Debut author Téa Obreht has won the Orange Prize for Fiction for The Tiger’s Wife (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), beating Man Booker-shortlisted bookies’ favourite Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador).
Obreht, aged 25, is the youngest-ever author to win the £30,000 prize, which was awarded yesterday evening (8th June). The last debut to win was Suzanne Berne’s A Crime in the Neighbourhood (Penguin) in 1999 which has sold 49,189 copies to date, according to Nielsen BookScan.
Chair of judges, Bettany Hughes, said: "The Tiger's Wife is an exceptional book and Téa Obreht is a truly exciting new talent. Obreht's powers of observation and her understanding of the world are remarkable."
Foyles’ Jonathan Ruppin added "It's very rare to encounter a debut of such accomplishment. The commercial potential of this is huge.”
So far, however, The Tiger’s Wife is one of the lowest-selling on the shortlist. It has sold 6,410 copies since publication in March, 4,105 of those after the shortlist announcement.
Room, helped by its inclusion on C4’s "The TV Book Club" and Richard and Judy's WHS-exclusive Spring Book Club, has accounted for 70% of the shortlist's entire sales, selling 64,809 copies. It was announced by Amazon to be "one of the standout books of the past year” selling 470% more copies than its nearest rival, Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love (Bloomsbury), according to the retailer.
Sales of shortlistees since the list was announced in April have totalled 91,144 copies across all editions in the UK—about half the figure the 2010 selections clocked up over the same period. Last year's winner, Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna (Faber) has sold 192,000 copies to date.
Obreht was born in the former Yugoslavia in 1985, eventually emigrating to the United States in 1997. She now lives in Ithaca, New York. She was picked for the New Yorker’s "20 under 40” fiction issue, and The Tiger’s Wife was also chosen for Waterstone’s campaign for first-time novelists, the Waterstone’s 11.
The Orange Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction written by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. At the ceremony, Bettany Whittle was named as the winner of the Orange/Grazia First Chapter Competition for unpublished writers.