New review: Men at the centre of the story

// 16 August 2010

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Barbara Kingsolver has finally won the Orange Prize. Sarah Bryne wonders, is it a coincidence that she has been recognised for The Lacuna, her first novel with a male protagonist?

lacunacover.jpgI’ve been a big fan of US novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s work for many years, so I was already midway through her latest book, The Lacuna when it was announced as the winner of the Orange Prize 2010.

It was a controversial decision, with many people believing Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall should have won. To me the surprise was not so much that Kingsolver won, but that she won with this particular novel, which I didn’t think was her strongest work. At least, it wasn’t my favourite. And while I know the Orange Prize isn’t awarded for my personal favourite, it’s still objectively true that The Lacuna is a radical departure from Kingsolver’s previous work in several ways, so it seems likely that it’s that change of direction that is being rewarded.

This quote from a Foyles representative in a Guardian article is quite telling:

“It’s a daunting read, which fans of her hugely popular novel The Poisonwood Bible won’t all take to, but it rewards patient reading. It would be good to see more British writers and more women coming up with fiction as ambitious as this.”

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