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a café and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.
Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled.
The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for ‘the love of her life’, Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina walks through the weather to meet a girl she calls his ‘beautiful mistake’: Seán’s fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie.
Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to Phthia to live in the shadow of King Peleus and his strong, beautiful son, Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Iasi, Romania, the early 1950s. A man is found on the steps of hospital, frail as a fallen bird. He carries no identification and utters no words, and it is days before anyone discovers that he is deaf and mute. And then a young nurse called Safta brings paper and pencils with which he can draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page: a hillside, a stable, a car, a country house, dogs and mirrored rooms and samovars in what is now a lost world.