Orange win makes Obreht hottest name in fiction
Rob Sharp

THE first-time novelist Tťa Obrehtís book The Tigerís Wife, a surreal, seductive meander through recent history in the Balkans, has turned the 25-year-old into the latest literary superstar after she was crowned the youngest winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction recently.

Obreht, who speaks English as a second language, was an outside choice for the award for womenís writing, the most prestigious in fiction alongside the Man Booker. Pundits had named the Canadian author Emma Donoghue the prizeís favourite for Room, her chilling account of a boy and mother imprisoned in a bedroom.

After her acceptance of the award, Obreht said: "I was stunned and I did not expect it and I did not prepare anything. Iím really still not processing it. It is a tremendous honour." She added she was glad her book was being translated into Serbo-Croatian so her grandmother could read it.

Judging chair, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes said the decision to recognise Obreht with the `A330,000 award was "brave", revealing that it was not a unanimous decision.

"Thereís something special about the book, as it changed the way the judges looked at the world, which is really quite extraordinary," she said. "The Balkans really is a territory which flashes past many peopleís lives very quickly but this book gives us an intimate understanding of the place."

Obrehtís story is as extraordinary as her novelís. She lived in Belgrade until she was seven. Her family then moved to Cyprus, Cairo, and the US, and she began writing the novel, the story of a young doctor coping with her grandfatherís death, after graduating from the University of Southern California. Obreht spent three years writing the work and is currently working on her second novel. ó The Independent