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May We Be Forgiven

AM Homes Wins 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction

The American author A M Homes has won the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction, beating Hilary Mantel, the bookies' favourite to win.

Homes, joint second favourite with Zadie Smith, won the £30,000 prize with her sixth novel, May We Be Forgiven, a hilariously dark exploration of the tarnished American dream.

Miranda Richardson, chair of judges, said: “Our 2013 shortlist was exceptionally strong and our judges’ meeting was long and passionately argued, but in the end we agreed that May We Be Forgiven is a dazzling, original, viscerally funny black comedy – a subversion of the American dream. This is a book we want to read again and give to our friends.”

Homes’s book has been widely praised for its opening, in which an illicit Thanksgiving kiss sparks a hideous sequence of events, including a fatal road accident, murderous domestic violence and a divorce, which all occur in remarkably quick succession.

"This award is super special to me," Homes said at the prize ceremony last night. "It's the first actual book award I've won. I've always been in awe of this prize and I've always dreamed I would win it.

"There are so many people i want to thank, but I especially want to thank my grandfather who passed away last month and my grandmother who loaned me the money to buy a typewriter - and made me pay her back for it!"

Homes's win interrupts Mantel’s astonishing winning streak which has already seen her win the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book of the Year.

Had Mantel won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Orange Prize and from next year to be called the Baileys Prize, she would have been the first author to win the three major awards of British literature. She has never won the Women's Prize for Fiction, although this year marks the third time she has been on the shortlist.

Richardson described the process of choosing this year's winner as "exhausting, exhilarating and worth it. There is nothing better than being in the company of great writing. The prize is of global significance and its presence is vital."

Homes’s fiction has had a controversial reception in the past. Her 1997 novel The End of Alice, the story of a friendship between a 19-year-old girl and an imprisoned paedophile, sparked outrage in the UK. The NSPCC called for it to be banned, fearing it would encourage child-molesters. WH Smith refused to stock the book.

Homes had an unusual upbringing which she has described as “wild”. She was adopted from a young age by a liberal Jewish couple and she dropped out of school at 16.

“Any way in which you could be wild, I was wild,” she said in a recent interview.

“Not just the obvious sex and drugs stuff. I lied, I stole, I played with matches. I was this crazy weird little con-artist.”

Homes was also sued by J D Salinger during her first year at university. She wrote a play in which Holden Caulfield accused his creator of stealing his life. Homes was forced to change the name of the play from The Catcher in the Rye to Life in the Outfield.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction written by women throughout the world. It has provoked controversy in the past for its all-female shortlists, which have led some critics to brand the award as sexist. Alongside Homes, Smith and Mantel, this year's shortlist also included Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour, Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette and Kate Atkinson's Life After Life.

The ceremony was hosted at the Royal Festival Hall in London and hosted by the Chair of the Women’s Prize for Fiction board, Kate Mosse. The award was presented by Miranda Richardson.

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