A shortlist of the 2011 ABIA shortlists…

Have your ‘non-binding and totally for fun‘ say – vote in our polls below.

Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2011


Bereft

written by Chris Womersley, published by Scribe Publications

It is 1919. The Great War has ended, but the Spanish flu epidemic is raging across Australia. Schools are closed, state borders are guarded by armed men, and train travel is severely restricted. There are rumours it is the end of the world.

In the town of Flint, Quinn Walker returns to the home he fled ten years earlier when he was accused of an unspeakable crime. Aware that his father and uncle would surely hang him, Quinn hides in the hills surrounding Flint. There, he meets the orphan Sadie Fox — a mysterious young girl who seems to know more about the crime than she should.

A searing gothic novel of love, longing and justice, Bereft is about the suffering endured by those who go to war and those who are forever left behind.

‘Bereft is a dark, brooding story of war, family secrets and a man’s search for justice. Chris Womersley knows how to shine light into the darkest corners of rural Australia.’ – MICHAEL ROBOTHAM

‘Bereft is a beautiful novel . . . Womersley writes with such compelling power it is barely possible to put the book down.’ – DEBRA ADELAIDE

Order a copy now.

Read Chris’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here


How it Feels

written by Brendan Cowell, published by Picador

‘I had no idea how free we were. That’s how free I was.’

An old friend, a best friend, a first love and the dreamer Neil Cronk who connects them all…

Four schoolfriends are on the verge of adulthood and the next 12 hours will change the course of their lives… Friendships will be broken, virginity lost, love unleashed and secrets buried.

A decade later, one is dead, one is famous, two are getting married, and the truth is about to erupt.

Wildly funny, brutal, tender and true, How It Feels is a coming-of-age story set in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire with stopovers in Bathurst and London. Brendan Cowell’s electrifying debut novel is a devastating ode to youth, capturing the beauty of growing up by the beach, and the darkness which moves beneath its surface.

Because this is how it feels.

Order a copy now

Read Brendan’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here


Rocks in the Belly

written by Jon Bauer, published by Scribe Publications

How far can you push a child before he snaps?

Rocks in the Belly tells the story of an eight-year-old boy and the adult he becomes. When he is young his mother fosters boys, despite the jealous turmoil it arouses in her son: jealousy that reaches unmanageable proportions when she fosters Robert, a child she can’t help bonding with. As the connection between them grows, the son’s envy triggers an event that profoundly changes everyone. Especially Robert.

At twenty-eight, still haunted by his childhood, the son returns to face his mother, who is now chronically ill. He hasn’t forgiven her for what happened to Robert, and yet she isn’t the same domineering woman anymore. Now she’s the dependent one and he the dominant force — a power he can’t help but abuse.

Written in two startlingly original voices, Rocks in the Belly is about the effortless destruction we wreak on one another in the simple pursuit of our own happiness, and a reminder that we never leave our childhood behind. A fast-paced, powerful, yet often beautiful and funny novel.

Order your copy here


That Deadman Dance

written by Kim Scott, published by Picador

Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.

The novel’s hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.

But slowly – by design and by accident – things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are “accidents” and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby’s Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia… Order a copy now.

Read Kim’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here


The Legacy

written by Kirsten Tranter, published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

What has happened to Ingrid?

Beautiful Ingrid, who leaves Australia, and her friends, and Ralph who loves her, to marry Gil Grey and set up home amid the New York art world.

There she becomes the stepmother to Gil′s teenage artist daughter Fleur, a former child prodigy, and studies ancient artefacts known as ′curse scrolls′ at Colombia University.

But at 9am on the morning of September 11, 2001, she has an appoitnment Downtown. And is never seen again.

Or is she?

Searching for clues about Ingrid’s life a year later, her friend Julia uncovers only further layers of mystery and deception.

Both an unputdownable mystery and a compelling meditation on the nature of art, truth, friendship and love, The Legacy announces the arrival of a major new talent.

Order your copy here


General Fiction Book of the Year 2011

After America

written by John Birmingham, published by Macmillan

“Our world went to hell on March 14, 2003.”

Four years after an inexplicable wave of energy decimated the American mainland, and then just as inexplicably disappeared a year later, US President James Kipper is no closer to explaining the catastrophe to the traumatised survivors.

In a decaying New York City, an assassination attempt on the President prompts the suspicion that the looters overrunning Manhattan may be more organised and sinister than previously thought.

