When Kiran Desai approached the stage on October 10, Hamish Hamilton won its first Booker since 1995. Desai's The Inheritance of Loss completes an exhilarating run through Britain's major literary awards. In January, the Whitbread Biography and Book of the Year prizes went to Hilary Spurling's Matisse the Master. At the same ceremony, Ali Smith's The Accidental claimed Novel of the Year. June brought the Orange Prize to Zadie Smith and On Beauty. With The Inheritance of Loss, Hamish Hamilton has become the first imprint to win the Whitbread, Orange and Booker in the same year.
All of the praise for the Hamish Hamilton winners reflects an appreciation of the books' inventiveness. Critics and readers have mentioned innovation, bravery and originality. Zadie Smith's story of family rivalry, labelled by some as contemporary Forster, reinvents the narrative of our literary cannon. Revealing a personal and professional life of tumultuous dedication, Hilary Spurling's non-fiction reinvents our understanding of Matisse. Spurling writes with a quirkiness that surprises, and Desai makes us laugh whilst tackling the frustrations of multiculturalism. These books are made of daring creativity.
Since its inception, Hamish Hamilton has hoped to foster authors who take risks, to bring unheard stories to the public and to recognize wise and vivid writing. A thank you to the authors who embody this vision and trust their stories to our hands.
The Chicago Tribune said this about The Inheritance of Loss:
"Desai is wildly in love with the light and landscape and the characters who inhabit it. Summer comes alive with its sights and sounds and smells, and the rainy season seems to pour down with more force than in any other novel you've read . . . . [She has] a love for language that few American writers her age seem able to rival. This story of exiles at home and abroad, of families broken and fixed, of love both bitter and bittersweet is one of the most impressive novels in English of the past year, and I predict you'll read it . . . with your heart in your chest, inside the narrative, and the narrative inside you."
The best way, then, to celebrate this year's Orange, Whitbread, and Booker Prizes is a willing leap into the invention of these stories.
And additional quotes on the Orange and Whitbread prize winners?
On Zadie Smith's On Beauty:
"Like Forster, Smith possesses a captivating authorial voice – at once authoritative and nonchalant, and capacious enough to accommodate high moral seriousness, laid-back humour and virtually everything in-between – and in these pages, she uses that voice to enormous effect, giving us that rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane"
New York Times
On Hilary Spurling's Matisse the Master:
"A huge work of research, radically changing the received picture of the painter"
David Sexton, Evening Standard
On Ali Smith's The Accidental:
"Ali Smith deals with this conventional plot in a totally unconventional way. Here is a writer who constantly deploys her brilliant gifts to startle, provoke and, yes, flummox the reader. I admired and enjoyed The Accidental. Highly intelligent, audacious and challenging."