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Five front-runners in novel race

    A novelist who brought to life the quirks of Jewish life in north-west London is in the running for the top prize given to female writers in the UK.

    Francesca Segal is one of 20 novelists — five of whom are Jewish — shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, formerly the Orange Prize, which comes with a £30,000 cheque and the chance of increased publicity and book sales.

    Ms Segal, who has already won the Costa Prize for First Novel, is on the longlist for The Innocents, a modern Jewish love story loosely based on Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.

    Also in the running for the 18-year-old prize, which is being judged by actress Miranda Richardson and a panel that includes the former editor of The Lady, Rachel Johnson, is Israeli writer Shani Boianjiu, author of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid.

    It follows a trio of Israeli female teenagers drafted into the IDF — in which she herself served. The book was described by Amanda Craig in the JC as “a fresh and funny debut [that] brings us news of life on the front line of young Israeli womanhood.”

    Deborah Copaken Kogan, a Jewish American author, who, while working as a photojournalist in Israel covered the first intifada, is nominated for her novel, The Red Book, about four university friends 20 years on.

    Also nominated are Sheila Heti, for How Should A Person Be?, and A M Homes, for May We Be Forgiven, of which JC critic Madeleine Kingsley wrote: “I would not lose a word of her whip-sharp wit or unerring dialogue”.

    Michèle Roberts’s longlisted title, Ignorance, focuses on two friends — one of them with Jewish roots — in a French village as the Nazis invade.

    The shortlist will be announced on April 16, with the prizewinner named at a ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on June 5.

    The longlist, says Miranda Richardson, “is, we believe, truly representative of that diversity of style, content and provenance, and contains those works which genuinely inspired the most excitement and passion amongst the judges.”

    One nominee likely to figure highly in the betting to capture the award is Hilary Mantel, who has already won the Man Booker Prize, the David Cohen Prize for literature and the overall Costa Prize, all for Bring Up the Bodies, which is now in line for the Women’s Prize.

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