Working on a farm in Texas to earn his citizenship, Miguel Pieraro believes in the promise of the New America. That is until tragedy cuts through his family.

In the English countryside, Echelon agent Caitlin Monroe must once again fight for her life, a sharp reminder that her nemesis is active again.

Then out of the smoking ruin of the Middle East comes an enemy that will be Kipper’s toughest challenge yet. The battle for the Wild East is just beginning, but does this New America, and its gun-shy President, have the strength of will to destroy the past in order to save the future?

Order your copy here

Read John’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here


At Home with the Templetons

written by Monica McInerney, published by Penguin Group Australia

Other people’s families aren’t as perfect as they seem

When the Templeton family from England takes up residence in a stately home in country Australia, they set the locals talking – and with good reason. From the outside, the seven Templetons seem so bohemian, unusual… peculiar even.

No one is more intrigued by the family than their neighbours, single mother Nina Donovan and her young son Tom. Before long, the two families’ lives become entwined in unexpected ways, to the delight of Gracie, the sweetest of the Templeton children.

In the years that follow, the relationships between the Templetons and the two Donovans twist and turn in unpredictable and life-changing directions, until a tragedy tears them all apart. What will it take to bring them together again?

From Australia’s top-selling female novelist comes her best book yet – a wonderfully entertaining and touching story about the perils and pleasures of love, friendship and family.

Order your copy here


Campaign Ruby

written by Jessica Rudd, published by The Text Publishing Company

When she gets the email announcing her redundancy, Ruby Stanhope hopes to maintain the composure expected of your average London investment banker.

Instead, the next day’s hangover brings two unfortunate discoveries. First, her impromptu reply to the bosses has gone viral, published everywhere from Facebook to the Financial Times. Second, she has a non-refundable, same-day ticket to Melbourne thanks to a dangerous cocktail of Victorian pinot noir, broadband internet and a dash of melancholy.

Landing in Australia, Ruby plans a quiet stay with her aunt in the Yarra Valley—but a party at the local winery results in an unexpected job offer: financial policy adviser to the Federal Leader of the Opposition.

Intrigued, Ruby heads to Melbourne for morning coffee with the Chief of Staff—and finds herself in the middle of the Treasurer’s overthrow of the Prime Minister and the announcement of an early election.

Rookie Ruby, dubbed ‘Roo’ by her Aussie colleagues, is thrown into the campaign and spends four weeks circumnavigating Australia while trying to stay afloat in the deep end of politics. Through trial and plenty of error (including wardrobe malfunctions, media mishaps and a palate for unsavoury men) she finds passion, not just a flair, for her new career.

With its light touch and deft comic instincts, Campaign Ruby is a delightful combination of fashion, faux pas and the unexpected fun of federal politics.

Order your copy here


I Came to Say Goodbye

written by Caroline Overington, published by Random House Australia

Who is left behind when a family falls apart?

It was four o’clock in the morning.

A young woman pushed through the hospital doors.

Staff would later say they thought the woman was a new mother, returning to her child – and in a way, she was.

She walked into the nursery, where a baby girl lay sleeping. The infant didn’t wake when the woman placed her gently in the shopping bag she had brought with her. There is CCTV footage of what happened next, and most Australians would have seen it, either on the internet or the news.

The woman walked out to the car park, towards an old Corolla. For a moment, she held the child gently against her breast and, with her eyes closed, she smelled her.

She then clipped the infant into the car, got in and drove off.

That is where the footage ends.

It isn’t where the story ends, however.

It’s not even where the story starts.

Read Caroline’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here

Order your copy here


The Distant Hours

written by Kate Morton, published by Allen & Unwin

The discovery of a long-lost letter reveals an old secret and the truth behind a woman’s mysterious past in the best-selling new novel from international publishing sensation, Kate Morton, author of The Shifting Fog and The Forgotten Garden.

‘The suspense will have you turning the pages long into the night.’ Good Reading, 4 stars The Distant Hours is an engrossing tale full of secrets waiting to be told.’ Bookseller & Publisher, 4 stars Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long-lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen-year-old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with the Blythe family: Juniper, her twin sisters and their father, Raymond, author of the 1918 children’s classic The True History of the Mud Man. In the grand and glorious Milderhurst Castle, a new world opens up for Edie’s mother. She discovers the joys of books and fantasy and writing, but also, ultimately, the dangers.

Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle, she, too, is drawn to Milderhurst Castle and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiance in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

 Order your copy here


Newcomer of the Year (début writer) 2011


Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania’s Forests

written by Anna Krien, published by Black Inc.

An intimate and intrepid journey into the forest wars.

For decades, the Tasmanian wilderness has been the site of bitter struggle. Sawmillers and police face off with protestors deep in the forest, while political games are played in the courts and parliaments. At stake is the future of old-growth forests, of the logging industry – and of the people on both sides, deeply divided years of suspicion.

In Into the Woods, Anna Krien brings to life this protracted conflict. Armed with a notebooks, a sleeping bag and a rusty sedan, she ventures behind the fiercely drawn battlelines. She speaks to ferals and premiers, loggers and whistle-blowers, and asks challenging questions about their motives and methods.

Brave and revealing, Into the Woods is a dramatic work of reporting by a bold new voice, a journey deep into the heart of Australia’s most perplexing state.

‘Anna Krien’s intimate, urgent book pulsates with life and truth.’ — Chloe Hooper

Order your copy here


Poh’s Kitchen

written by Poh Ling Yeow, published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Based on the ABC TV show, POH′S KITCHEN, where Poh cooks alongside leading chefs such as David Thompson, Neil Perry, Antonio Carluccio, Ian Parmenter, Ragini Dey and Emmanuel Mollois, this book features recipes from the show, as well as many new, original and delicious dishes from Poh, who adds her own inimitable style and charm to the mix.

With more than 80 recipes including breakfast dishes, soups, fish, chicken, duck, meat, vegetables and sweet things, this beautifully designed and photographed book shows Poh cooking everything from a lamb shank casserole to a nonya chicken curry, a classic Aussie roast to a Pink Forest Cake, and an amazing beetroot soup to a delicious Malaysian sticky rice and custard dessert.

These dishes hail from Australia, UK, Italy, France, India, Thailand and China and Malaysia where Poh, on a mission to reinterpret the classic recipes of her childhood and bring new, exciting dishes to the Australian palate recipe, cooks up some delicious local fare under the watchful eye of her mum.

Designed for the home cook, with recipes that are both innovative and accessible, POH′S KITCHEN is sure to have something delicious for everyone to enjoy.

Order your copy here


The Bark Cutters

written by Nicole Alexander, published by Random House Australia

Sarah Gordon knows what she wants: the family homestead, Wangallon. When it comes to working the homestead she’s a natural but as a woman, it’s not her birthright. Even when her beloved brother, Cameron James, first born and heir, is killed in a tragic accident, nobody looks to Sarah to inherit.

Instead her grandfather passes management to the one man she truly loves. Feeling betrayed she runs away to Sydney to try to put Wangallon, behind her, but it’s in her blood. She is constantly drawn back to Wangallon but when will she finally admit that it’s not just Wangallon she longs for but the station’s manager, Anthony.

THE BARK CUTTERS is an Australian family saga that centres around the family property, Wangallon. Past and present interweave in a story that traces the Gordon family from the arrival of Scottish immigrant Hamish Gordon in Australia in the 1850’s to the life of his great granddaughter, Sarah, in the 1980’s. Full of action, romance, tragedy, family secrets and misunderstandings this novel has a bit of something for everyone but particularly the discerning commercial women’s fiction reader.

Read Nicole’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here

Order your copy here


The Family Law

written by Benjamin Law, published by Black Inc.

My family aren’t the outdoors type. Despite being raised on the coast, Mum detested visits to the beach (all the sand it brought into the house), while Dad disapproved of wearing thongs (‘It splits the toes’). We never camped. All those things involved in camping—pitching a tent; cooking on open fires; the insects; shitting in the woods; sleeping on rocks; getting murdered and raped in the middle of nowhere—they never appealed to us.

‘We were never camping people,’ Mum says now. ‘Your dad never wanted to camp, and insects eat me alive. See, Asians—we’re scared of dying. White people: they like to ‘live life to the full’, and ‘die happy.”

She pauses. ‘Asians are the opposite.’

We preferred theme parks.

Hilarious and moving, The Family Law is a linked series of tales from a born humorist – and a literary star in the making. Benjamin Law invites readers into the world of his endearing yet profoundly eccentric family. He constructs brilliantly turned essays in the style of David Sedaris, assembling a portrait that is both universal and utterly particular.

