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Madeline Miller wins 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

31st May 2012

The 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction has been won by Madeline Miller for her debut novel, The Song of Achilles.

Miller becomes the second consecutive first-time novelist to win the award, which is being sponsored by Orange for the final time this year.

The 33-year-old was the rank outsider to win the award before it was presented at London's Royal Festival Hall yesterday evening but, like last year's winner Tea Obreht, defied the long odds to take home the GBP 30,000 prize.

She beat off stiff competition from 84-year-old Cynthia Ozick, who was the bookmakers' favourite for the prize with Foreign Bodies, as well as Esi Edugyan, who was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 for Half Blood Blues and was hoping to go one better.

Other shortlisted candidates included 2002 Orange Prize winner Ann Patchett for her latest novel State of Wonder, Anne Enright for The Forgotten Waltz and Georgina Harding for Painter of Silence.

However, chair of judges Joanna Trollope said that Miller's novel, which was inspired by Homer's epic poem The Iliad and focuses on the emotional and physical relationship between the great warrior Achilles and the young prince Patroclus, was a deserving victor.

'This is a more than worthy winner - original, passionate, inventive and uplifting. Homer would be proud of her,' she added.

Trollope's fellow judges, Lisa Appignanesi, Victoria Derbyshire, Natalie Haynes and Natasha Kaplinsky, agreed that the novel's layers of violence, superstition and romance were equalled by its 'intensity and accuracy'.

Miller, who was born in Boston and still lives in Massachusetts, studied Latin and Ancient Greek at Brown University and taught the two subjects for nine years before publishing her first novel last year.

Despite having the longest odds before the ceremony, The Song of Achilles was described as a 'dark horse' by Jonathan Ruppin, web editor at Foyles, who rated its chances.

'Word-of-mouth has been spreading steadily for this stylishly told and fascinatingly detailed story of classical-era same-sex romance involving literature's ultimate flawed hero. It could take everyone by surprise,' he added.

And so it came to be, with Miller becoming the 17th and final winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, before the award is renamed under a new sponsor in 2013.

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