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Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
Subcategory of New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards
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Winners

2019 winner y separately published work icon The Life to Come Michelle De Kretser , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2017 11460446 2017 single work novel

'Set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is a mesmerising novel about the stories we tell and don't tell ourselves as individuals, as societies and as nations. It feels at once firmly classic and exhilaratingly contemporary.

'Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Driven by riveting stories and unforgettable characters, here is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people.

'Profoundly moving as well as bitingly funny, The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present.' (Synopsis)

2018 winner y separately published work icon The Book of Dirt Bram Presser , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2017 11521001 2017 single work novel historical fiction

'They chose not to speak and now they are gone. What's left to fill the silence is no longer theirs. This is my story, woven from the threads of rumour and legend.'

'Jakub Rand flees his village for Prague, only to find himself trapped by the Nazi occupation. Deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, he is forced to sort through Jewish books for a so-called Museum of the Extinct Race. Hidden among the rare texts is a tattered prayer book, hollow inside, containing a small pile of dirt.

'Back in the city, Františka Roubíčková picks over the embers of her failed marriage, despairing of her conversion to Judaism. When the Nazis summon her two eldest daughters for transport, she must sacrifice everything to save the girls from certain death.

'Decades later, Bram Presser embarks on a quest to find the truth behind the stories his family built around these remarkable survivors.

'The Book of Dirt is a completely original novel about love, family secrets, and Jewish myths. And it is a heart-warming story about a grandson's devotion to the power of storytelling and his family's legacy.'

2017 winner y separately published work icon The Museum of Modern Love Heather Rose , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2016 9613078 2016 single work novel

''If this was a dream, then he wanted to know when it would end. Maybe it would end if he went to see Lydia. But it was the one thing he was not allowed to do.'...

Arky Swann is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has made him promise to keep a terrible secret. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in her performance The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky as he considers marriage, art and the nature of commitment and love over a long-term union. The Museum of Modern Love is the story of one of the world's greatest art events and a man in search of connection.' (Publication summary)

2016 winner y separately published work icon Locust Girl : A Lovesong Merlinda Bobis , North Melbourne : Spinifex Press , 2015 8597660 2015 single work novel fantasy

'Most everything has dried up: water, the womb, even the love among lovers. Hunger is rife, except across the border. One night, a village is bombed after its men attempt to cross the border. Nine-year old Amedea is buried underground and sleeps to survive. Ten years later, she wakes with a locust embedded in her brow. This political fable is a girl’s magical journey through the border. The border has cut the human heart. Can she repair it with the story of a small life? This is the Locust Girl’s dream, her lovesong—

'For those walking to the border for dear life

'And those guarding the border for dear life'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2015 winner y separately published work icon The Snow Kimono Mark Henshaw , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2014 7472103 2014 single work novel thriller

'There are times in your life when something happens, after which you're never the same. It may be something direct or indirect, or something someone says to you. But whatever it is, there is no going back.

'Paris: 1989. Recently retired police inspector Auguste Jovert receives a letter from a woman who claims to be his daughter. Two days later, a stranger comes knocking on his door…

'Set in France and Japan, The Snow Kimono tells the stories of Jovert, former Professor of Law Tadashi Omura, and his one-time friend the writer Katsuo Ikeda. All three have lied to themselves, and to each other. Their lies are about to catch up with them.

'A quarter of a century after the award-winning bestseller Out of the Line of Fire, Mark Henshaw returns with an intricately plotted, beautifully written novel that is both a psychological thriller and an unforgettable meditation on love and loss, memory and its deceptions, and the ties that bind us to others.' (Publication summary)

2014 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.)

2013 winner y separately published work icon Mateship with Birds Carrie Tiffany , Sydney : Picador , 2012 Z1830432 2012 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 2 units)

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

2012 winner y separately published work icon That Deadman Dance Kim Scott , Sydney : Picador , 2010 Z1728528 2010 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 43 units)

Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.

'The novel's hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.

'But slowly - by design and by accident - things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are "accidents" and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby's Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia...' (From the publisher's website.)

