Miles Franklin Literary Award 2014 longlist announced

The longlist for this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award has been announced.

The longlisted titles are:

The Life and Loves of Lena GauntNarrow Road to the Deep North Book CoverThe Railwayman s Wife

The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt (Tracy Farr, Fremantle Press)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan, Vintage)

The Railwayman’s Wife (Ashley Hay, A&U)

mullumbimbyNight GuestBelomor

Mullumbimby (Melissa Lucashenko, UQP)

The Night Guest (Fiona McFarlane, Hamish Hamilton)

Belomor (Nicholas Rothwell, Text)

GameMy Beautiful EnemyEyrie

Game (Trevor Shearston, A&U)

My Beautiful Enemy (Cory Taylor, Text)

Eyrie (Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton)

The-Swan-BookAll the Birds Singing

The Swan Book (Alexis Wright, Giramondo)

All the Birds, Singing (Evie Wyld, Vintage).

The shortlist will be announced on 15 May at the State Library of New South Wales. The winner will be announced on 26 June. The winner of this year’s prize will receive a cash prize of $60,000.

For more information on this year’s longlist, click here.

Miles Franklin shortlist

The shortlist for this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award was announced in Sydney this morning, as reported by the Weekly Book Newsletter.

The three shortlisted titles have been reviewed by Bookseller+Publisher and all reviews have been published on Fancy Goods.

When Colts Ran (Roger McDonald, Random House)
Bereft (Chris Womersley, Scribe)
That Deadman Dance (Kim Scott, Picador)

Following the announcement of the shortlist this morning, some members of the Australia literary community expressed concerns about only three titles making the list. In 2010, six titles were shortlisted for the award. The absence of female authors on this year’s list has also attracted attention. See Angela Myer’s Literary Minded blog for more on the controversy.

BOOK REVIEW: When Colts Ran (Roger McDonald, Vintage)

When you win the Miles Franklin Award, expectation for your next novel is going to be fairly high. Despite its terrible cover, When Colts Ran lives up to this expectation, as it’s the words inside that count and such fine words they are. Opening in the middle years of WWII, we find Major Dunc Buckler travelling the outback cataloguing station supplies for requisition in case of Japanese invasion. His ward Colts, freshly expelled from school, is searching for Buckler in the company of the latter’s wife Veronica, recently made aware of her husband’s infidelity. The descriptive passages are quite superb and written with such a distinctive voice: this book cries out for audio recording. As fresh characters are added and the post-war years roll by, the story opens up and deftly deals with all manner of relationships—between husband and wife, father and son, between men and importantly between man and the Australian landscape. This story is also about history and how we deal with it—whether it is the history of our own making or the legacy left by our parents. If you’re a fan of Australian literature then I’m sure you will find this book, as I did, a deeply satisfying read.

Paul Landymore is a bookseller at Brisbane’s Avid Reader. This review first appeared in the October 2010 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

Dinner and deadlines: the 2010 Miles Franklin award ceremony

This week I was lucky enough to attend my first Miles Franklin Award ceremony, and it was rather exciting. Apparently it hasn’t always been so.

I was surprised to read that last year none of the shortlisted authors turned up for this gala event, but then last year, as in previous years, the winner had already been informed (Tim Winton appeared by video-link) and the media had been sent an embargoed press release, so the announcement understandably lacked a little spark. This year there was none of that, and so gathered in Sydney’s Mitchell Library were five of the six nervous nominees (and they certainly looked nervous) and a handful of on-deadline journalists.

The organisers had promised to make the announcement by 8pm in order for the media to make their evening deadline (8.30m for many!), so we were on a tight schedule—not a bad thing for an awards ceremony. This meant that the winner was announced just as main course was being served, and Peter Temple gave his hilarious acceptance speech over the sound of clinking cutlery (I think the sound of audience laughter drowned most of it out).

Undoubtedly the biggest buzz of the night was around the nominee—and winner—Peter Temple. This is the first time that a crime novel has even been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, and the win is already creating lots of great discussion about the status of genre fiction, and the difference between ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ novels.

Truth is a wonderful book and a challenging one. As Text publisher Michael Heyward said after the win, ‘It’s changed the possibility of the crime novel.’ ‘Truth is a crime novel but also a novel about crime. It’s a contemporary tragedy.’

