Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000) and nominees for the People’s Choice Award
Frank Delage, piano manufacturer from Sydney, travels to Vienna, a city immersed in music, to present the Delage concert grand. He hopes to impress with its technical precision, its improvement on the old pianos of Europe. How could he not know his piano is all wrong for Vienna? Perhaps he should have tried Berlin.
But a chance meeting with Amalia von Schalla brings new possibilities for Delage—connections, her daughter Elisabeth, and an avant garde composer. Now travelling home, on a container ship, with Elisabeth, the real story is about to begin.
The Voyage is a masterly novel by a great writer at the peak of his powers.
Escaping the pain and guilt of their mother’s death, and the future they inherited, the Durance sisters leave Australia to nurse on the front during WWI.
In 1915 sisters Naomi and Sally Durance answer a call for nurses to join the war effort. They are escaping the family dairy farm in the Macleay Valley, and they carry a secret with them. Soon they are in Egypt, where they are put to work on the Red Cross hospital ship Archimedes as it patrols the Dardanelles. On Archimedes they witness Mars in all his ferocity, as he pummels soldiers in the massive, brutal metal brawl that is Gallipoli. Yet the sisters and their newfound nursing friends, with whom they will witness undreamt-of carnage and take care of unspeakably blighted men, find themselves courageous in the face of the horror.
Naomi, Sally and their gang are then sent to northern Europe, where Naomi nurses in the visionary Australian Voluntary Hospital run by the committed and eccentric Lady Tarlton, and Sally in a casualty clearing station next to the Western Front. Here, again, they must face the inhumanity of war in its many terrible guises – where trench warfare and gas abound. But it is here, too, that the sisters meet the remarkable men with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives.
Inspired by journals of Australian nursing sisters who gave their all to the Great War effort and the men they nursed, The Daughters Of Mars is vast in scope yet extraordinarily intimate. This is Keneally at the height of his storytelling powers; a stunning tour de force to join the best of First World War literature, and one that casts a fresh light on the challenges faced by the Australian men and women who voluntarily risked their lives for peace.
The long-awaited new novel from the award-winning author of The Grass Sister tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and the high-jumping horse circuit prior to the Second World War. A love story of impossible beauty and sadness, it is also a chronicle of dreams ‘turned inside out’, and miracles that never last, framed against a world both tender and unspeakably hard.
Set in hardscrabble farming country and around the country show high-jumping circuit that prevailed in rural New South Wales prior to the Second World War, Foal’s Bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land.
It is a love story of impossible beauty and sadness, a chronicle of dreams ‘turned inside out’, and miracles that never last, framed against a world both tender and unspeakably hard. Written in luminous prose and with an aching affinity for the landscape the book describes, Foal’s Bread is the work of a born writer at the height of her considerable powers. It is a stunning work of remarkable originality and power, one that confirms Gillian Mears’ reputation as one of our most exciting and acclaimed writers.
It is 1950, the League of Nations has collapsed and the newly formed United Nations has rejected all those who worked and fought for the League. Edith Campbell Berry, who joined the League in Geneva before the war, is out of a job, her vision shattered. With her sexually unconventional husband, Ambrose, she comes back to Australia to live in Canberra.
Edith now has ambitions to become Australia’s first female ambassador, but while she waits for a Call from On High, she finds herself caught up in the planning of the national capital and the dream that it should be ‘a city like no other’. When her communist brother, Frederick, turns up out of the blue after many years of absence, she becomes concerned that he may jeopardise her chances of becoming a diplomat. It is not a safe time to be a communist in Australia or to be related to one, but she refuses to be cowed by the anti-communist sentiment sweeping the country. It is also not a safe time or place to be ‘a wife with a lavender husband’.
After pursuing the Bloomsbury life for many years, Edith finds herself fearful of being exposed. Unexpectedly, in mid-life she also realises that she yearns for children. When she meets a man who could offer not only security but a ready-made family, she consults the Book of Crossroads and the answer changes the course of her life. Intelligent, poignant and absorbing, Cold Light is a remarkable stand-alone novel, which can also be read as a companion to the earlier Edith novels Grand Days and Dark Palace.