2011 winner y separately published work icon Lovesong Alex Miller , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2009 Z1630287 2009 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'Strangers did not, as a rule, find their way to Chez Dom, a small, rundown Tunisian cafe on Paris' distant fringes. Run by the widow Houria and her young niece, Sabiha, the cafe offers a home away from home for the North African immigrant workers working at the great abattoirs of Vaugiraud, who, like them, had grown used to the smell of blood in the air. But when one day a lost Australian tourist, John Patterner, seeks shelter in the cafe from a sudden Parisian rainstorm, the quiet simplicities of their lives are changed forever.

John is like no-one Sabiha has met before - his calm grey eyes promise her a future she was not yet even aware she wanted. Theirs becomes a contented but unlikely marriage - a marriage of two cultures lived in a third - and yet because they are essentially foreigners to each other, their love story sets in train an irrevocable course of tragic events.

Years later, living a small, quiet life in suburban Melbourne, what happened at Vaugiraud seems like a distant, troubling dream to Sabiha and John, who confides the story behind their seemingly ordinary lives to Ken, an ageing, melancholy writer. It is a story about home and family, human frailties and passions, raising questions of morals and purpose - questions have no simple answer.

Lovesong is a simple enough story in many ways - the story of a marriage, of people coming undone by desire, of ordinary lives and death, love and struggle - but when told with Miller's distinctive voice, which is all intelligence, clarity and compassion, it has a real gravitas, it resonates and is deeply moving. Into the wonderfully evoked contemporary settings of Paris and Melbourne, memories of Tunisian family life, culture and its music are tenderly woven.' (From the publisher's website.)

2010 winner y separately published work icon Summertime : Scenes from Provincial Life J. M. Coetzee , London : Harvill Secker , 2009 Z1596914 2009 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on the years from 1972 - 1977 when Coetzee, in his thirties, is sharing a run-down cottage in the suburbs of Cape Town with his widowed father. This, the biographer senses, is the period when he was finding his feet as a writer. Never having met Coetzee, he embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to him: a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him, former friends and colleagues. From their testimony emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual with little talent for opening himself to others. Within the family he is regarded as an outsider, someone who tried to flee the tribe and has now returned, chastened. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, rumours that he writes poetry evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often very funny, Summertime shows us a great writer as he limbers up for his task. It completes the majestic trilogy of fictionalised memoir begun with Boyhood and Youth.' (Provided by the publisher.)

2009 winner y separately published work icon The Good Parents Joan London , North Sydney : Random House Australia , 2008 Z1457091 2008 single work novel

'Maya de Jong, an eighteen-year-old country girl from the West, comes to live in Melbourne and starts an affair with her boss, the enigmatic Maynard Flynn, whose wife is dying of cancer. When Maya's parents, Toni and Jacob, arrive to stay with her, they are told by her housemate that Maya has gone away and no one knows where she is.

'As Toni and Jacob wait and search for Maya in Melbourne, everything in their lives is brought into question. They recall the yearning and dreams, the betrayals and choices of their pasts - choices with unexpected and irrevocable consequences.

'With Maya's disappearance, the lives of all those close to her come into focus, to reveal the complexity of the ties that bind us to one another, to parents, children, siblings, friends and lovers.' (Publisher's blurb)

2008 winner y separately published work icon The Lost Dog Michelle De Kretser , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2007 Z1431148 2007 single work novel mystery (taught in 4 units)

'Tom Loxley is holed up in a remote bush shack trying to finish his book on Henry James when his beloved dog goes missing. What follows is a triumph of storytelling, as The Lost Dog loops back and forth in time to take the reader on a spellbinding journey into worlds far removed from the present tragedy.

'Set in present-day [2007] Australia and mid-twentieth century India, here is a haunting, layered work that brilliantly counterpoints new cityscapes and their inhabitants with the untamed, ancient continent beyond. With its atmosphere of menace and an acute sense of the unexplained in any story, it illuminates the collision of the wild and the civilised, modernity and the past, home and exile.' (Publisher's blurb)

