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Winners

2020 winner y separately published work icon Damascus Christos Tsiolkas , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2019 17060761 2019 single work novel historical fiction

'They kill us, they crucify us, they throw us to beasts in the arena, they sew our lips together and watch us starve. They bugger children in front of fathers and violate men before the eyes of their wives. The temple priests flay us openly in the streets and the Judeans stone us. We are hunted everywhere and we are hunted by everyone. We are despised, yet we grow. We are tortured and crucified and yet we flourish. We are hated and still we multiply. Why is that? You must wonder, how is it we survive?

'Christos Tsiolkas' stunning new novel Damascus is a work of soaring ambition and achievement, of immense power and epic scope, taking as its subject nothing less than events surrounding the birth and establishment of the Christian church. Based around the gospels and letters of St Paul, and focusing on characters one and two generations on from the death of Christ, as well as Paul (Saul) himself, Damascus nevertheless explores the themes that have always obsessed Tsiolkas as a writer: class, religion, masculinity, patriarchy, colonisation, refugees; the ways in which nations, societies, communities, families and individuals are united and divided—it's all here, the contemporary and urgent questions, perennial concerns made vivid and visceral.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2019 winner y separately published work icon The Madonna of the Mountains Elise Valmorbida , London : Faber , 2018 15359403 2018 single work novel historical fiction

'1923

'Maria Vittoria is embroidering a sheet for her dowry trunk.

'Her father has gone to find her a husband. He’s taken his mule, a photograph and a pack of food: home-made sopressa sausage, cold polenta, a little flask of wine – no need to take water – the world is full of water.

'There are no eligible men in this valley or the next one, and her father will not let her marry just anyone, and now, despite Maria’s years, she is still healthy. Her betrothed will see all that. He’ll be looking for a woman who can do the work.

'Maria can do the work. Everyone in the contrà says that.

'And the Lord knows Maria will need to be able to work. Fascism blooms as crops ripen, the state craves babies just as the babies cry for food. Maria faces a stony path, but one she will surely climb to the summit.

'In this sumptuous and elegant novel you will taste the bigoli co l’arna, touch the mulberry leaves cut finer than organdie, and feel the strain of one woman attempting to keep her family safe in the most dangerous of times.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2014 winner y separately published work icon Coal Creek Alex Miller , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2013 6452235 2013 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'"Me and Ben had been mates since we was boys and if it come to it I knew I would have to be on his side."

Bobby Blue is caught between loyalty to his only friend, Ben Tobin, and his boss, Daniel Collins, the new Constable at Mount Hay. 'Ben was not a big man but he was strong and quick as a snake. He had his own breed of pony that was just like him, stocky and reliable on their feet.' Bobby understands the people and the ways of Mount Hay; Collins studies the country as an archaeologist might, bringing his coastal values to the hinterland. Bobby says, 'I do not think Daniel would have understood Ben in a million years.' Increasingly bewildered and goaded to action by his wife, Constable Collins takes up his shotgun and his Webley pistol to deal with Ben. Bobby's love for Collins' wilful young daughter Irie is exposed, leading to tragic consequences for them all.

Miller's exquisite depictions of the country of the Queensland highlands form the background of this simply told but deeply significant novel of friendship, love, loyalty and the tragic consequences of misunderstanding and mistrust. Coal Creek is a wonderfully satisfying novel with a gratifying resolution. It carries all the wisdom and emotional depth we have come to expect from Miller's richly evocative novels.' (Publisher's blurb)

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