On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.
Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.
‘I read Charlotte Wood’s novel Animal People twice. I think it’s one of the best contemporary novels I have read. But I cannot review it. I tried a number of times and failed each time. I only recently realised why this is. I don’t want to review Animal People. I want to recommend it.
‘I felt I had been dismantled, cleaned and reassembled by the novel. The novel did not change me. It reintroduced me to the important parts that make up who I am. And this is why I have had such difficulty writing about Animal People.
‘To write a review is to accept that this book is like the last book I reviewed. That Charlotte Wood’s reason for writing is much like any other novelist’s reason for writing-to tell a story. Well I can’t do that. I feel that Charlotte Wood is an artist, a thinker, an observer, a chronicler, a radical whose work has great value above and beyond the standardised judgements of our day. Wood is writing literature of the kind which hopes to hit upon universal truths using only the simplest and most delicate tools.
‘Animal People is not a long novel. It follows one man as he makes his way through a single day. But even so, within these pages Wood examines some of the loudest issues of our time — terrorism, materialism, social inequality, social welfare, animal cruelty, isolation-and the quietest — love, despair, commitment, loneliness, honesty. In brief, her little novel stalks the greatest of subjects, the human condition. How we live, how we love and how we communicate. And she does so with prose that is spare, considered, beautiful and graceful … Who can I recommend Animal People to? The answer is — You.
‘So, let me end by saying — I really recommend that you read Animal People.’
John Purcell, Booktopia
Douglas Stewart Prize for Nonfiction ($40,000)
Like the best true life adventures, the story of Werner Pelz is stranger than fiction. Forced to flee Nazi Germany for being Jewish, he was then interned in England for being German. Shipped to Australia on the notorious HMT Dunera, he spent two years in internment camps in Hay and Tatura. After returning to Britain, his life evolved into a spiritual quest that led him to become an Anglican vicar, to author popular books (including God Is No More), to frequently appear on the BBC, and to become a Guardian columnist. Decades after his wartime Australian exile, he returned to teach Sociology at La Trobe University, continuing his search for a new way of thinking, a new mythology.
In the mid-1980s, a young university student, Roger Averill, was taught by this quietly charismatic man. The two developed an unlikely friendship, one that was to last until Werner’s death, after which Roger’s research unexpectedly revealed a deeper dimension —a personal life filled with familial drama, pain and poignancy.
Both memoir and biography, Exile: The Lives and Hopes of Werner Pelz is a compelling account of a remarkable man’s life-long search for a truth unbound by orthodoxy. It is also a lyrical evocation of an abiding friendship in which a teacher and a student share the lessons of love and loss, discovering that while the questions they ask have no answers, the act of asking them creates a meaning of its own.
Ben Jonson was the greatest of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. In the century following his death he was seen by many as the finest of all English writers, living or dead. His fame rested not only on the numerous plays he had written for the theatre, but on his achievements over three decades as principal masque-writer to the early Stuart court, where he had worked in creative, and often stormy, collaboration with Inigo Jones. One of the most accomplished poets of the age, he had
In 1984, celebrated painter Colin McCahon went missing for 24 hours in Sydney. On the way to a major exhibition opening, McCahon went in one door of the Botanical Garden toilets and slipped out the other side. He was discovered by police the next day in Centennial Park, far across Sydney, with no identification and no memory of who he was or where he had been. By all accounts McCahon was never quite the same from this night until his death three years later. In this work of creative non-fiction, Martin Edmond illuminates the life and work of Colin McCahon and his own relationship with the art and the man, by taking readers on an imagined (and real) journey as he traces a possible McCahon route across Edmond’s adopted city. Wandering through pubs and flop houses, streets and churches, Edmond explores key issues for both author and subject – the attractions of the bottle, the role of faith and religion, the illuminating power of the imagination, the hold of family relationships.
Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised.
For over a decade, Gammage has examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He has uncovered an extraordinarily complex system of land management using fire and the life cycles of native plants to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year. We know Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and now we know how they did it.
