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May Book of the Month

Every time the Orange Prize comes round, the same old debate raises its ugly head: is it unfair/wrong/silly to have a literary prize that is solely for women? The naysayers maintain it discriminates against men, patronises women and is based on a false premise of ‘women’s writing’. The advocates of the prize point out that women were often overlooked for major prizes, and that to celebrate talented women may not be such a bad thing when 75% of the books bought in UK are bought by women. I’m not sure which side I’m on, but after 16 years the Orange Prize has become a trusted signpost to some of the best writing available and that’s enough reason to keep going in my book. 2008’s shortlist is a 50/50 mix of the well-established and the first timers, and all of them have gathered great reviews. Browse around the official Orange Prize website for more information on each writer and their novel (and if you’re interested, there’s all the media coverage on the prize too).

I want to read all six eventually, but only one can win the Mumsnet vote – which one will you go for? To cast your vote or watch the results, go to May Book of the Month poll.


The Road Home – Rose Tremain

Lev, a Polish migrant worker, comes to London after losing both his job and his wife. As he struggles to earn enough money to send home to his mother who looks after his little girl, he is helped by unexpected acts of kindness from a cast of diverse characters. Rose Tremain has always been a heroine of mine, all of her novels have inspired me yet each one is utterly different – unlike the historical Restoration (shortlisted for the Booker Prize) or The Colour (shortlisted for the 2004 Orange Prize) this is a very modern British story – but as always, it is imaginative, thoughtful, enjoyable and brilliantly told. This interview in the Independent sheds light on both author and the novel. Buy it here 

When We Were Bad – Charlotte Mendelson

Claudia Rubin is a glamorous London figure: celebrity rabbi, earth mother to four children, successful writer of books about family life. Her eldest son’s wedding looks like the perfect showcase for her perfect life, bound to be the glitziest event in town. But love, lust and family dysfunction wreak havoc and the Rubin family quickly go into meltdown. Very entertaining, witty, observant, wry – this is a brilliant and funny look at modern family life from a very sharp-eyed writer. You can read an extract and browse all the reviews on the publishers site. Buy it here


The Outcast – Sadie Jones
This book keeps cropping up in ‘What’s Hot’ lists and screenwriter Sadie Jones is the newcomer to watch. Set in buttoned-up, straight laced 1950s Britain, it is a suspense story full of menace and intrigue. Nineteen year old Lewis Alridge is fresh out of jail and returns to his village, only to find himself caught up in hypocrisy, violence and much more. Many reviews compared this to Atonement – it has the same atmosphere and drama, plus a central love story that offers redemption. Watch this brilliant trailer on youtube to get a feel for the book. Buy it here


Fault Lines – Nancy Huston

Following the premise of the title, Fault Lines is based around the concept of cracks that run through generations, and is narrated by six members of the same family stretching back five decades and across continents. With each narrator, we learn more about the previous characters, until all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together and the family epic comes to a dramatic conclusion. Full of secrets, political events, hidden loyalties, rebellions and mistakes, Fault Lines is colourful, lively and clever. Like Rose Tremain, Nancy Huston is a vastly experienced writer (this is her 20th book) and recently won the Prix Femina (one of France’s most prestigious literary awards) for this novel. Buy it here

Lullabies for Little Criminals – Heather O’Neill
Both funny and dark,  Heather O’Neill’s debut follows Baby, a twelve-year old with no mother and a heroin junkie father, who somehow still manages to keep an optimistic and lively take on life. Unfortunately, her judgement when making friends can often go astray and the local pimp is soon grooming her for business. An original voice and matter-of-fact tone make this story totally unsentimental and it opens up a poverty-line underclass life that is often hidden and unknown. Check out the US publisher site for their readers guide and author interview. Buy it here


Lottery – Patricia Wood
Perry has a low IQ and is frequently dismissed by many as hopeless. But when he wins a massive lottery windfall, all sorts of friends and foe come creeping out of the woodwork. How Perry negotiates this suddenly complicated life, and how those around him change their perceptions, is at the core of this sweet book. It is not Forrest Gump – much less sentimental than that – but it does present a picture of a fully rounded, entirely uncliched character with learning disability. Patricia Wood’s author website gives you further details and all the reviews. Buy it here



Don't forget to cast your vote before next Friday 2nd May - polls close 8pm.

Last updated: over 3 years ago