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Winners

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 Indelible Ink Fiona McGregor , Carlton North : Scribe , 2010 Z1679611 2010 single work novel (taught in 4 units)

'Marie King is a 59-year-old divorcée from Sydney's affluent north shore. Having devoted her rather conventional life to looking after her husband and three children - who have now all departed the family home - she is experiencing something of an identity crisis, especially as she must now sell the family home and thus lose her beloved garden. On a folly she gets a tattoo.

'Marie forges a friendship with her tattoo artist, Rhys, who introduces her to an alternative side of Sydney. Through their burgeoning connection, Marie's two worlds collide causing great friction within Marie's family and with her circle of rich friends.' (From the publisher's website.)

2010 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.)

2009 winner y separately published work icon Things We Didn't See Coming Steven Amsterdam , Collingwood : Sleepers Publishing , 2009 Z1564576 2009 selected work short story (taught in 3 units)

Nine connected stories, ' Things We Didn't See Coming follows a man over three decades as he tries to survive - and to retain his humanity - in a world savaged by successive cataclysmic events.

Opening on the eve of the millennium, when the world as we know it is still recognisable, we meet the then nine-year-old narrator fleeing the city with his parents, just ahead of a Y2K breakdown of the grid which signals the world's transformation and decline. In the wake of this develop strange, sometimes horrific, sometimes unexpectedly funny circumstances as he goes about the no longer simple act of survival: trying to protect squatters against floods in a place where the rains never stop; harassed (and possibly infected) by a man wracked with plague; functioning as a salaried embezzler of 'the state'; escorting the gravely ill on adventure trips.

Yet despite the violence and brutality of these days, we learn that even as the world is spinning out of control essential human impulses still hold sway - that we never entirely escape our parents, envy the success of those around us and, chiefly, that we crave love' (Harvill Secker website).

2008 winner y separately published work icon Breath Tim Winton , Camberwell : Hamish Hamilton , 2008 Z1457075 2008 single work novel (taught in 21 units) 'Breath is a story about the wildness of youth - the lust for excitement and terror, the determination to be extraordinary, the wounds that heal and those that don't - and about learning to live with its passing.'
Source: Publisher's website
2007 winner y separately published work icon Every Move You Make David Malouf , Sydney : Chatto and Windus , 2006 Z1302033 2006 selected work short story

'Bookish boys and taciturn men, strong women and wayward sons, fathers and daughters, lovers and husbands, a composer and his muse, a builder-architect and his legacy - here are their stories, whole lives brought vividly into focus and so powerfully rooted in the landscape that you can almost feel the heat and the dust. His canvas is the vast Australian continent from the mysterious, glittering Valley of Lagoons behind the Great Divide in Far North Queensland, to bohemian Balmain and the Centre at Uluru, but always there are enticing glimpses of a world beyond, and the stories are tender, subtle, unsettlingly intimate. A young man going off to war tries to make sense of his place in the world he is leaving; a composer's life plays itself out as a complex domestic cantata; an accident on a hunting trip speaks volumes, which its inarticulate victim never could; and, in the funniest, most surprising story of all, a down-to-earth woman stubbornly tries to keep her feet on the ground at Ayers Rock. Malouf's men and women are together but curiously alone, looking for something they seem to have missed, or missed out on, in life, puzzling over the space they'll leave behind when the waters close over them...'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2006 winner y separately published work icon Dead Europe Christos Tsiolkas , Milsons Point : Vintage Australia , 2005 Z1186455 2005 single work novel (taught in 14 units) 'The novel comprises two separate narratives. The first, told in the style of a fairytale, is set in a traditional Greek peasant village during and after World War II. Its world is still magical. ... The second narrative is set in the present time. The narrator is a 36-year-old gay, Greek-Australian photographic artist named Isaac. We meet Isaac at a time when he has travelled to Greece for what turns out to be a rather dismal officially funded exhibition of his works.'

