American writer wins Orange Prize for Fiction

Sunday, June 8, 2003

— American writer Valerie Martin has won the Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel, "Property."

"We are delighted to have as the winner a novel which deals with a huge subject with originality," said Ahdaf Souef, head of the judges' panel, in announcing the award on Tuesday.

"It performs the difficult task of depicting dramatic events with stylish restraint."

The book, about a plantation owner's wife in the American South, takes place in the 1820s. It was described in a Salon review as "a ferociously honest book" about black-white relations and slavery.

"'Property' is the kind of novel that reminds you that literary fiction still has the power to take us where no other art form can," Salon said.

One of Martin's previous works was "Mary Reilly," a reworking of the Jekyll and Hyde story from the perspective of a housemaid.

"Property" was chosen over "The Little Friend," by Donna Tartt; "The Autograph Man," by Zadie Smith; "Unless," by Carol Shields; "Heligoland," by Shena Mackay; "Buddha Da," by Anne Donovan.

The Orange Prize is given to the best English-language novel by a female writer and carries an award of $40,000.