The shortlist for this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award features five books by Australian women, with this year’s winner due to receive $60,000, up from $50,000 last year. Last year’s award was presented to Anna Funder for All That I Am. This year’s shortlist features three debut novels—Floundering by Romy Ash, The Beloved by Annah Faulkner and The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska—and one previously shortlisted author, Carrie Tiffany, who was a finalist for the 2006 Miles Franklin Literary Award for Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living. Ash, de Kretser and Tiffany were also longlisted for the inaugural Stella Prize, which was awarded to Tiffany for Mateship with Birds in March.
Richard Neville from the State Library of New South Wales said the five novels on this year’s shortlist share a common theme. ‘The five novels … are at a surface level all about family—the searching for their comfort, the crises when they fail, escaping their pervasive grasp, or the despair when they do not seem possible—but more deeply, these books write about the intersection of people’s lives with national, indeed international, stories and ideas,’ said Neville. ‘Each approaches their subject from very different perspectives, but all deliver complex, engrossing narratives which persist long after the books are closed.’
You can see the full shortlist in detail below. If you haven’t read any of these wonderful books, grab a copy today and choose your winner before the judges do.
by Romy Ash
Tom and Jordy have been living with their gran since the day their mother, Loretta, left them on her doorstep and disappeared.
Now Loretta’s returned, and she wants her boys back.
Tom and Jordy hit the road with Loretta in her beat-up car. The family of three journeys across the country, squabbling, bonding, searching and reconnecting.
But Loretta isn’t mother material. She’s broke, unreliable, lost. And there’s something else that’s not quite right with this reunion.
They reach the west coast and take refuge in a beachside caravan park. Their neighbour, a surly old man, warns the kids tostay away. But when Loretta disappears again the boys have no choice but to askthe old man for help, and now they face new threats and new fears.
This beautifully written and gripping debut is as moving as it is frightening, and as heartbreaking as it is tender.
Romy Ash is a Melbourne-based writer. She has written for GriffithREVIEW, the Big Issue and frankie magazine. She has a regular cooking column in Yen magazine and writes for the blog Trotski & Ash. The forthcoming Voracious: New Australian Food Writing features one of her essays.
Floundering is her first novel.
by Michelle de Kretser
A dazzling, compassionate and deeply moving novel from one of world literature’s rising stars.
A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.
Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.
Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination – a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.
Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was 14. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer.
She is the author of The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case, which won the Commonwealth Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region) and the UK Encore Prize, and The Lost Dog, which was widely praised by writers such as AS Byatt, Hilary Mantel and William Boyd and won a swag of awards, including: the 2008 NSW Premier’s Book of the Year Award and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and the 2008 ALS Gold Medal.
The Lost Dog was also shortlisted for the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction, the Western Australian Premier’s Australia-Asia Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Asia-Pacific Region) and Orange Prize’s Shadow Youth Panel. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction.
by Carrie Tiffany
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.
Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in Western Australia. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Red Centre and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist. Her first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (2005) was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Orange Prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and won the Dobbie Award for Best First Book (2006) and the 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. Mateship with Birds is her second novel.
by Annah Faulkner
“It came one morning with the milk, and it seemed – at first – almost as innocent…”
When Roberta “Bertie” Lightfoot is crippled by polio, her world collapses. But Mama doesn’t tolerate self-pity, and Bertie is nobody if not her mother’s daughter – until she sets her heart on becoming an artist. Through art, the gifted and perceptive Bertie gives form and voice to the reality of the people and the world around her. While her father is happy enough to indulge Bertie’s driving passion, her mother will not let art get in the way of a professional career.
In 1955 the family moves to post-colonial Port Moresby, a sometimes violent frontier town, where Bertie, determined to be the master of her own life canvas, rebels against her mother’s strict control. She thrives amid a vibrant new tropical palette, secretly learning the techniques of drawing and painting under the tutelage of her mother’s arch rival.
But Roberta is not the only one deceiving her family. As secrets come to light, the domestic varnish starts to crack, and jealousy and passion threaten to forever mar the relationship between mother and daughter.
Tender and witty, The Beloved is a moving debut novel which paints a vivid portrait of both the beauty and the burden of unconditional love.
Sporadic bursts of poetry and occasional short stories defined Annah’s early writing. In 1996 experiences from a career in acupuncture prompted her to write a non-fiction manual. This was followed by a humorous biography, Frankly Speaking, which enjoyed considerable success in Australia and New Zealand. In 2007 her story, The Blood of Others, was published by the American literary journal Antipodes. Annah and her husband split their time between Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and the South Island of New Zealand. She is presently working on her second novel.
by Drusilla Modjeska
In 1968 in Papua New Guinea there is excitement and violence on the streets. The country is on the brink of independence, but many Papuans are disillusioned with the pace of change, and the tension in Port Moresby is palpable. Amidst the turmoil, Leonard, an anthropologist, arrives with his alluring Dutch wife, Rika. Leonard wants to film villagers from a remote settlement in the mountains, and take Rika with him – the first white woman to go up there. But his new colleagues have other ideas.
Rika befriends two young women from the new university: Laedi, a Papuan with a local mother and Australian father, and Martha, a sweet-natured Australian student. But it is to Aaron and Jacob – two very different clan-brothers – to whom Rika is most dangerously drawn. Her relationship with these two men will change her and Leonard’s lives for ever.
Thirty years later, Jericho, a young art historian, travels from London to Port Moresby to try to make sense of his muddled past, of his birthplace on the mountain in 1968, and to bring back with him the girl he has loved since he was a boy.
In 1971 Drusilla Modjeska moved to Australia, and within that decade graduated with a BA (Hons) in History from the Australian National University and a PhD in History from the University of New South Wales. Exiles At Home, her first book, was published in 1981. Poppy (1990), a ‘fictional biography’ of her mother, won the National Book Council Banjo Award for Non-Fiction, the NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction and was shortlisted for the Fawcett and PEN International Awards. The Orchard (1994) also won the NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Award for Non-Fiction and the Nita Kibble Literary Award, as did Stravinsky’s Lunch (1999), which explored the lives of the Australian modernist artists Grace Cossington Smith and Stella Bowen.
The winner of this year’s award will be announced on 19 June at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. To see a list of all the titles longlisted for this year’s award, click here.
Source: Bookseller + Publisher (http://www.booksellerandpublisher.com.au/DetailPage.aspx?type=item&id=27014)
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.
Follow Andrew: Twitter