2007 winner y separately published work icon Carpentaria Alexis Wright , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2006 Z1184902 2006 single work novel (taught in 47 units) Carpentaria's portrait of life in the precariously settled coastal town of Desperance centres on the powerful Phantom family, whose members are the leaders of the Pricklebush people, and their battles with old Joseph Midnight's tearaway Eastend mob on the one hand, and the white officials of Uptown and the neighbouring Gurfurrit mine on the other. Wright's storytelling is operatic and surreal: a blend of myth and scripture, politics and farce. The novel is populated by extraordinary characters - Elias Smith the outcast saviour, the religious zealot Mozzie Fishman, leader of the holy Aboriginal pilgrimage, the murderous mayor Stan Bruiser, the ever-vigilant Captain Nicoli Finn, the activist and prodigal son Will Phantom, and above all, Angel Day the queen of the rubbish-dump, and her sea-faring husband Normal Phantom, the fish-embalming king of time - figures that stand like giants in this storm-swept world. (Backcover)
2007 winner y separately published work icon Theft : A Love Story Peter Carey , Milsons Point : Random House , 2006 Z1244799 2006 single work novel humour (taught in 5 units) Michael 'Butcher' Boone is an ex-'really famous' painter now reduced to living in the remote country house of his biggest collector and acting as caretaker for his younger brother, Hugh, a damaged man of imposing physicality and childlike emotions. Together they've forged a delicate equilibrium, a balance instantly disarrayed when a mysterious young woman named Marlene walks out of a rainstorm and into their lives. Beautiful, smart, and ambitious, she's also the daughter-in-law of the late great painter Jacques Liebowitz, one of Butcher's earliest influences. She's sweet to Hugh and falls in love with Butcher, and they reciprocate in kind. And she sets in motion a chain of events that could be the making--or the ruin--of them all. (Source: Trove)
2006 winner y separately published work icon The Secret River Kate Grenville , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2005 Z1194031 2005 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 69 units)

'In 1806 William Thornhill, a man of quick temper and deep feelings, is transported from the slums of London to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife Sal and their children he arrives in a harsh land he cannot understand.

'But the colony can turn a convict into a free man. Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim a hundred acres for himself.

'Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them.

'Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.

'Inspired by research into her own family history, Kate Grenville vividly creates the reality of settler life, its longings, dangers and dilemmas. The Secret River is a brilliantly written book, a groundbreaking story about identity, belonging and ownership.' (From the publisher's website.)

2005 winner y separately published work icon The Turning Tim Winton , Sydney : Picador , 2004 Z1146280 2004 selected work short story (taught in 12 units)

The Turning comprises seventeen overlapping stories of second thoughts and mid-life regret set in the brooding small-town world of coastal Western Australia. Here are turnings of all kinds - changes of heart, nasty surprises, slow awakenings, sudden detours - where people struggle against the terrible weight of the past and challenge the lives they've made for themselves.

These elegiac stories examine the darkness and frailty of ordinary people and celebrate the moments when the light shines through.

2004 winner y separately published work icon Shanghai Dancing Brian Castro , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2003 Z1011730 2003 single work novel (taught in 5 units)

'After 40 years in Australia, António Castro packs a bag and walks out of his old life forever. The victim of a restlessness he calls "Shanghai Dancing," António seeks to understand the source of his condition in his family's wanderings. Reversing his parents' own migration, António heads back to their native Shanghai, where his world begins to fragment as his ancestry starts to flood into his present, and emissaries of glittering pre-war China, evangelical Liverpool and seventeenth-century Portugal merge into contemporary backdrops across Asia, Europe and Australia. A "fictional autobiography," Shanghai Dancing is a dazzling meditation on identity, language and disorientation that combines photographs and written images in the style of W.G. Sebald. ' (Publication summary)

2003 winner y separately published work icon Moral Hazard Moral Hazard : A Novel Kate Jennings , London : Fourth Estate , 2002 Z931717 2002 single work novel (taught in 1 units)
2002 winner y separately published work icon Dirt Music Tim Winton , Sydney : Picador , 2001 Z918096 2001 single work novel (taught in 15 units)

'Georgie Jutland is a mess. At forty, with her career in ruins, she finds herself stranded in White Point with a fisherman she doesn't love and two kids whose dead mother she can never replace. Her days have fallen into domestic tedium and social isolation. Her nights are a blur of vodka and pointless loitering in cyberspace. Leached of all confidence, Georgie has lost her way; she barely recognises herself.

'One morning, in the boozy pre-dawn gloom, she looks up from the computer screen to see a shadow lurking on the beach below, and a dangerous new element enters her life. Luther Fox, the local poacher. Jinx. Outcast...' (From the publisher's website.)

