Winter, Donoghue finalists for Orange Prize

Kathleen Winter and Emma Donoghue are a step closer to the Orange Prize, after organizers announce the short list of finalists on Tuesday.
Kathleen Winter, an Orange Prize finalist for Annabel, is one of three first-time novellists in the running. (Chris Yong/Canadian Press)

Canadian authors Kathleen Winter and Emma Donoghue are a step closer to the Orange Prize, after organizers announced the short list of finalists on Tuesday.

Winter, a Montreal-based Newfoundland author, and the Irish-born Donoghue, who is now based in London, Ont., face four other contenders for the prize celebrating female writers of English-language novels.

The winner will get about $47,000 Cdn.

Winter, whose past work has included writing for television and award-winning short story collections, is one of three finalists being considered for their debut novels. She is nominated for her book Annabel.

A contender for Canada's three most prominent book prizes (the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers' Trust Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award) in 2010, Annabel tells the tale of an intersex child growing up in a small Labrador town in the 1970s.

Emma Donoghue, an Orange nominee for Room, is one of the established authors vying for the women's fiction prize. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)
Celebrated author Donoghue's darkly themed Room is also a nominee. Loosely inspired by the horrifying real-life story of Elisabeth Fritzl, the novel recounts the story of a young boy and his mother who are imprisoned in a single room.

It won Canada's Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and a regional Commonwealth Writers Prize and was shortlisted for a host of other honours, including the Man Booker Prize.

Other finalists include:

  • Scottish-Sierra Leonean writer Aminatta Forna for The Memory of Love.
  • British writer Emma Henderson for Grace Williams Says it Loud.
  • American writer Nicole Krauss for Great House.
  • Serbian writer Tea Obreht for The Tiger's Wife.

Along with Winter, Henderson and Obreht are also first-time novelists.

"The verve and scope of storylines pays compliment to the female imagination," jury chair Bettany Hughes said in a statement. "There are no subjects these authors don't dare to tackle.

"Even though the stories in our final choices range from kidnapping to colonialism, from the persistence of love to Balkan folk-memory, from hermaphroditism to abuse in care, the books are written with such a skilful lightness of touch, humour, sympathy and passion, they all make for an exhilarating and uplifting read."

The winner of the 2011 Orange Prize will be announced at a gala at London's Royal Festival Hall on June 8. Past recipients include Marilynne Robinson, Lionel Shriver and Carol Shields.