Source: Manne, Robert. 'Dead Disturbing'. The Monthly. (June, 2005)
2005 winner y separately published work icon Sixty Lights Gail Jones , London : Harvill Press , 2004 Z1136231 2004 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 15 units)

'Sixty Lights is the captivating chronicle of Lucy Strange, an independent girl growing up in the Victorian world. From her childhood in Australia through to her adolescence in England and Bombay and finally to London, Lucy is fascinated by light and by the new photographic technology. Her perception of the world is passionate and moving, revealed in a series of frozen images captured in the camera of her mind's eye showing her feelings about love, life and loss. In this confident, finely woven and intricate novel Jones has created an unforgettable character in Lucy; visionary, gifted and exuberant, she touches the lives of all who know her.' (Publication summary)

2004 winner y separately published work icon The White Earth Andrew McGahan , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2004 Z1113518 2004 single work novel (taught in 14 units)

'His father dead by fire and his mother plagued by demons of her own, William is cast upon the charity of his unknown uncle - an embittered old man encamped in the ruins of a once great station homestead, Kuran House. It's a baffling and sinister new world for the boy, a place of decay and secret histories. His uncle is obsessed by a long life of decline and by a dark quest for revival, his mother is desperate for a wealth and security she has never known, and all their hopes it seems come to rest upon William's young shoulders. But as the past and present of Kuran Station unravel and merge together, the price of that inheritance may prove to be the downfall of them all. The White Earth is a haunting, disturbing and cautionary tale.' (publisher's website)

2003 winner y separately published work icon Of a Boy Sonya Hartnett , Ringwood : Viking , 2002 Z969271 2002 single work novel mystery (taught in 3 units) The year is 1977, and Adrian is nine. He lives with his gran and his uncle Rory; his best friend is Clinton Tull. He loves to draw and he wants a dog; he's afraid of quicksand, shopping centres and self-combustion. Adrian watches his suburban world, but there is much he cannot understand. He does not for instance, know why three neighbourhood children might set out to buy ice-cream and never come back home.
2002 winner y separately published work icon Gilgamesh : A Novel Joan London , Sydney : Pan Macmillan Australia , 2001 Z894113 2001 single work novel (taught in 4 units)

'Gilgamesh is the epic story of a mother's search for the father of her child - from Australia to Armenia via England and Mesopotamia - all under the shadow of the imminent, and soon to be very real, Second World War. Narrated in a clear, poetic voice, it is a portrayal of the different journeys we choose to take through life and what happens when ordinary people get caught up in extraordinary, seismic events.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (2018 ed.).

2001 winner y separately published work icon True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2000 Z668312 2000 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 29 units)

'"I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false."

'In TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG, the legendary Ned Kelly speaks for himself, scribbling his narrative on errant scraps of paper in semi-literate but magically descriptive prose as he flees from the police. To his pursuers, Kelly is nothing but a monstrous criminal, a thief and a murderer. To his own people, the lowly class of ordinary Australians, the bushranger is a hero, defying the authority of the English to direct their lives. Indentured by his bootlegger mother to a famous horse thief (who was also her lover), Ned saw his first prison cell at 15 and by the age of 26 had become the most wanted man in the wild colony of Victoria, taking over whole towns and defying the law until he was finally captured and hanged. Here is a classic outlaw tale, made alive by the skill of a great novelist.' (From the publisher's website.)

2000 winner y separately published work icon Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop Amy Witting , Ringwood : Penguin , 1999 Z309744 1999 single work novel

'Isobel Callaghan is struggling to make a career as a writer in Sydney. She is isolated, poor and hungry, and fears she’s going mad. Leaving her room in a boarding house in search of food, she has a breakdown on the way to the corner shop.

'Waking in hospital, Isobel learns that she will be confined to a sanatorium in the Blue Mountains. There, among the motley assortment of patients, and with the aid of great works of literature, she will confront the horrors of her past. But can she find a way to face the future?