With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, The Biggest Estate on Earth rewrites the history of this continent, with huge implications for us today. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires we now experience. And what we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind.
A fascinating exploration of how a simple system used to measure and record wealth spawned a cultural revolution. Prepare to have your idea of accounting changed forever.
‘The rise and metamorphosis of double-entry bookkeeping is one of history’s best-kept secrets and most important untold tales … Through its logic we have let the planet go to ruin-and through its logic we now have a chance to avert that ruin.’ Our world is governed by the numbers generated by the accounts of nations and corporations. We depend on these numbers to direct our governments, organisations, economies, societies. But where did they come from-and how did they become so powerful?
The answer to these questions begins in the Dark Ages, with the emergence in northern Italy of a new form of accounting called double-entry bookkeeping. The story of double entry reaches from the Crusades through the Renaissance to the factories of industrial Britain and the policymakers of the Great Depression and the Second World War. At its heart stands a Renaissance monk, mathematician and magician, and his celebrated treatise for merchants. With double entry came the wealth and cultural efflorescence that was the Renaissance, a new scientific worldview, and a new economic system: capitalism.
Over the past one hundred years accounting has flourished to an astonishing degree, despite the many scandals it has left in its wake. The figures double entry generates have become a sophisticated system of numbers which in the twenty-first century rules the global economy, manipulated by governments, financial institutions and the quant nerds of Wall Street. And the story of double entry is still unfolding-because today it might be our last hope for life on earth.
The office: for many of us, it’s where we spend more time and allocate greater effort than anywhere else. Yet how many of us have stopped to think about why?
In The Office: A Hardworking History, Gideon Haigh traces from origins among merchants and monks to the gleaming glass towers of New York and the space age sweatshops of Silicon Valley, finding an extraordinary legacy of invention and ingenuity, shaped by the telephone, the typewriter, the elevator, the email, the copier, the cubicle, the personal computer, the personal digital assistant.
Amid the formality, restraint and order of office life, too, he discovers a world teeming with dramas great and small, of boredom, betrayal, distraction, discrimination, leisure and lust, meeting along the way such archetypes as the Whitehall mandarin, the Wall Street banker, the Dickensian clerk, the Japanese salaryman, the French bureaucrat and the Soviet official.
In doing so, Haigh taps a rich lode of art and cinema, fiction and folklore, visiting the workplaces imagined by Hawthorne and Heller, Kafka and Kurosawa, Balzac and Billy Wilder, and visualised from Mary Tyler Moore to Mad Men, from Network to 9 to 5 – plus, of course, The Office. Far from simply being a place we visit to earn a living, the office emerges as a way of seeing the entire world.
The Office: it’s the history of all of us.
Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)
Ruby Moonlight, a novel of the impact of colonisation in mid north South Australia around 1880. The main character, Ruby, refugee of a massacre, shelters in the woods where she befriends an Irishman trapper. The poems convey how fear of discovery is overcome by the need for human contact, which, in a tense unravelling of events, is forcibly challenged by an Aboriginal lawman. The natural world is richly observed and Rubys courtship is measured by the turning of the seasons.
The poems in First Light are both playful and intensely personal, combining an interest in language and the sound of words, with a sensual engagement with the world and the experiences of family life. Some poems are created by sampling from other writers; others test the tipping point between poetry and prose in small narrative prayers, or stage a dialogue in love letters. Above all, this is a collection which explores the musicality of language , offering an important contribution to the technical range of Australian poetry, and its lyric possibilities.
Michael Farrell is well known for his ability to break language and action into their component gestures, freeing the emotion locked up in them, and very often their comic or magical aspects too, as the title of his new poetry collection suggests. Open Sesame includes sonnets derived from the TV drama The Bill, a sestina featuring JFK set in a laundrette, an improvised parody which cuts up writing found on supermarket shelves, collage poems including one on Phar Lap, four long poems on the theme of friendship, and luke and henrys storyline, the story of a commitment ceremony between two gay men. In an earlier form, the manuscript of this collection won the inaugural Barrett Reid Poetry Prize for experimental poetry, and was praised by the judges for its playfulness, craft and subliminal force.
