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Winners

2019 winner y separately published work icon The Death of Noah Glass Gail Jones , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2018 11873096 2018 single work novel

'The art historian Noah Glass, having just returned from a trip to Sicily, is discovered floating face down in the swimming pool at his Sydney apartment block. His adult children, Martin and Evie, must come to terms with the shock of their father’s death. But a sculpture has gone missing from a museum in Palermo, and Noah is a suspect. The police are investigating.

'None of it makes any sense. Martin sets off to Palermo in search of answers about his father’s activities, while Evie moves into Noah’s apartment, waiting to learn where her life might take her. Retracing their father’s steps in their own way, neither of his children can see the path ahead.

'Gail Jones’s mesmerising new novel tells a story about parents and children, and explores the overlapping patterns that life makes. The Death of Noah Glass is about love and art, about grief and happiness, about memory and the mystery of time.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2018 winner y separately published work icon Border Districts Gerald Murnane , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2017 11570334 2017 single work novel

'Conceived as Gerald Murnane’s last work of fiction, Border Districts was written after the author moved from Melbourne to a small town on the western edge of the Wimmera plains, near the border with South Australia. The narrator of this fiction has made a similar move, from a capital city to a remote town in the border country, where he intends to spend the last years of his life. It is a time for exploring the enduring elements of his experience, as these exist in his mind, images whose persistence is assured, but whose significance needs to be rediscovered. Readers of Murnane’s earlier work will recognise some of these images: the dark-haired young woman at a window; the ancestral house set in grasslands; coloured glass, marbles, goldfish, the outfits of jockeys. Murnane’s images often draw their power from the light that falls upon them from a distant or mysterious source. But he also considers the possibility that the mind casts its own light, imbuing the images in the observer’s mind with the colours of his soul.

'As Murnane’s narrator declares, ‘the mind is a place best viewed from borderlands’. In this work, Border Districts also refers to the border country between life and death; and there is another meaning, in the narrator’s discovery of others who might share his world, even though they enter it from a different direction, across the border districts which separate, or unite, two human beings.' (Publication summary)

2017 winner y separately published work icon Their Brilliant Careers : The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers Ryan O'Neill , Carlton : Black Inc. , 2016 9580377 2016 selected work short story humour

'In Their Brilliant Careers, Ryan O’Neill has written a hilarious novel in the guise of sixteen biographies of (invented) Australian writers. Meet Rachel Deverall, who discovers the secret female source of the great literature of our time – and pays a terrible price for her discovery. Meet Rand Washington, hugely popular sci-fi author (of Whiteman of Cor) and holder of extreme views on race and gender. Meet Addison Tiller, the master of the bush yarn, “The Chekhov of Coolabah”, who has never travelled outside Sydney.

Their Brilliant Careers is a playful set of stories, linked in many ways, which together form a memorable whole. It is a wonderful comic tapestry of the writing life, and a large-scale parody in which every detail adds to the humour of the overall picture' (publication blurb).

2016 joint winner y separately published work icon The Natural Way of Things Charlotte Wood , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2015 8719111 2015 single work novel (taught in 5 units)

'She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, 'I need to know where I am.' The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, 'Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.'

'Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue - but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

'The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

'With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood's position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.' (Publication summary)

With Lisa Gorton's The Life of Houses.
2016 joint winner y separately published work icon The Life of Houses Lisa Gorton , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2015 8315197 2015 single work novel

'The Life of Houses explores, with a poet's eye for detail, the hidden tensions in an old established Australian family that has lived for generations in a large house in a coastal town in south-eastern Australia. These tensions come to the surface when the granddaughter Kit is sent by her mother to spend a holiday with her grandparents, and the unmarried aunt who looks after them, in their old and decaying house by the sea. Kit barely knows them, because her mother is estranged from the family and never talks to or visits them. Recently divorced from Kit's father, she sends her daughter to her parents now so she can pursue an affair with her new lover. Kit's presence brings the old quarrels to life as family memories take hold of the present, brought to a flashpoint by the anger and resentment of Kit and her mother, and the dementia and sudden illness of her grandparents. The Life of Houses is written in an extraordinarily expressive and dynamic prose that makes use of the close focus and the oblique perspectives that Gorton has mastered so successfully in her poetry. It is a style reminiscent of Henry James and Patrick White, a high style, perfectly suited to the social decorum and inhibition of her socially elevated but unhappy subjects.' (Publication summary)

With Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things.
2015 winner y separately published work icon The Golden Age Joan London , North Sydney : Random House Australia , 2014 7617651 2014 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'This is a story of resilience, the irrepressible, enduring nature of love, and the fragility of life. From one of Australia's most loved novelists.