'Confronting and compassionate, profound and funny, the second Isobel Callaghan novel is every bit as brilliant as its much-loved predecessor. It confirmed Amy Witting as one of the finest Australian writers of her time. ' (Text Classic summary)

1999 winner y separately published work icon The Deep Field James Bradley , Sydney : Sceptre , 1999 Z129050 1999 single work novel science fiction 'The Deep Field introduces us to a brilliant young photographer named Anna Frazier, whose latest project is a photographic study of shell fossils called ammonites. At a museum in Sydney she meets Seth La Marque, a blind paleontologist who senses that Anna is hiding something from her past that has wounded her and made her shut down her emotions. Slowly, as they become friends and then lovers, Anna reveals her tumultuous and obsessive love affair with a Hong Kong-based financier [...] that left her drained and empty. At the same time, her twin brother, Daniel, disappeared in China during a period of incredible upheaval and chaos, and Anna feels her life is on hold until she can find him'. Source: bookseller's website.
1998 winner y separately published work icon Three Dollars Elliot Perlman , Sydney : Picador , 1998 Z131955 1998 single work novel (taught in 2 units)

'At once humorous and dramatic, Three Dollars is about Eddie, an honest, compassionate man who finds himself, at the age of 38, with a wife, a child and three dollars. How did he get that way? And who is Amanda? He cared about people; he was, Amanda notwithstanding, a good husband, father and son. At any other time the world would have smiled on him. But this was the nineties and the world valued other things. Three Dollars chronicles the present breach of the social contract and its effect on a home near you. It is a brilliantly deft portrait of a man attempting to retain his humanity, his family and his sense of humour in grim and pitiless times: times of downsizing, outsourcing and privatising. It is about the legacy of Thatcherism and its effects on people and their relationships.' (Synopsis)

1997 winner y separately published work icon Jack Maggs Peter Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1997 Z205857 1997 single work novel (taught in 8 units) The year is 1837 and a stranger is prowling London. He is Jack Maggs, an illegal returnee from the prison island of Australia. He has the demeanor of a savage and the skills of a hardened criminal, and he is risking his life on seeking vengeance and reconciliation.
Influenced by Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.
1996 winner y separately published work icon The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow Thea Astley , Ringwood New York (City) : Viking , 1996 Z287862 1996 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 1 units)

'Tracing the lead-up to and aftermath of a bloody showdown when the superintendent of a Queensland mission goes on a murderous rampage.

'In 1930 the superintendent of a mission on a Queensland island, driven mad by his wife’s death, goes on a murderous rampage. Fearing for their lives, the other whites arm a young Indigenous man and order him to shoot Uncle Boss dead.

'The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow traces the lead-up to this bloody showdown and the repercussions in the years after - for Aboriginal people and the colonial overseers.' (Publication summary)

1995 winner y separately published work icon Billy Sunday Rod Jones , Sydney : Picador , 1995 Z280334 1995 single work novel historical fiction
1994 winner y separately published work icon The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Peter Carey , Toronto : Random House Canada , 1994 Z508427 1994 single work novel (taught in 2 units) Peter Carey has wholly reimagined the world in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. It is vaguely futuristic, underlain with the sediment of a recently ruined past, just post-colonial, culturally monolithic, and although everything seems familiar, nothing is quite recognizable. Our guide here is Tristan Smith himself: a freak of nature, a 'cracked and mended pot' of flesh that hides a 'normal' human being. Tristan is everything one could ask for in a companion and interpretive center of attention - one way or another - wherever he goes, he is sharp-eyed and quick-witted, unsentimental and unforgiving: the perfect witness to the fact and extraordinary effect of his own 'monstrosity.' Tristan takes us barrelling through his life and times (learning to be invisible and viable, coming of age, losing his mother, searching for his father, transforming himself from something people are afraid even to imagine into something already sanctioned for their imaginations), down a riotously populated, circuitous path that leads, finally, to the Sirkus: the newest entertainment opiate, the inspiration of slavish devotion in audiences, and, perhaps, the source of Tristan's ultimate transformation. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith is the picaresque made post-modern, a tragicomedy in constant, convulsive motion. (Source: Trove)
1993 winner y separately published work icon The Georges' Wife Elizabeth Jolley , Ringwood : Viking , 1993 Z545267 1993 single work novel

'Vera and Mr George have made a new life together but Vera's thoughts return again and again to loves and lovers, meetings and partings - the voices that echo in the mind like music. What has she learned from the well-bred peace of the Georges' household; the decadence and disorder of her friendship with Noel and Felicity: the fun and vulgarity shared with her 'widow' on the long voyage to Australia? Must we always repeat the past?'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

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