The postal strike is making it look less and less likely that I’ll be able to finish my Orange List reading after all (my own fault for not having ordered when the list was announced).

So I’ll have to muddle forth with some summaries without having read The Memory of Love or The Invisible Bridge. (There are links to my other 18 responses at the end of this post.)

That’s gotten me thinking: perhaps there is a way to settle this out without actually reading all of the books.

So, with those two books set aside temporarily, which of the remaining books on the longlist is the Orange-est?

Speaking solely of covers?

Check out the splash on Nicole Krauss’ Great House.

The bold smudges at the edges of The Tiger’s Wife.

The accents on Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie.

And the soft background colours of Wendy Law-Yone’s The Road to Wanting.

(The covers for your editions might vary: I have an orange-ish image on each book’s page, so check out the links below if you’re curious.)

But you know what they say about judging books solely by their covers (though I do it: we all do, don’t we?).

So then, between the covers, how orange-y are these longlisted texts?

Tied for THIRD PLACE, four books, with the following snippets?

The sky reflected the orange morning sun.
When I closed my eyes everything was orange. The world’s endless. I could live here. I could live anywhere.
(You might get this one, if you imagine you’re floating.)

His grandchildren have recently purchased a new lawn mower for him, and he operates this monstrosity by himself, a tiny, hatted, brown-armed man who still somehow manages to aim the orange machine in a straight line across his lawn.
(You might guess this one through style alone.)

Part II: House of Orange and Black Gates,  1974-95
(The spread of years is a weak hint here.)

(Go ahead: take a minute and see if you can recognize the sources, but they’re not easy.)

Yes, that’s right: single orange-y references in each of Joanne Kavenna’s The Birth of Love, Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie, Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife, and Tishani Doshi’s The Pleasure Seekers, respectively. Though if we’re talking shortlist business, it would seem that only The Tiger’s Wife was orange-y enough.

Now, for SECOND PLACE, with the perfect number of orange references for its positioning:

The sun was setting in a nasty yellowish orange glow.

Stephanie is wearing an orange shift dress.

(Any guesses? I don’t know how you could spot these.)

(I’ll give you a clue: they’d probably look muted if viewed underwater.)

(Well,that’s if you can open your eyes underwater, which I can’t — or won’t.)

Okay, enough to do: standing on its own, with two orange-nesses to its credit, Roma Tearne’s The Swimmer.

And now for FIRST PLACE, with three, yes, three orange-y bits.

(I know you’ll guess this one, even if all you’ve done is read through the list of longlisted titles or the links at the bottom of this page, partly because there is a context for each, rather than simply a single sentence!)
Sango market was a long, muddy street. Shielded from the sun, the colors under the stalls’ rusted iron sheets blended into a collage of dreary hues. The oranges dulled into maroon: the violets and greens smeared into navy blue. Wading through the stalls amid perspiring flesh was exhausting but I was not deterred. I strode directly to the crockery section.

When I first arrived in his house, I bought a large orange bowl and presented it to the wives. Iya Femi laughed when she saw it and said their husband only ate off white crockery, that he liked his food to supply color at meal times, that his food wasn’t worth eating if he couldn’t see the red of his palm oil and the green of his okra.

(If you haven’t already guessed the winner, you will with this final quote…)

When I returned to Baba Segi’s house that evening, I noted that it was that lovely phase of dusk when the sky filled with orange clouds as if a paintbrush had been rinsed in it.

Yup, the orange-est of the bunch is Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Even combining cover images with textual references, the other orange-y bits don’t compete with this charming novel, despite its decidedly un-orange cover image!

The conclusion of this experiment?

You can still make the Orange list without explicit use of orange-ness.

Which is your Orange-est? (Use whatever criteria you wish!)

Annabel – Kathleen Winter (Jonathan Cape) – Canadian; 1st Novel
The Birth of Love – Joanna Kavenna (Faber and Faber) – British; 2nd Novel
Grace Williams Says it LoudEmma Henderson (Sceptre) – British; 1st Novel
Great House – Nicole Krauss (Viking) – American; 3rd Novel
Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch (Canongate) – British; 10th Novel
The London Train – Tessa Hadley (Jonathan Cape) – British; 4th Novel
Lyrics Alley – Leila Aboulela (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – Sudanese; 3rd Novel
The Pleasure Seekers – Tishani Doshi (Bloomsbury) – Indian; 1st Novel
Repeat it Today with Tears – Anne Peile (Serpent’s Tail) – British; 1st Novel
The Road to Wanting – Wendy Law-Yone (Chatto & Windus) – American; 3rd Novel
Room – Emma Donoghue (Picador) – Irish; 7th Novel
The Seas – Samantha Hunt (Corsair) – American; 1st Novel
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – Lola Shoneyin (Serpent’s Tail) – British/Nigerian; 1st Novel
Swamplandia! – Karen Russell (Chatto & Windus) – American; 1st Novel
The Swimmer – Roma Tearne (Harper Press) – British; 4th Novel
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – Serbian/American; 1st Novel
A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan (Corsair) – American; 4th Novel
Whatever You Love – Louise Doughty (Faber and Faber) – British; 6th Novel

The Invisible Bridge – Julie Orringer (Viking) – American; 1st Novel
The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury) – British/Sierra Leonean; 2nd Novel