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The long list for the Orange Prize has just been announced, with our own Emma Donoghue's Room strongly fancied. Having missed out on the Booker, this would be a considerable consolation. For this is a prize that has so grown in stature, it's hard to recall the opprobrium the very idea of an award open to only women once caused. Indeed A.S Byatt has deemed it 'sexist' and forbade her publishers from entering her work. Well that's her excuse, one might say.

Of course a writer can find all sorts of objectionable things to say about literary prizes, especially if they haven't won one in a while. Women, though, are the major readers of modern fiction. Would there be a similar row over an all-male prize for, say, military history? Dashing Max Hastings up against Martin Gilbert et al? Some ladies might pay to see that.

n With the world going rapidly to hell in a handbasket, any signs of reassurance are most welcome.

Thus the sight of Monty Don once more wielding his trowel on Gardener's World exudes a similar kind of relief as Frodo and Sam returning to the Shire.

Indeed Monty has had his own battles, not just with the stroke that laid him low recently, but also with depression, as detailed in his book The Jewel Garden, co-written with his wife Sarah.

A new book on Italian gardens is in the offing, and Friday Night on BBC2 has at least one half hour of sanctuary. Monty's back, all's right with the world.

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