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Barbara Kingsolver wins the Orange Prize for "The Lacuna"

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Courtesy of Hank Daniel/HarperCollins

(Read caption) Barbara Kingsolver's last book before Orange Prize-winning "The Lacuna" was a nonfiction work about how she and her family became "locavores."

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Once again, the oddsmakers were proved wrong. This year Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning "Wolf Hall" about the life of Thomas Cromwell was favored to win the prestigious Orange Prize for fiction. Instead, the award went to Barbara Kingsolver for her novel "The Lacuna."

"We chose 'The Lacuna' because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy," said chief judge Daisy Goodwin. "We had very different tastes on the panel, but in the end we went for passion not compromise."

Not all of the British press, however, seems to share the judges' passion. " 'The Lacuna' was received with respectful disappointment by the majority of its reviewers and quite a few of its readers," notes Catherine Taylor, writing for the Guardian. Many readers, Taylor adds, consider Kingsolver's earlier novel "The Poisonwood Bible," shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 1999, to be her best work.

"The Lacuna" is Kingsolver's sixth novel. Its plot moves between Mexico and the cold war-era US. Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, his wife painter Frida Kahlo, and Russian exile Leon Trotsky all appear as characters. Monitor reviewer Yvonne Zipp called "The Lacuna" Kingsolver's "most ambitious novel" and found a central stretch of the book – set in Mexico City – to be "among the most compelling writing of Kingsolver’s career."

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