British author Rose Tremain landed the Orange Prize for women writers on Wednesday with “The Road Home,” the tale of an East European immigrant grappling with the challenges of life in London.
“This was a powerfully imagined story and a wonderful feat of emotional empathy told with great warmth and humor,” said chair of the judges Kirsty Lang as she awarded the $60,000 prize to Tremain.
It took the judges three hours to pick the winner, and their final choice was a unanimous decision.
Tremain’s 10th novel had been a hot favorite with bookmakers to land the prize, which often stokes controversy among literary critics and authors. It is awarded to the best novel of the year written in English by a woman.
Novelist Kingsley Amis once said he would not care to win the Orange Prize if he were a woman, while female author A.S. Byatt complained that the award “ghettoized” women.
After receiving her prize, Tremain said of carping critics who lambaste the prize: “Stop being so grumpy.”
Noting that Doris Lessing had won the latest Nobel Prize for Literature and that Britain's Booker and Costa book awards had both gone to women writers this year, she said “I think there is a lot to cheer.” Tremain, who was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2004, has already been garlanded with several literary awards — from the Whitbread Novel Award to the Prix Femina Etranger.
The hero of “The Road Home” is named Lev. He travels to Britain with no job prospects, little money and few words of English.
He finds the British deeply strange — with their hostile streets, clannish pubs and obsession with celebrity — but London offers him an alluring new life against all the odds.
Tremain said she got very attached to the hero of her novel. “Sympathy with a character is important,” she told Reuters at the awards ceremony.
Asked what had motivated her to write about immigration, Tremain said: “This is a subject which is really in the air and something which we feel slightly schizophrenic about and perhaps anxious.
“So I wanted to do something about immigration in this country. It was question of finding the story and having a story that would work so that we are not just looking at the protagonist, but he is looking at us."