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Monday, 10 May, 1999, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Writers slated for 'Bridget Jones' novels
Beryl Bainbridge says the judge is talking 'nonsense'
British women writers have been criticised by one of the judges for this year's Orange Prize for copying the "Bridget Jones style" of novel. Only one British writer has been shortlisted for the award this year.

The UK-run prize is the country's richest literary award at 30,000, and is open to any novel published in English by a woman writer.

Julia Blackburn made it to this year's shortlist with her tale about time-travel, The Leper's Companion, but the remaining nominations are either Canadian or American.

Bridget Jones's Diary: A novel about the angst-ridden life of a thirty-something woman
Professor Lola Young, chairman of the judges, called British novels "piddling" and "parochial" compared with American women's fiction.

She said too many women writers tried to copy the style of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, concentrating on the well-worn theme of women worrying about careers, boyfriends and children.

"Many of the British books about 30-something young women were incredibly insular.

"There is a cult of big advances going to photogenic young women to write about their own lives and who they had to dinner, as if that is all there is to life.

"These people may not be writing a novel because they have got something to say but because it's fashionable to write these sorts of novels. I would encourage them to think bigger," she said.

Professor Young, who is Professor of Cultural Studies at Middlesex University, said American women writers tended to write on a more sweeping, epic scale.

Beryl Bainbridge's novel Master Georgie, which won the WHSmith literary award earlier this year, was dropped from the final shortlist.

Bainbridge, who was named Author of the Year at the British Book Awards in February, said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper: "It's nonsense to say our books have got stuffy, domestic or parochial. Who is this woman?

"It is our piddling critics and judges which may be the problem," she said.

The Orange Prize will be awarded in London on 8 June.

The Orange Prize shortlist

  • Julia Blackburn: The Leper's Companion
  • Marilyn Bowering: Visible Worlds.
  • Suzanne Berne: A Crime In The Neighbourhood
  • Jane Hamilton: The Short History Of A Prince
  • Barbara Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible
  • Toni Morrison: Paradise.
See also:

27 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Ted Hughes wins second Whitbread prize
05 Feb 99 | Entertainment
Bainbridge author of the year
02 Mar 99 | Entertainment
Bainbridge wins book award
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