A. S. Patrić has just been announced as the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award winner for Black Rock White City.
In his acceptance speech, Patrić thanked literary journals like Meanjin, saying they were crucial on his path to becoming a writer. Going on to speak about the abyss of isolation faced by writers, Patrić said working in a bookstore was what saved him from that abyss.
Patrić is the award-winning author of Las Vegas for Vegans, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards’ Steele Rudd Prize. He is also the author of Bruno Kramzer and The Rattler & Other Stories.
Patric took out the award over Lucy Treloar, who recently received the Dobbie Literary Award for a first-time published author. Charlotte Wood, who over the last year has won a slew of awards including the Stella Prize for The Natural Way of Things, was also a contender for the award.
Also making the shortlist this year was Myfanwy Jones, who was shortlisted for The Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Best Writing Award in 2010 for her debut novel The Rainy Season. Lastly, Peggy Frew, whose debut novel House of Sticks won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, also made the shortlist.
Patrić will receive $60,000 in prize money. He and the other shortlisted authors received $5000 each from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund in May.
Established through the will of My Brilliant Career author, Miles Franklin, the prize, which was first presented in 1957, is awarded each year to a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases. Miles Franklin believed that “Without an indigenous literature, people can remain alien in their own soil.”
Below are the shortlisted titles:
by Peggy Frew
It is the winter of 1985. Hope Farm sticks out of the ragged landscape like a decaying tooth, its weatherboard walls sagging into the undergrowth. Silver’s mother, Ishtar, has fallen for the charismatic Miller, and the three of them have moved to the rural hippie commune to make a new start.
At Hope, Silver finds unexpected friendship and, at last, a place to call home. But it is also here that, at just thirteen, she is thrust into an unrelenting adult world — and the walls begin to come tumbling down, with deadly consequences.
Hope Farm is the masterful second novel from award-winning author Peggy Frew, and is a devastatingly beautiful story about the broken bonds of childhood, and the enduring cost of holding back the truth.
About the Author
Peggy Frew’s debut novel, House of Sticks, won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her story Home Visit won The Age short story competition. She has been published in New Australian Stories 2, Kill Your Darlings, The Big Issue, and Meanjin. Peggy is also a member of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Melbourne band Art of Fighting.
by Myfanwy Jones
Joe lives-despite himself. Driven by the need to atone for the neglect of a single tragic summer’s night, he works at nothing jobs and, in his spare time, trains his body and mind to conquer the hostile environment that took his love and smashed up his future. So when a breathless girl turns up on the doorstep, why does he let her in? Isn’t he done with love and hope?
On the other side of the city, graphic designer Elise is watching her marriage bleed out. She retreats to the only place that holds any meaning for her – the tiger enclosure at the zoo – where, for reasons she barely understands, she starts to sketch the beautiful killers.
Leap is a beautiful urban fairytale about human and animal nature, and the transformative power of grief.
About the Author
Myfanwy Jones is the author of The Rainy Season, shortlisted for The Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Best Writing Award 2009, and co-author of the bestselling Parlour Games for Modern Families, Book of the Year for Older Children ABIA 2010. She lives by a creek in Melbourne with her human and non-human family.
Black Rock White City
by A.S. Patric
During a hot Melbourne summer Jovan’s cleaning work at a bayside hospital is disrupted by acts of graffiti and violence becoming increasingly malevolent. For Jovan the mysterious words that must be cleaned away dislodge the poetry of the past. He and his wife Suzana were forced to flee Sarajevo and the death of their children.
Intensely human, yet majestic in its moral vision, Black Rock White City is an essential story of Australia’s suburbs now, of displacement and immediate threat, and the unexpected responses of two refugees as they try to reclaim their dreams. It is a breathtaking roar of energy that explores the immigrant experience with ferocity, beauty and humour.
About the Author
A.S. Patrić is the award winning author of Las Vegas for Vegans, published in 2012 by Transit Lounge. Las Vegas for Vegans was shortlisted for the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards’ Steele Rudd Prize. He is also the author of Bruno Kramzer and The Rattler & other stories. Alec lives in bayside Melbourne and is a St Kilda bookseller.
by Lucy Treloar
Review by John Purcell:
I asked Twitter recently whether I can claim to have read a book if I have listened to the audio book. Writer Charlotte Wood and journalist Anton Enus both replied with an emphatic, No!
I defer to their judgement and declare that in preparation for The Sydney Writer’s Festival I listened to Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar in the car as I drove to and from work. An hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. In this way my experience of the novel was stretched out over weeks, whereas, had I picked up the paperback I would have finished it in a matter of days.
That drawn-out experience of Salt Creek allowed me to enter further than I might have into the world of narrator Hester Finch, who, as a girl of fifteen in 1855, must live with her family in near complete isolation in the Coorong, South Australia. By loitering so long with her, I felt in some small way that I was shouldering some of her great burdens.
Salt Creek, though told in a fairly straightforward manner, is a well-crafted novel tackling very complex issues – isolation, ownership of land, destruction of indigenous culture, identity in the face of change from youth to adulthood, from wealth to poverty, from moral ascendency to abasement, plus murder, sex, religion, and much more. It is for very good reasons that author Lucy Treloar has found herself on the Miles Franklin Shortlist this year (it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she was to win the prize).
Granted, at times, narrator Hester Finch is infuriating. Some of her conclusions are abhorrent to modern thinking. But this just reinforces our trust in her narrative. When she explores the motivations of her siblings or parents, or fails to understand the motives of the family’s adopted son – the Aboriginal boy, Tull – we believe her and that belief allows us to take a seat at the family table with few reservations.
At times Salt Creek is heart-breaking but never quite hopeless. And though it is a literary novel, it has – like the best of the great nineteenth century novels – popular elements: high drama, suspense, romance and even some laughs.
In Salt Creek, Lucy Treloar has given readers the best of both worlds – an intelligent, thoughtful work, which is thoroughly engrossing. Highly recommended.
The Natural Way of Things
by Charlotte Wood
Review by John Purcell:
Charlotte Wood’s latest novel, The Natural Way of Things, seethes with an anger the source of which doesn’t seem to be the text itself. Speaking with her, she does admit on reading an early draft to being surprised at discovering this underlying anger in her novel.
Charlotte’s last novel, Animal People, sought out the smoothed over hypocrisy of modern life. The sound of muffled laughter accompanied each page.
The Natural Way of Things is different. Different to her other work in many ways. There is Charlotte’s crisp realism, her economy of words, her precision, but she has used these tools to conjure up an alternative present, one which sits frighteningly close to reality. A plausible dystopian vision.
The books opens with two women waking in some sort of prison, they have been drugged and are groggy. Neither woman can conceive of how they might have come to be in prison. Neither woman can make sense of the way they are being treated.
A few pages in and we find that these women are not alone. There are other women, and the one thing all seem to share is that they have been involved in some sexual scandal, or were the victims of sexual abuse, or were young women having fun. Too much fun, their incarceration seemed to declare.
Born of the incessant reporting of sexual crimes against women where the victim is made out to be the perpetrator, The Natural Way of Things takes this world only one or two steps forward. Shaming women in the media might not be enough for the next government. Australia has been guilty of locking up women for less in the past, and a future government might find it expedient to punish women for being victims of sexual crimes. This makes Charlotte angry, it seems. So she wrote The Natural Way of Things from this reservoir of anger without quite realising it. And what she has written will be one of the most talked about novels of the year. Because unlike a lot of us when we’re angry, Charlotte kept her cool.