2001 winner y separately published work icon Conditions of Faith Alex Miller , St Leonards : Allen and Unwin , 2000 Z435163 2000 single work novel historical fiction

'With university behind her, Emily Stanton finds herself on the threshold of life. Introduced to a Scottish engineer, the exoticism of his life in Paris beckons, and she leaves her family home in 1920s Melbourne to become his wife. But far from providing answers, her conventional marriage awakens in her an ardent desire to find a reason for living beyond that of simply wife and mother. This desire leads her to flirt with risk, passion and unorthodox friendships, and carries her to Tunisia on a journey of self-questioning and intellectual reawakening. Conditions of Faith is both a provocative romance and an elegant meditation on a timeless dilemma. Impetuous yet entirely sympathetic, Emily Stanton, like Henry James' Isabel Archer, is in search of a reason for living in a society where motherhood is deemed reason enough. This mesmerising and thought-provoking story of dreams, obsessions and destiny will hold you in thrall.' (Publication summary)

2000 winner y separately published work icon The Salt of Broken Tears Michael Meehan , Milsons Point : Vintage , 1999 Z315472 1999 single work novel 'On a farm on the edge of the endless, remote salt flats of Australia, an embattled family struggles in the midst of the Depression to scrape out an existence and survive the dust and despair. Regular visitors are few - only the Debt Adjuster and the wandering Indian hawker, Cabel Singh - until the day Eileen, a mysterious young woman, blows in from nowhere and alters the family's precarious equilibrium. The boy is fascinated by her, his mother despises her, and Joe, the brutish farmhand and the boy's idol, wants to possess her. When Eileen suddenly disappears, the only trace of her a torn and bloodied dress, the boy saddles up his horse, takes his pup, and sets out to find her. Traveling through the bleak, unforgiving country, the boy encounters a bizarre array of lost souls scattered across the wasteland: a bone-collector living in a ghost town at the end of a gleaming new railway line; an isolated crew of Italian woodcutters who speak of an imprisoned husband, manacled by his wife in a farmhouse basement; a man on a bicycle who recalls his soldier days in Paris after the Great War; and river dwellers who take the boy to a pajama-wearing corpse lying aloft in a tree. Throughout these strange meetings, rumours of the enigmatic Cabel Singh drift like the desert dust, and as the boy journeys on, he becomes aware of another party whose path is converging murderously with his own.'--Book Jacket.
1997 winner y separately published work icon The Drowner Robert Drewe , Sydney : Macmillan , 1996 Z287656 1996 single work novel historical fiction

'In the warm alkaline waters of the public bath, a naive and headstrong young engineer accidentally collides with a breathtaking actress. From this innocent collision of flesh begins a passion that will take them from the Wiltshire Downs to the mythical source of life in Africa - and to the most elemental choices of life and death in the Australian desert.

'While the intense love story of William Dance and Angelica Lloyd is at the heart of The Drowner, it is but a part of the daring story that unfolds. By irresistibly mingling history, myth and technology with a modern cinematic and poetic imagination, Robert Drewe has reached beyond the traditions of the romance and annexed new territory.

'Such is the grand scale and original texture of The Drowner that it is at once a fable of European ambitions in an alien landscape, a magnificently sustained metaphor of water as the life and death force and, above all, an intimate and ambitious portrayal - of great resonance and haunting sensuality - of the essence of the differences between men and women.

'Lyrical and astringent, vibrant and tender, The Drowner has all the mysterious powers of a dream. Robert Drewe's seventh work of fiction shows an author at the peak of his powers demonstrating the full vigour of his artistic vision.' (Publication summary)

1981 winner y separately published work icon The Impersonators Jessica Anderson , South Melbourne : Macmillan , 1980 Z796237 1980 single work novel When Sylvia Foley returns to Australia after twenty years, she finds her father, Jack Cornock, ill. This and his obstinate silence provoke speculation about his will among the families of his two marriages, Sylvia becomes enmeshed in the webs of their alliances and disaffections. The Impersonators portrays the breakdown of family relationships and the endurance of love in a materialistic age. (Source: Sydney University Press)
1980 winner y separately published work icon War Crimes : Short Stories Peter Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1979 Z285497 1979 selected work short story
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