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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Orange prize winner's delight
Kate Grenville
Grenville: Book is set in small-town New South Wales
The Australian novelist Kate Grenville, who won the Orange Prize for fiction on Tuesday has expressed her delight at escaping "literary typecasting".

Grenville won the 30,000 prize - the UK's richest prize for fiction - for her novel The Idea of Perfection, which was judged to be the best English-language novel by a woman published in the past year.

She told BBC News Online that she is delighted about the win as it might at last break through the typecasting which she says accompanies Australian writing.

Kate Grenville: The Idea of Perfection
Perfect? Book was on both shortlists
"I'm an unknown Australian woman and this is not a book about the big heroic outback - men versus the wilderness kind of thing," she says.

"Unless the book is thrust into a reader's hands they're not going to bother and I suppose its understandable that a British audience is going to think ho hum."

Grenville is a very well known writer in Australia.


Her book Lilian's story won the Vogel Award in 1984 and Dark Places was shorlisted for the 1995 Miles Franklin Award - Australia's equivalent of the Booker.

But when The Idea of Perfection was published last year in the UK, it was hardly reviewed and the book was considered the outsider on the Orange prize shortlist.

Perhaps the small town setting put people off, and Grenville herself realises this might be so.

"Small towns are the cinderella of the Australian literary scene," she says.

"There are all those hip smart books about the city written by people wearing black and the books mainly written by blokes about the mythic outback and in between is the backbone really of Australia - the country towns."

The Idea of Perfection is an exquisite, minutely observed study of two people meeting in their middle years

Rosie Boycott, head of the judging panel

Grenville was the only author to appear on the two different shortlists - one drawn up by female judges and one by men.

As part of a study on division between the sexes' reading habits, the choices of the male jury had no bearing on the competition but did stir controversy in the literary world.

Unlikely romance

It was the female-chosen shortlist - which also included Margaret Atwood, Jane Smiley and Jill Dawson - from which judges chose the winner.

Margaret Atwood
Atwood: Booker-winner was favourite
The Idea of Perfection is the story of an unlikely romance between a gawky engineer with jug ears and a large woman with a ragged haircut, set in small-town New South Wales.

Though the story has a small-town setting, it touches on universal themes of relationships, history and so-called progress.

The judging panel was headed by former newspaper editor Rosie Boycott, aided by singer Suzanne Vega, journalist Kate Adie, novelist Emily Perkins and Dr Rachel Holmes of internet bookseller Amazon.

Boycott said The Idea of Perfection is an "exquisite, minutely observed study" of the two characters' lives.

Grenville is also researching her next book in the UK, about an ancestor of hers who was born in London but deported to Australia.

"I lived here for five years about 20 years ago," she says.

"I think of London as a sort of a second home."

The BBC's Mark Lawson
talks to Kate Grenville
The BBC's Jo Episcopo
"This year organisers took the unprecedented step of choosing an alternative second jury"
See also:

10 May 01 | Arts
Atwood heads Orange list
21 May 01 | Arts
Women's fiction divides sexes
26 Mar 01 | Arts
Men judge female fiction prize
07 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Briton wins women's writing prize
05 Jun 01 | Arts
Grenville scoops Orange Prize
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