Miller's Achilles novel wins Orange prize

Wed May 30, 2012 2:21pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. author Madeline Miller won the Orange Prize for fiction on Wednesday for her debut novel "The Song of Achilles", a Homeric tale of love and friendship.

Miller's novel tells the story of Patroclus, an awkward young prince in exile whose friendship with ancient Greek hero Achilles grows into something far deeper. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little realizing what awaits.

"This is a more than worthy winner - original, passionate, inventive and uplifting," Orange Prize panel chair Joanna Trollope said in a statement. "Homer would be proud of her."

The Orange Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction written by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. It is awarded to the best novel of the year written in English by a woman and comes with a 30,000 pound ($47,000) cheque.

Miller joins a celebrated list of previous winners, including Téa Obreht for "The Tiger's Wife" (2011), Zadie Smith for "On Beauty" (2006) and Lionel Shriver for "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (2005).

She beat two other U.S. writers nominated for the prize: 2002 winner Ann Patchett who was nominated for her sixth novel "State of Wonder" and octogenarian author Cynthia Ozick for her book "Foreign Bodies".

The other authors shortlisted were: Ireland's Anne Enright, the Man Booker Prize winner in 2007, for "The Forgotten Waltz", about love and desire set in modern-day Dublin; Britain's Georgina Harding who was nominated for "Painter of Silence" set in 1950s Romania and Canadian writer Esi Edugyan for "Half Blood Blues", which takes place in Paris in 1940 and Berlin 50 years later.

(Reporting by Paul Casciato, editing by Steve Addison)