War, specifically World War II, is the backdrop for The Caprices, by Sabina Murray, which was named winner of the 2003 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The Caprices, published by Mariner Books, is the fourth collection of short stories to receive the PEN/Faulkner since its inception in 1981. The nine stories of the collection are a history told through individual lives, delving into the nature of survival, and set in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the United States.
Murray, the 34-year-old wife of poet John Hennessy, is a screenwriter and novelist whose first work of fiction - Slow Burn - was published in 1990. The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction is America's largest peer-juried prize for fiction, and it bestowed Murray with a $15,000 prize. Her book was chosen from among 357 novels and short story collections published in the United States during 2002. Murray, along with four other finalists, was honored during the 23rd annual PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony in Washington, D.C. on May 17, 2003. According to the Washington Post, she has just completed her second novel, A Carnivore's Inquiry. Judges were Gail Godwin, Valerie Martin and Alexs Pate; finalists were Peter Cameron for The City of Your Final Destination, William Kennedy for Rosco, Victor LaValle for The Ecstatic (LaValle is also the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus), and Gilbert Sorrentino for Little Casino.