Why won’t his Chinese dad wear made-in-China underpants? Why was most of his extended family deported in the 1980s? Will Benjamin’s childhood dreams of Home and Away stardom come to nothing? What are his chances of finding love? Read one of these stories and you will inevitably want to read more.

Order your copy here


The Happiest Refugee

written by Anh Do, published by Allen & Unwin

The laugh-out-loud, reach-for-your-hanky story of one of Australia’s best-loved comedians.

Anh Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing – not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days – could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.

Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything. But there was a loving extended family, and always friends and play and something to laugh about for Anh, his brother Khoa and their sister Tram. Things got harder when their father left home when Anh was only nine – they felt his loss very deeply and their mother struggled to support the family on her own. His mother’s sacrifice was an inspiration to Anh and he worked hard during his teenage years to help her make ends meet, also managing to graduate high school and then university.

Another inspiration was the comedian Anh met when he was about to sign on for a 60-hour a week corporate job. Anh asked how many hours he worked. ‘Four,’ the answer came back, and that was it. He was going to be a comedian! The Happiest Refugee tells the incredible, uplifting and inspiring life story of one of our favourite personalities. Tragedy, humour, heartache and unswerving determination – a big life with big dreams. Anh’s story will move and amuse all who read it.

Order your copy here


Book of the Year 2011 


Bereft

written by Chris Womersley, published by Scribe Publications

It is 1919. The Great War has ended, but the Spanish flu epidemic is raging across Australia. Schools are closed, state borders are guarded by armed men, and train travel is severely restricted. There are rumours it is the end of the world.

In the town of Flint, Quinn Walker returns to the home he fled ten years earlier when he was accused of an unspeakable crime. Aware that his father and uncle would surely hang him, Quinn hides in the hills surrounding Flint. There, he meets the orphan Sadie Fox — a mysterious young girl who seems to know more about the crime than she should.

A searing gothic novel of love, longing and justice, Bereft is about the suffering endured by those who go to war and those who are forever left behind.

‘Bereft is a dark, brooding story of war, family secrets and a man’s search for justice. Chris Womersley knows how to shine light into the darkest corners of rural Australia.’ – MICHAEL ROBOTHAM

‘Bereft is a beautiful novel . . . Womersley writes with such compelling power it is barely possible to put the book down.’ – DEBRA ADELAIDE

Order a copy now.

Read Chris’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here


How to Make Gravy

written by Paul Kelly, published by Penguin Group Australia

This extraordinary book has its genesis in a series of concerts first staged in 2004. Over four nights Paul Kelly performed, in alphabetical order, one hundred of his songs from the previous three decades. In between songs he told stories about them, and from those little tales grew How to Make Gravy, a memoir like no other. Each of its hundred chapters, also in alphabetical order by song title, consists of lyrics followed by a story, the nature of the latter taking its cue from the former. Some pieces are confessional, some tell Kelly’s personal and family history, some take you on a road tour with the band, some form an idiosyncratic history of popular music, some are like small essays, some stand as a kind of how-to of the songwriter’s art – from the point of inspiration to writing, honing, collaborating, performing, recording and reworking.

Paul Kelly is a born storyteller. Give him two verses with a chorus or 550 pages, but he won’t waste a word. How to Make Gravy is a long volume that’s as tight as a three-piece band. There isn’t a topic this man can’t turn his pen to – contemporary music and the people who play it, football, cricket, literature, opera, social issues, love, loss, poetry, the land and the history of Australia … there are even quizzes. The writing is insightful, funny, honest, compassionate, intelligent, playful, erudite, warm, thought-provoking. Paul Kelly is a star with zero pretensions, an everyman who is also a renaissance man. He thinks and loves and travels and reads widely, and his musical memoir is destined to become a classic – it doesn’t have a bum note on it.

Order your copy here


I Came to Say Goodbye

written by Caroline Overington, published by Random House Australia

Who is left behind when a family falls apart?

It was four o’clock in the morning.

A young woman pushed through the hospital doors.

Staff would later say they thought the woman was a new mother, returning to her child – and in a way, she was.

She walked into the nursery, where a baby girl lay sleeping. The infant didn’t wake when the woman placed her gently in the shopping bag she had brought with her. There is CCTV footage of what happened next, and most Australians would have seen it, either on the internet or the news.

The woman walked out to the car park, towards an old Corolla. For a moment, she held the child gently against her breast and, with her eyes closed, she smelled her.

She then clipped the infant into the car, got in and drove off.

That is where the footage ends.

