Tea Obreht, a refugee who fled the Balkans War in the 1990s, has become the youngest writer to win the Orange Prize for Fiction.

The 25-year-old, who wrote the The Tiger’s Wife, accepted the £30,000 prize and a bronze figurine at a
ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank last night.

The Serbian-born writer was the youngest on the shorlist by 13 years
and beat established writers such as Emma Donoghue and Nicole Krauss. The Tiger’s Wife was her debut novel.

Miss Obreht and her family were forced to flee Belgrade in 1999, when she was seven, because of the war.

They initially travelled to Cyprus, then Egypt before flying to America when she was in her early teens.

Obreht thanked her publisher and readers and said she was now
looking forward to the novel being translated into Serbo-Croatian so
her grandmother can finally read it.

“I was stunned and I did not expect it and I did not prepare
anything. I’m really still not processing it,” she told media

“It is a tremendous honour.”

Chairman of the judges Bettany Hughes hailed Miss Obreht as a ‘truly exciting new talent’.

She added: ‘The book reminds us how easily we can slip into barbarity, but also of the breadth and depth of human love.’

The Tiger’s Wife follows a young doctor called Natalia
who is visiting an orphanage in a Balkan country ravaged by conflict,
when she hears of her beloved grandfather’s death far from home in
mysterious circumstances.

She begins a journey of her own to uncover what he was doing during his last days.

Obreht, who is from a mixed ethnic background, said she hoped the book painted a “fairer picture” of the conflict.