A novelist, regarded as a “traitor” by the American Right for her criticism of the country's foreign policy and her outspoken comments after the 9/11 attacks, is the surprise winner of this year's Orange Prize for fiction, Britain's highly-regarded literary honour for women writers .
Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna, the story of an American writer who becomes a victim of anti-communist McCarthyist witch-hunt, won the £30,000 prize beating six contenders including Hilary Mantel's acclaimed Booker prize-winner Wolf Hall.
The Kentucky-born writer described her victory as a “lovely shock” and said she was “delighted”. The judges praised the book for its “passion'' and “breathtaking scale''.
“We had very different tastes on the panel, but in the end we went for passion not compromise. We chose The Lacuna because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy,” said writer and broadcaster Daisy Goodwin, who chaired the jury.
Ms. Kingsolver (55), a strong critic of colonialism and evangelism, was attacked by the American Right for opposing the Iraq invasion and the post-9/11 “jingoistic” mood in her country. She was branded a “traitor” after she reportedly said the American flag had come to symbolise “intimidation, violence, bigotry”.
After winning the prize, Ms. Kingsolver said it was a “validation of serious ideas”.
“I write what I do because I believe it's important and the validation of an important prize like this means good deal,” she told The Guardian.
Previous winners of the prize, established 15 years ago, include Zadie Smith, Rose Tremain and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.