Obreht youngest winner of UK's Orange fiction prize

Wed Jun 8, 2011 2:17pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Belgrade-born author Tea Obreht was the surprise winner on Wednesday of Britain's Orange Prize for Fiction with her debut novel "The Tiger's Wife," a mystical, magical examination of the recent conflicts in the Balkans.

At 25, Obreht is the youngest author to scoop the award, which honors female writers from around the world and is now in its 16th year.

Despite her high profile in the United States, where she has lived since she was 12 and is seen as an up-and-coming literary star, Obreht was among British bookmakers' outsiders to win the Orange Prize for Fiction with odds of 6/1.

The favorite had been Emma Donoghue for "Room" followed by Aminatta Forna ("The Memory Of Love"). Also on the shortlist were Emma Henderson ("Grace Williams Says It Loud"), Nicole Krauss ("Great House") and Kathleen Winter ("Annabel").

"'The Tiger's Wife' is an exceptional book and Tea Obreht is a truly exciting new talent," said Bettany Hughes, broadcaster, historian and author who chaired the Orange Prize judges.

"Obreht's powers of observation and her understanding of the world are remarkable. By skillfully spinning a series of magical tales she has managed to bring the tragedy of chronic Balkan conflict thumping into our front rooms."

She added: "The book reminds us how easily we can slip into barbarity, but also of the breadth and depth of human love."

FAMILY FLED THE WAR   Continued...

<p>Tea Obreht poses with her novel The Tiger's Wife at the Royal Festival Hall in London June 8, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Helgren</p>