'He felt like a pirate landing on an island of little maimed animals. A great wave had swept them up and dumped them here. All of them, like him, stranded, wanting to go home.

'It is 1954 and thirteen-year-old Frank Gold, refugee from wartime Hungary, is learning to walk again after contracting polio in Australia. At The Golden Age Children's Polio Convalescent Hospital in Perth, he sees Elsa, a fellow-patient, and they form a forbidden, passionate bond.

'The Golden Age becomes the little world that reflects the larger one, where everything occurs, love and desire, music, death, and poetry. Where children must learn that they are alone, even within their families.

'Written in Joan London's customary clear-eyed prose, The Golden Age evokes a time past and a yearning for deep connection. It is a rare and precious gem of a book from one of Australia's finest novelists. ' (Publication summary)

2014 joint winner y separately published work icon The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan , Sydney : Random House , 2013 Z1928536 2013 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 5 units)

'A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

'August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

'This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.' (Publisher's blurb)

With Steven Carroll's A World of Other People.
2014 joint winner y separately published work icon A World of Other People Steven Carroll , Sydney : Fourth Estate , 2013 Z1932853 2013 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 2 units) 'Set in 1941 during the Blitz, A World of Other People traces the love affair of Jim, an Australian pilot in Bomber Command, and Iris, a forthright Englishwoman finding her voice as a writer.The young couple, haunted by secrets and malign coincidence, struggles to build a future free of society's thin-lipped disapproval. The poet T.S. Eliot, with whom Iris shares firewatching duties, unwittingly seals their fate with his poem 'Little Gidding', one of the famous Four Quartets.' (Publisher's blurb)
With Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
2013 winner y separately published work icon Questions of Travel Michelle De Kretser , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2012 Z1887768 2012 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'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.' (From the publisher's website.)

2012 winner y separately published work icon Foal's Bread Gillian Mears , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2011 Z1821887 2011 single work novel (taught in 4 units)

'The sound of horses' hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn't totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn't died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he's pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.

'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.' (From the publisher's website.)

2011 winner y separately published work icon Traitor Stephen Daisley , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2010 Z1714727 2010 single work novel

'What would make a soldier betray his country?

'In the battle-smoke and chaos of Gallipoli, a young New Zealand soldier helps a Turkish doctor fighting to save a boy's life. Then a shell bursts nearby; the blast that should have killed them both consigns them instead to the same military hospital.

'Mahmoud is a Sufi. A whirling dervish, he says, of the Mevlevi order. He tells David stories. Of arriving in London with a pocketful of dried apricots. Of Majnun, the man mad for love, and of the saint who flew to paradise on a lion skin. You are God, we are all gods, Mahmoud tells David; and a bond grows between them.

'A bond so strong that David will betray his country for his friend.' (From the publisher's website.)

2010 winner y separately published work icon Dog Boy Eva Hornung , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2009 Z1552114 2009 single work novel (taught in 2 units)

'Abandoned in a big city at the onset of winter, a hungry four-year-old boy follows a stray dog to her lair. There in the rich smelly darkness, in the rub of hair, claws and teeth, he joins four puppies suckling at their mother's teats. And so begins Romochka's life as a dog.

Weak and hairless, with his useless nose and blunt little teeth, Romochka is ashamed of what a poor dog he makes. But learning how to be something else...that's a skill a human can master. Fortunately - because one day Romochka will have to learn how to be a boy.' (Publisher's Blurb)

2009 winner y separately published work icon The Boat Nam Le , Camberwell : Hamish Hamilton , 2008 Z1495449 2008 selected work short story (taught in 42 units)

'In the magnificent opening story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father's experiences in Vietnam - and what seems at first a satire on turning one's life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland, and the ties between father and son. "Cartagena" provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In "Meeting Elise" an ageing New York painter mourns his body's decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees where a young woman's bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.' (From the author's website.)

2008 winner y separately published work icon The Zookeeper's War Steven Conte , Pymble : Fourth Estate , 2007 Z1397155 2007 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'It is 1943 and each night in a bomb shelter beneath the Berlin Zoo an Australian woman, Vera, shelters with her German husband, Axel, the zoo's director.

'Together, Vera and Axel struggle to look after the animals through the air raids and food shortages of war. When the zoo's staff are drafted into the army, conscripted foreign workers are sent to replace them. At first Vera finds the idea of forced labour abhorrent, but gradually she realises the new workers are the zoo's only hope. Then she finds herself becoming close to one of them - a young Czech, with whom she forms an unexpected bond.

'This is a city where a foreign accent - Czech or Australian - is a constant source of suspicion, where busybodies report the names of neighbours' dinner guests to the Gestapo. As tensions mount in the closing days of the war, nothing, and no one, it seems, can be trusted.' (Back cover)

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