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Orange Prize nominees worth reading

Plastic Mars
 
Small Island
Small Island
"Postwar Jamaica/England. Jamaican emigrants come face-to-face with English prejudices. Funny and moving."
Bel Canto
Bel Canto
"Modern South America. A translator and an opera diva keep up morale among well-heeled hostages. Warm, elegant and perfectly paced."
The Idea of Perfection
The Idea of Perfection
"Contemporary Australia. Slow-moving but well-observed tale of a bridge-builder and a textile artist. Professional sure-footedness constrasts with hilariously awkward social manners."
Fugitive Pieces
Fugitive Pieces
"WW2 Europe/Postwar USA. Poetic, morally concerned tale of a holocaust survivor."
Larry's Party
Larry's Party
"1970s and onwards USA. Absorbing Bildungsroman of a self-educated man who steadily reinvents himself as he acquires the language to articulate his desires."
The Great Stink
The Great Stink
"Victorian London. Atmospheric tale of London's sewers, with an intriguingly unstable protagonist and some excellent lowlife characters."
Billie Morgan
Billie Morgan
"1970s and onwards Bradford. Intense, brutally compassionate depiction of biker culture and underclass lives."
Old Filth
Old Filth
"20th century Malaysia, UK and Far East. Deftly written and evocative portrait of a Raj orphan's privileged but emotionally spartan childhood, and of the man he becomes."
It So Happens
It So Happens
"Modern UK. Uplifting account of the intrigues, rivalries and friendships in a residential home for the elderly. Admirable treatment of a stage of life not often covered in fiction."
The Mysteries of Glass
The Mysteries of Glass
"Victorian Wales. Imagistic portrait a conservative rural community. A new curate wrestles with his conscience and attempts to bring change."
The Remedy
The Remedy
"18th century London and Venice. Hugely enjoyable, comic and subversive romance. Great characters: a surprisingly upstanding con artist/quack and a deliciously devious, amoral heroine."
The Falls
The Falls
"1950-60s Niagara Falls, USA. Vivid, politically engaged family and community drama with some finely drawn, complex (and brilliantly named!) characters."
Brick Lane
Brick Lane
"1960s onwards London. Eye-opening but long-winded exploration of the boredom of a Bengali housewife on a council estate, punctuated by news of a sister's comitragic exploits back in Bangladesh."
Love
Love
"1950s and onwards Southern USA. Elliptical, cleverly constructed exploration of the sometimes-cohesive, sometimes-oppressive nature  of love through several generations."
Notes on a Scandal
Notes on a Scandal
"Contemporary London. Confidences and betrayal between schoolteachers. Very funny, but with a serious underlying theme of loneliness."
The Electric Michelangelo
The Electric Michelangelo
"1920s and onwards UK and USA. Anthropologically astute portrayal of a tattoo artist plying his trade in seaside towns, charting the decline of these brashly insouciant communities."
Purple Hibiscus (P.S.)
Purple Hibiscus (P.S.)
"1990s Nigeria. Compelling account of childhood under a strict Christian patriarch, whose political crusading and public philanthropy aren't felt at home."
The Sari Shop
The Sari Shop
"1990s India. Compassionate satire of a sari shop assistant  who attains his goal of self-education, only to despair at the unjust nature of society and the hopelessness of his own position."
The Little Friend
The Little Friend
"1970s Mississippi, US. Sprawling, cinematically-observed tale of macabre childhood adventures in a rigidly traditional Southern town."