Blending verse novella and book-length poem, The Welfare of My Enemy is a ground-breaking, haunted portrait of the phenomenon of Missing Persons. At times disturbing, always captivating, this new book showcases Lawrences marvellous imagery and spellbinding rhythms in a work that highlights a dark, prevailing underside to Australian society.
Ladylike is Kate Lilley’s second volume of poetry, much awaited after her 2002 debut Versary (Salt Publishing). She mines the areas of her scholarly specialisation – the early modern period – as well as contemporary popular culture and matches it with some of the twentieth century’s enduring interests such as psychoanalysis and the figure of Sigmund Freud. At all times Kate Lilley applies her sardonic humour and mischievous word play to make her dazzling poems.
Here, There and Elsewhere, is Vivian Smiths first new collection in five years, and his most personal book. The poems draw on memories of life in Hobart and Sydney, travels in Europe and South America, old friends and respected writers, offering quiet lessons for the present, searching for the sense of what is real/ the truth of what I am and what I feel. There is a sequence on the Ern Malley affair, told from the point of view of the poet, who just wants to be left alone; and two autobiographical essays, on the exhibition of French paintings shipwrecked off the Tasmanian coast in 1952, and on the three houses of Pablo Neruda, both of which are poetic testaments.
Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature ($30,000)
A careful, gentle, deeply passionate novel about how a young love, undeclared and unfulfilled, both blights and blesses an entire lifetime, and generations beyond. This story, which begins in rural Australia in 1959 but reaches into the past and the future, is written with Judith Clarke’s magnificent precision and lightness, that makes you feel for a moment when you have finished it that you have actually lived someone else?s life.’ Ursula Dubosarsky
When Ruth and Fee finish school, they each must make a choice. Ruth’s grandmother wants her to go to university and to see every marvellous place in the world. Fee wants to stay and be a mother. But for Ruth, leaving town means leaving Tam Finn, the elusive yet entrancing boy so unlike any other she has ever met.
Judith Clarke’s story of enduring friendship and the saving grace of love will leave you breathless.
A remarkable and gripping story about one refugee boy on a desperate journey from Afghanistan, and the Australian boy who befriends him.
The Ink Bridge is the compelling story of two young men: Omed, an Afghani refugee who flees the Taliban and undertakes a perilous journey to seek asylum in Australia; and Hector, an Australian boy afflicted by grief, who has given up on school and retreated into silence. Their paths meet at a candle factory where they both find work. But secrets fester behind the monotonous routine: secrets with terrible consequences.
Powerful and compelling, Omed’s and Hector’s story will grip hold of your heart and not let go.
A mesmerising selkie novel from multi-award winning, internationally acclaimed Australian author, Margo Lanagan – one of the most exciting voices in speculative fiction.
On remote Rollrock Island, the sea-witch Misskaella discovers she can draw a girl from the heart of a seal. So, for a price, any man might buy himself a bride; an irresistibly enchanting sea-wife. But what cost will be borne by the people of Rollrock – the men, the women, the children – once Misskaella sets her heart on doing such a thing?
Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England, the World – a city of spires, Isaac Newton and Auntie’s Tea Shop.
Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello – where seasons roam, the Butterfly Child sleeps in a glass jar, and bells warn of attacks from dangerous Colours.
They are worlds apart – until a crack opens up between them; a corner of white – the slim seam of a letter.
Elliot begins to write to Madeleine, the Girl-in-the-World – a most dangerous thing to do for suspected cracks must be reported and closed.
But Elliot’s father has disappeared and Madeleine’s mother is sick.
Can a stranger from another world help to unravel the mysteries in your own? Can Madeleine and Elliot find the missing pieces of themselves before it is too late?
A mesmerising story of two worlds; the cracks between them, the science that binds them and the colours that infuse them.
From one of Australia’s foremost literary talents, this is an unforgettable and heartbreaking story about two young girls living in the wild with Tasmanian Tigers.
Me name be Hannah O’Brien and I be seventy-six years old. Me first thing is an apology – me language is bad cos I lost it and had to learn it again. But here’s me story and I be glad to tell it before I hop the twig.
