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I was so pleased to hear that Marilynne Robinson won the Orange Prize for her latest novel, Home. I have been a fan since a friend lent me Housekeeping many years ago. What a writer, and what a book. Published in 1980, Housekeeping was Robinson’s sole novel (she did publish two books of essays which were intelligent, a bit quirky and not nearly as compelling as her fiction) until she released Gilead in 2004. Home followed close upon, by Robinson standards anyway.

Here’s the report from the Guardian:

Perhaps the surprise was that there was no surprise. This year’s Orange prize for the best novel written by a woman was last night won by a writer regarded by some as one of the greatest of living novelists: Marilynne Robinson.

Fi Glover, the broadcaster who chaired this year’s judging panel, admitted the decision had been straightforward and unanimous. Home, Robinson’s beautifully crafted exploration of family relationships and redemption, was the easy winner from the six shortlisted books, she said. “All of the judges brought a couple of books to the table which they thought were definitely the contenders and Home was in all of our choices. We were in agreement.”

Glover said she had now read Home three times and it got better, more deep and profound, each time. “It does that wonderful thing of describing life that you almost knew about but never managed to put your finger on.”

Robinson, whose day job is teaching creative writing in Iowa City, was one of three American writers shortlisted and received her award, together with a £30,000 cheque, at a ceremony in London’s Royal Festival Hall.

Home is only Robinson’s third novel since her debut in 1980 with Housekeeping. That novel started slowly in terms of sales and popularity but soon became huge and it is now regarded as a modern classic. It was made into a film by Bill Forsyth and, some years later, it was in the Observer’s list of the top 100 novels of all time.

Readers were desperate for more but Robinson did not return to fiction for 24 years, winning a Pullitzer prize for Gilead five years ago. In between she wrote a polemical book about the British nuclear industry and a book of essays on such unfashionable subjects as theology and Calvinism. In Home, Robinson revisits characters she wrote about in Gilead and tells the story of the return of a black sheep, Jack, to the family fold. For a lot of the novel, not much happens – but that is one of its joys.

The victory will mean a sales spike for Robinson and the result has been welcomed by bookshops. Jonathan Ruppin, of Foyles, said: “Robinson is simply one of the outstanding prose stylists of recent years; she will undoubtedly come to be seen as essential as Nabokov or Conrad. In picking this as this year’s winner, the judges have made a real statement about lyrical power of fiction, beyond its basic function to tell stories.”

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