* A.M. Homes wins 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction
* Mantel fails to win on third nomination
* Winning novel a tale of American dream gone wrong
By Paul Casciato
LONDON, June 5 The American novelist A.M. Homes
beat double Man Booker Prize-winner Hilary Mantel to the 2013
Women's Prize for Fiction on Wednesday with a tale of murder,
sibling rivalry, adultery and absolution.
Homes's "May We Be Forgiven", which follows a violent change
in the lives of a historian and his high-flying younger brother,
secured the 30,000 pound ($45,900) award for Homes despite
bookmakers heavily favouring a triple sweep for Mantel's
bestselling "Bring Up the Bodies", already winner of the Booker
and Costa awards.
The chair of the judges, Miranda Richardson, said the panel
argued long and passionately over a shortlist that also included
former winners Briton Zadie Smith and U.S. novelist Barbara
Kingsolver, as well as U.S. screenwriter-turned-novelist Maria
Semple and British writer Kate Atkinson.
"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," she said.
The darkly comic story follows the historian Harold Silver,
who has spent a lifetime watching his taller, smarter and more
successful younger brother George acquire a covetable wife, two
children and a beautiful home in New York.
But George has a murderous temper and when he loses control
the two brothers are hurled into entirely new lives in which
they must both seek absolution.
Homes, whose first name is Amy, writes most of her novels
from a male perspective. They are often laced with violence and
sex and mixed with black humour.
"I find it harder, self-consciously so, to write a female
narrator," the author, whose other works include "This Book Will
Save Your Life" and "The End of Alice", told the Guardian
newspaper last year.
The British bookseller Foyles said "May We Be Forgiven" was
a "crowning achievement" for Homes that put her among
contemporary American greats such as Pulitzer prize-winner
Cormac McCarthy and "Independence Day" author Richard Ford.
"It's a powerful exploration of where the American dream
went wrong, laced with sharp observation, pathos and dark
humour," Foyles said in a statement.
British bookmakers William Hill had made Mantel odds-on
favourite to win the prize with her 11th novel, her third
appearance on the Women's Prize shortlist. Homes and Zadie
Smith's "NW" were joint second.
Mantel won the Booker in 2009 for "Wolf Hall" and in 2012
for "Bring Up the Bodies", the first two books in a trilogy
about the rise and fall of the 'eminence grise' Thomas Cromwell
in the court of King Henry VIII. She won the 2012 Costa Book
Award in January.
The Women's Prize for Fiction, previously known as the
Orange Prize for Fiction, was set up in 1996 to promote fiction
written by women.
It is awarded to the best novel of the year written in
English by a woman.
Homes joins a celebrated list of previous winners, including
Madeline Miller for "The Song of Achilles" in 2012, Téa Obreht
for "The Tiger's Wife" (2011) and Lionel Shriver for "We Need to
Talk About Kevin" (2005).
($1 = 0.6539 British pounds)
(Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Kevin Liffey)