It isn’t where the story ends, however.

It’s not even where the story starts.

Read Caroline’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here

Order your copy here


Lazarus Rising

written by John Howard, published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

He has been one of Australia’s most controversial prime ministers, leading the Liberal Party to victory over four elections and becoming the second-longest-serving PM in the nation’s history. John Winston Howard is the face of the modern Liberal Party, an economic radical and social conservative whose ideology has united many Australians and divided just as many others. But what people often forget is that long before he became Prime Minister, John Howard was an idealistic politician.

This book looks back over 30 years in politics, and at the changes Howard has seen both inside and outside the Government during that time. From his modest beginnings, to his steep ascent in Liberal Party ranks, and subsequent time in the wilderness during the Coalition’s opposition years, to a victory almost no one had predicted, and on to some of the most tumultuous years in Australia’s recent past, this is history seen through the eyes of the ultimate insider. Here, Howard tells how he responded on issues vital to Australia, such as gun control, East Timor and the relationship with Indonesia, the aftermath of 9/11, and the rising tide of asylum-seekers.

Lazarus Rising takes us through the life and motivations of John Howard, and through the forces which have changed and shaped both him and the country he led for 11 years.

Order your copy here


The Family Law

written by Benjamin Law, published by Black Inc.

My family aren’t the outdoors type. Despite being raised on the coast, Mum detested visits to the beach (all the sand it brought into the house), while Dad disapproved of wearing thongs (‘It splits the toes’). We never camped. All those things involved in camping—pitching a tent; cooking on open fires; the insects; shitting in the woods; sleeping on rocks; getting murdered and raped in the middle of nowhere—they never appealed to us.

‘We were never camping people,’ Mum says now. ‘Your dad never wanted to camp, and insects eat me alive. See, Asians—we’re scared of dying. White people: they like to ‘live life to the full’, and ‘die happy.”

She pauses. ‘Asians are the opposite.’

We preferred theme parks.

Hilarious and moving, The Family Law is a linked series of tales from a born humorist – and a literary star in the making. Benjamin Law invites readers into the world of his endearing yet profoundly eccentric family. He constructs brilliantly turned essays in the style of David Sedaris, assembling a portrait that is both universal and utterly particular.

Why won’t his Chinese dad wear made-in-China underpants? Why was most of his extended family deported in the 1980s? Will Benjamin’s childhood dreams of Home and Away stardom come to nothing? What are his chances of finding love? Read one of these stories and you will inevitably want to read more.

Order your copy here


The Happiest Refugee

written by Anh Do, published by Allen & Unwin

The laugh-out-loud, reach-for-your-hanky story of one of Australia’s best-loved comedians.

Anh Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing – not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days – could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.

Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything. But there was a loving extended family, and always friends and play and something to laugh about for Anh, his brother Khoa and their sister Tram. Things got harder when their father left home when Anh was only nine – they felt his loss very deeply and their mother struggled to support the family on her own. His mother’s sacrifice was an inspiration to Anh and he worked hard during his teenage years to help her make ends meet, also managing to graduate high school and then university.

Another inspiration was the comedian Anh met when he was about to sign on for a 60-hour a week corporate job. Anh asked how many hours he worked. ‘Four,’ the answer came back, and that was it. He was going to be a comedian! The Happiest Refugee tells the incredible, uplifting and inspiring life story of one of our favourite personalities. Tragedy, humour, heartache and unswerving determination – a big life with big dreams. Anh’s story will move and amuse all who read it.

Order your copy here


These polls are just for fun and have no baring whatsoever on the ABIA Awards.

4 Responses

  1. [...] came across it at the library and took it home because How It Feels was shortlisted for the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year, which now makes me wonder what their criteria were.  Presumably it has merits which ABIA find [...]

    Like this

  2. [...] Franklin judges liked it well enough.  It was also shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and for the ABIA shortlist for Literary Fiction, so I think I’m well-and-truly out-of-step with critical response to the [...]

    Like this

  3. [...] Lovely to see The Legacy on the Australian Book Industry Awards shortlist for literary fiction: see the whole shortlist here. [...]

    Like this

  4. Seeing as I’ve only actually read one of the books in any of your poles (The Happiest Refugee) I have voted for that. Loved it! However I Came to Say Goodbye, After America and How It Feels are all sitting in the TBR pile beside my bed so I may have to come back and vote again (if you don’t mind!) once I’ve read those as well.

    Like this

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