Someone on my table suggested the only thing Truth had in common with the conventional crime novel was that it opened with a dead body. What I loved about the story was that you had no idea where it was heading, that it had the ability to surprise and puzzle, as well as, like any gripping crime novel, keep you up all night until it was finished.

Temple has a talent for dialogue, as anyone who’s read his novels will appreciate. He’s also known for being an abrupt, even surly, interviewee. So it was interesting to see how he would react to the media scrum that followed the announcement. He seemed genuinely surprised, and a little stunned under the bright lights and TV cameras, but his instinct for great lines didn’t leave him. My favourite comments of the night were:  ‘It’s unusual for a crime writer to receive such a prestigious award, so cop it sweet’ (he told AAP). And his message for booksellers: ‘hand-sell this book until your hands bleed’.

Andrea Hanke is editor of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

Temple wins the 2010 Miles Franklin for ‘Truth’ (Text Publishing)

Well, as we reported in a special bulletin to our Weekly Book Newsletter subscribers last night, Peter Temple’s Truth (Text) is the winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award. (You can read our original review here.)

Not surprisingly, Text publisher Michael Heyward told us he was ‘over the moon’, following Temple’s win. He said Truth had ‘changed the possibility of the crime novel’. ‘Truth is a crime novel but also a novel about crime. It’s a contemporary tragedy,’ he said.

But, as Temple told Matthia Dempsey, in this interview from our September 2009 issue of the magazine, there was a time during the writing process for Truth when Heyward wasn’t quite so happy…

(Oh, and by the way, did you know the Miles Franklin was hitting the road? The ceremony comes to Melbourne in 2011 and other capital cities after that.)

INTERVIEW: Peter Temple on ‘Truth’ (Text Publishing)

You’ve referred to Truth as ‘the so-called sequel’ to The Broken Shore because, although that’s how it’s likely to be pitched, it’s not really a sequel. Why did you choose to focus on Villani, rather than write a second book on Cashin? Were you trying to avoid another series?

I love the Jack Irish series in a parental way. It’s part of me. And, to my great surprise and joy, many people want another Jack Irish book in the same way I once wanted another James Bond novel (well, perhaps not quite as much). But the idea of another series fills me with terror. When it came to think about what to write after The Broken Shore, I found myself thinking about Stephen Villani (a minor player in The Broken Shore). I’d enjoyed his character and I thought I’d try to capture him and his world in a way that treated cops as ordinary people who, as the poet said, have to save the sum of things for pay.

The Broken Shore won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger among many other awards. How did the success of that book affect the writing of this one?

It’s not the success or otherwise of the last book that matters. It’s that every book drains the well and it takes an ever-greater effort to begin each new one. I also have a horror of repeating myself, something that doesn’t help matters.

Truth follows two homicide investigations but also takes in the world of media and politics. Do you draw on your experience as a court reporter in creating your plots? Do you do a lot of research to get these worlds right?

Writing draws on everything that’s ever happened to you. My aim is always to get the feel of the book right. But it’s fiction. I make stuff up. That’s the fun of it.

As with The Broken Shore, one of the very appealing aspects of Truth is that the pared-back nature of the book makes the reader work a bit harder to keep everything in their headto make connections, remember characters. Is this your intention?

I like reading books that make you work, make you join the bits, reach your own conclusions, and so I try to write books like this.

Truth is set in the city but visits the country and The Broken Shore included descriptions of the natural world; what appeals to you about writing about nature?

Part of being a writer is being an observer. I like looking closely at things. I like staring at things, waiting for them to reveal themselves. To capture these impressions in ways that speak to the reader is the great challenge of writing. It’s also its greatest pleasure.

You’ve said that when you’re writing a book you don’t know where it’s going. Can you tell us at what point in the writing process you worked it all out? Was your publisher at all worried?

I generally begin to understand the story about three-quarters of the way through the writing. I don’t know how the process works but I now know that there is a process at work. I think worried is too mild a word for my publisher’s state of mind while he waited for the book. I think he had secretly given up on it. But he understands what miserable, lying creatures writers are and he never lets them off the hook, never gives them the excuse they are looking for to chuck the whole thing in.

