The Orange Prize has transformed into The Women’s Prize for Fiction and they announced the longlist yesterday. It’s a good list full of strong voices, including debut authors and award-winners, although, strangely missing, like the poor fairy at the Christening scene in Sleeping Beauty, is THE big book of 2012. Mantel is there, of course, proving that they don’t really need a women’s prize to promote women’s fiction – they should just pay Mantel to write more books instead of awarding her £30,000 and a bronze ‘Bessie’.
For me, though, the most pleasing name on the list is Barbara Kingsolver. Would she expect to win a second time? In all the fuss over Mantel’s nomination she’s been overlooked by the press. The Lacuna is a magnificent, career-making book, but her latest is just as good – if not better.
Her fourteenth book is a compelling story of global warming set in the backwoods of Tennessee on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s warm, funny, completely in tune with the modern sensibility but gets to the heart of the issues on global warming without preaching to us– how can we live, invent, use technology, build homes, eat, and not destroy the planet?
Some of the best scenes in Flight Behaviour locate global problems in common, everyday experience. Shopping in the dollar store for food and Christmas presents, the protagonist, 27year-old Dellarobia Turnbow and her dopy husband Cub argue about what their children want and what they should give them, how much to spend and what they can afford. It’s an age-old argument but Kingsolver draws out nuances that resonate beyond Dellarobia’s desire to encourage her young son’s sudden interest in science.
‘If you want them to have a computer and stuff, we need the logging money. Or,’ he spread his hands – ‘we can keep our trees. And be hicks.’
‘Right. We cut down the trees and get ourselves buried in mud like a bunch of hillbillies, because we’re afraid of raising our kids to be dumb hillbillies. Really you’re saying we just do it because that’s who we are,’ she said too loudly. ‘Who are we?’
Indeed … who are we?
You can read my complete review of Flight Behaviour over on The EarthLines Review.
WPF Longlist >> The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013