Last Tuesday, the 16th April saw the announcement of the shortlist for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize). The shortlist is;
Barbara Kingsolver and Zadie Smith are previous winners, and if it was to go to the most funky cover then Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette would win hands down.
From a most excellent longlist, the one I was most disappointed not to see get on the shortlist was G.Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen.
The author, G.Willow Wilson has an interesting background. From New Jersey originally, after studying Arabic language and literature in her history degree, after converting to Islam she moved to Cairo and worked for an Egyptian opposition magazine which closed in 2005.
An extraordinarily inventive novel, Alif the Unseen is set in an oppressive oil-rich Arab country where Alif the computer whiz-kid is mediator for anyone who wants to speak out against the state. Secretly involved with a girl from a more affluent family, she sends him a book that causes more trouble than he would ever believe. Crossing between the world of the real and the djinns this is a fantastical tale that never seems too fabulous for belief, and this is its best quality. Almost like 'Harry Potter Visits Arabia' and with touches of Star Wars we are taken into alternative worlds and meet fantastical beasts, but always at the heart of it is the determination of Alif to do the right thing. Inventive, original and entertaining, it is in its most simple form an adventure love story and one that is a great to have experienced.