The Australian Society of Authors has announced Anna Funder’s All That I Am as the winner of the Barbara Jefferis Award for 2012. Funder's novel was selected as the winner from a shortlist of six, which included novels by Georgia Blain, Claire Corbett, Gail Jones, Gillian Mears and Frank Moorhouse. Though they did not make the shortlist, novels by S. J. Finn, Kelly Gardiner and Meg Mundell were highly commended by the judges.
Valued at $35,000, the Barbara Jefferis Award is offered annually for 'the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society'.
All That I Am describes the dark days that build towards the second world war in the lives of German political exiles at home and in London. In narrator Ruth Blatt and her cousin Dora Fabian, Funder creates two complex and fascinating heroines who pursue the possibilities, and suffer the consequences of, both action and inaction in times of great peril. Steeped in a little-known area of modern history, this novel explores the nuances of the committed political life, friendship and love, and the broader human qualities of passion and idealism.
The shortlist was whittled down from a longlist of 55 novels from 19 publishers. At least some of the contenders were self-published. Overall, the judges were impressed by the imaginative investment evident in several debut novels, as well as in the contributions from established authors. Funder's novel was published by Penguin.
Currently in its fifth year, the Award is paid from the Barbara Jefferis Literary Fund, established by a bequest from Barbara’s husband, film critic John Hinde. Barbara Jefferis was a novelist, a founding member of the Australian Society of Authors and its first woman President. Past winners of the Award include Helen Garner, Rhyll McMaster, and Kristina Olsson.