So begins this extraordinary novel, which will transport you to Australia’s wild frontier and stay in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.
A breathtakingly beautiful book which, like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, will move and delight readers of all ages.
‘Reading this book is like being quietly ushered into another dimension by winged strangers, a place beyond the tread of normal earth-bound language. Ephemeral as a feather, timeless as a rock, and as true as both, Unforgotten is a magical experience.’ – Shaun Tan
So begins this timely and timeless story, told in magnificent images and words by master storyteller, Tohby Riddle. A triumph of quiet beauty.
Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000)
No matter what hour, she lurked looking sour, be it midnight or mid-afternoon.Her dresses were shabby, her mood always crabby. Her name was Miss Annabel Spoon.
Life is cursed For The people of the village of Twee. The ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon haunts their every waking hour and they’ve had enough! But then one day, The brave and practical young Herbert Kettle has the most extraordinary idea . . .
John Flanagan, author of the international phenomenon Ranger’s Apprentice, creates a world of seafaring adventures, treacherous pirates and epic battles in Brotherband.
In Skandia, there is only one way to become a warrior. Boys are chosen for teams called brotherbands and must endure three months of gruelling training in seamanship, weapons and battle tactics. It’s brotherband against brotherband, fighting it out in a series of challenges. There can be on`ly one winner.
When Hal Mikkelson finds himself the unwilling leader of a brotherband made up of outcasts, he must step up to the challenge. The Heron brotherband might not have the strength and numbers of the other two teams, but with inventiveness, ingenuity and courage on their side, they might just surprise
Award-winning author Steven Herrick’s latest book is a heart-warming tale about friendship, grief and the importance of baked goods.
In a country town, in a school just like yours, the kids in Class 6A tell their stories.
There’s Mick, school captain and sometimes trouble-maker, who wants to make the school a better place, while his younger brother Jacob just wants to fly. There’s shy and lonely Laura who hopes to finally fit in with a circle of friends, while Pete struggles to deal with his grandpa’s sudden death. Popular Selina obsesses over class comedian Cameron, while Cameron obsesses over Anzac biscuits and Pookie Aleera – whoever that is!
For new teacher Ms Arthur, it’s another world, but for Mr Korsky, the school groundskeeper, he’s seen it all before.
Ren knows that it’s almost time for Bear’s big sleep, but she needs just one more day with him. One day to explore the winter together – the last of the coloured leaves, the snow as it floats and swirls to the ground, the sun and the moon and the stars.
One more day to play and dance and wonder.
From this much-admired children’s book creator comes a story of friendship and change, and of how precious time can be when we share it with those we love.
The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk: Kingdom of Silk Series 6 by Glenda Millard, Illustrations by Stephen Michael King
Flame-haired Saffron is the youngest of the five Silk sisters. Her family know that she has a talent for becoming Anne of Green Gables or Cleopatra, and that she loves reading myths and legends. But they don’t know about the firebirds that come to warn her of terrible headaches. And Saffron doesn’t know how to tell them.
In a big family, it’s easy to be overlooked. But when Saffron is sent to the city to see a specialist, she learns that her family’s love for her is deeper than she ever imagined. And that when you’re a Silk, miracles are never far from home…
The next instalment in the best-selling and award-winning Dragonkeeper series.
The year is 325. The powerful Han Dynasty is a distant memory and tribes of barbarian soldiers fight over what was once the Empire. It is a dangerous time. Kai is 465 years old – a teenager in dragon years. He is searching for the person predestined to be his dragonkeeper. Kai’s search has led him to a Buddhist novice named Tao. But Tao is certain he is not the one; he has no interest in caring for a difficult dragon. He believes his path lies in another direction. But Tao must learn to listen to the voice within himself and that no journey ever reveals its true purpose until it is over.
Community Relations Commission Award ($20,000)
UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5000)
NSW Premier’s Translation Prize
The winners of this year’s awards will be announced on 19 May as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Voting for the People’s Choice Award will open on Friday 12 April and votes can be cast via the State Library of NSW website.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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