U.S. author Valerie Martin wins Orange Prize


LONDON - Canadian author Carol Shields failed to capture her second Orange Prize for Fiction, as New York writer Valerie Martin won the coveted award for her novel Property .

Martin received $70,000 Tuesday as the winner of Britain's most prestigious award for women's fiction writing.

The story focuses on a young slave girl and the unhappy wife of the owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation, set against slave unrest and uprisings.

Martin's novels include Italian Fever , The Great Divorce and Mary Reilly .

Property was one of six books - including Shelds' Unless - that made the short list for the award.

It is a bit of a surprise victory, as many believed Donna Tartt's The Little Friend would win.

Shields won in 1998 for Larry's Party.

Established in 1996, the Orange Prize grew out of concern that women's writing was being passed over by major literary awards. The prize's founders reacted to the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist, which included no books by women.

The award is open to any novel written in English by a woman and published in Britain for the first time in the 12 months prior to March 31 of the year the prize is awarded.

Along with a cheque, the winner received a bronze figurine called the Bessie.

Anne Patchett won last year's award for Bel Canto .

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