Can you tell us what you’re working on next?

I’m fiddling around with the fifth Jack Irish novel and thinking about returning to the territory of In the Evil Day.

BOOK REVIEW: Lovesong (Alex Miller, Allen & Unwin)

Former acting editor Angela Meyer reviewed Alex Miller’s Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel Lovesong back in the November issue if Bookseller+Publisher magazine. Here’s what she had to say:

Alex Miller returns to the realms of romance and desire, longing and solitariness, transience and creativity in his new deep, yet playful novel Lovesong; sure to appeal widely through its astute charm and emotional essence. The bulk of the story features John and Sabiha, an Australian man and Tunisian woman who meet in Paris where Sabiha helps run a restaurant with her widowed aunt, Houria. The imbalances of even the most loving relationships are explored through John and Sabiha—longing for distant homelands, compromise, and difficulty conceiving. Miller’s soft, unhindered prose really comes alive when the complications of secret desires and longing are introduced. The secret inner life is a common theme in Miller’s work, which always holds fascination. The other parts where descriptions are apt, are expressions of solitariness—both loneliness and an aloneness that is by selection. What’s different about this novel is that the main story is told through another character, Ken, an ageing writer in Melbourne, who meets the couple later in life and is drawn to their story due to the ‘sadness in the depths of [Sabiha’s] dark brown eyes’. The author, Ken, is as such admitting that he seeks the story behind the story, the secrets behind the façade of everyday life. This structure is also cheeky in a way, as Ken quotes Lucien Freud: ‘Everything is autobiographical, and everything is a portrait’. Ken’s last book was called The Farewell and he wondered why critics never equated it with his retirement (Miller’s own last book was The Landscape of Farewell), but he does find that he can’t ‘not write’, and thus seeks (and constructs) the story of John and Sabiha. Ken, and also the reader, then get to live out someone else’s life and history, desires, and indiscretions. You could read it as a statement about fiction itself—derived from truths of the self, of people known and met, your own and others’ lives; but also from burning curiosity (the spark for the story being the sadness in Sabiha’s eyes). ‘My life is in my books’ notes Ken towards the end, an admission that the reader is free to interpret the work of the writer as coming from their own secret inner life. The intertwining stories are told with gentleness, some humour, some tragedy and much sweetness. Miller is that rare writer who engages the intellect and the emotions simultaneously, with a creeping effect.

Angela Meyer is a writer, blogger and former acting editor of Bookseller+Publisher magazine. This review first appeared in the November 2009 issue. You can read the April 2010 issue online here.

BOOK REVIEW: Jasper Jones (Allen & Unwin)

Interestingly, Craig Silvey’s Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel Jasper Jones was included in the Young Adult section of our reviews pages when the following piece by Robin Morrow appeared in the combined May/June 2009 issue of Bookseller+Publisher. Here’s what Robin had to say about the book:

The book opens dramatically when Charlie, the narrator, is taken by Jasper Jones to a macabre scene at the old jarrah tree by the river. Charlie’s peaceful—if nerdish—life is overturned ‘like a snowdome paperweight that’s been shaken’. Throughout a summer of cricket matches, the Vietnam War and shy courtship of the beautiful Eliza, some disturbing facts are revealed while others remain suppressed. Present tense and short sentences are often employed, enticing the reader along at a lively pace. The feel and smell of small-town Australia are evoked skillfully, and yet (many) literary references are to US classics, Mark Twain and especially To Kill a Mockingbird Elements of the coming-of-age story are mixed with those of the detective novel, livened with scenes of laugh-aloud humour. The sparring dialogue between Charlie and his friend Jeffrey, and the references to aspiring novelists will seem—to some readers—true to character, to others, tiresome. Jasper Jones, the Aboriginal scapegoat for the town’s misadventures, is elusive and independent to the end. Themes of courage and cowardice, and the vitality of the ever-observant Charlie, will ensure this book’s appeal especially to readers who are young and/or male.

Robin Morrow, a former bookseller, now teaches literature at university. This review first appeared in the May/June 2009 issue. You can read the April 2010 issue of Bookseller+Publisher online here.

BOOK REVIEW: Truth (Peter Temple, Text Publishing)

Peter Temple’s Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel Truth was reviewed back in the September 2009 issue of the Bookseller+Publisher by editor-in-chief Matthia Dempsey. Here’s what she had to say:

It’s fair to say this is a highly anticipated book but probably a little misleading to call it a highly anticipated sequel. In his follow-up to the Dagger-winning The Broken Shore, Temple has taken Stephen Villani, the detective friend of that book’s hero Joe Cashin, for his central character. Cashin is referred to in passing but this is very much a stand-alone story. The good news is that it can therefore be recommended to those who haven’t yet read Temple’s previous book, as well as those who enjoyed it. Truth presents the same winning combination of riveting crime plot, flawed-yet-sympathetic lead character, pared-back but effective language and complex themes. Villani is investigating the murder of an unidentified woman found dead in a new luxury high-rise city apartment, as well as the torture and murder of three men in an Oakleigh shed; at the same time his family is fraying, his father is refusing to budge from a country property at risk of bushfire and he is grappling with the messy politics of a successful career in the force. Running through this are memories of the childhood that made Villani what he is and a case from the past that he’d rather forget. I could barely put this book down. Temple fans won’t be disappointed and, like The Broken Shore, this will have broad appeal—even among those who who don’t usually go for crime.

Matthia Dempsey is a writer, reviewer and editor-in-chief of Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared in the September 2009 issue. You can read the April 2010 issue online here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Bath Fugues (Brian Castro, Giramondo)

Brian Castro’s Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel The Bath Fugues (Giramondo) was reviewed back in the May/June 2009 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine by Max Oliver, a veteran Australian bookseller. Here’s what he had to say:

An extraordinary work, The Bath Fugues consists of three interwoven novellas, of which the third masterfully pulls together all the strands and themes of the preceding two. Each story centres on one person, with a large cast of real and imagined secondary characters. In the first, Jason Redvers, a one-time artist and counterfeiter, is dying, convinced that his wealthy Sydney patron, Walter Gottlieb, has appropriated his past. Redvers’ revenge, his ploy to set the record straight, involves writing an expose of the secret lives and proclivities of his friends and colleagues. The second novella focusses on the Portuguese judge and poet Camilo ConcieÇão, self-exiled to Macau in the 1920s—revelling in his mistresses, his bargain-hunting for Chinese art, his exotic persona and his opium pipes. The final tale is that of Dr Judith Sarraute, a well-connected Australian doctor, privy to the most private thoughts and passions of her patients, custodian of a cabinet of exotic venoms, and eventual owner of an art gallery into which she is persuaded by a well-connected acquaintance. Within the three tales many other characters emerge, reappearing from story to story in the fugal structure that Brian Castro has chosen to give form to his substance. And substance there certainly is. This novel requires intense concentration and I confess to letting some of the many references slide by in order to let the story flow. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: The Book of Emmett (Deborah Forster, Vintage)

Deborah Forster’s Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel The Book of Emmett (Vintage) was reviewed back in the March 2009 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine by Melanie Barton, then a fiction category manager at the bookselling chain Angus & Robertson. Here’s what she had to say:

Forster’s debut novel is a powerful and emotional work that begins with the funeral of Emmett, the main protagonist. A devoted alcoholic and abusive father and husband, Emmett loves words and more than anything wants his children to be successful and well educated. A moody man who erupts at the slightest annoyance to his routine life—the five children tiptoe around him so as not to set him off and soon learn the meaning of the word ‘hedge’, as they hide in these at the end of the street when their dad is raving. While not an original premise for a novel, Foster has written an emotional tale of domestic violence with simple yet engaging language. Set in the western suburbs of Melbourne, where Forster grew up, the novel traces the complex relationships between brothers and sisters and the love and pain that evolves between them in this house of violence. The novel follows the progression of Emmett’s life through to dementia and the calming emotion this brings to the family. It follows the effects that living in an abusive household has on the children as they leave the home and begin to start families and relationships of their own. The effects this man has on each of their lives are massive in scale and dynamic. A tragic book in so many ways, this is a great debut novel with haunting characters and an intensity that will move readers.

This review first appeared in the March 2009 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine. You can read the March 2010 issue online here.