The winner of the 2014 Miles Franklin award will be announced in Sydney on the 26th of June and the shortlist includes an incredible depth of talent, mostly female.
Richard Flanagan and Tim Winton are joined by Fiona McFarlane and Cory Taylor on this year’s shortlist.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Richard Flanagan
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.
Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. His novels, Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, and Wanting have received numerous honours and are published in twenty-six countries. He directed a feature film version of The Sound of One Hand Clapping. A collection of his essays is published as And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?.
The Night Guest
by Fiona McFarlane
One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem.
Which of them can Ruth trust? And as memories of her childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency, can she even trust herself?
The Night Guest is mesmerising novel about love, dependence, and the fear that the things you know best can become the things you’re least certain about. It introduces a writer who comes to us fully formed, working wonders with language, renewing our faith in the power of fiction to tap the mysterious workings of our minds, and keeping us spellbound.
Fiona McFarlane was born in Sydney, and has degrees in English from Sydney University and Cambridge University, and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Michener Fellow. Her work has been published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Southerly, the Best Australian Stories and the New Yorker, and she has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Phillips Exeter Academy and the Australia Council for the Arts. The Night Guest, her debut novel, has sold into fifteen territories around the world. She lives in Sydney.
by Cory Taylor
Arthur Wheeler is haunted by his infatuation with a Japanese youth he encountered in the enemy alien camp where he worked as a guard during WWII. Abandoning his wife and baby son, Arthur sets out on a doomed mission to rescue his lover from forced deportation back to Japan, a country in ruins. Thus begins the secret history of a soldier at war with his own sexuality and dangerously at odds with the racism that underpins the crumbling British Empire.
Four decades later Arthur is still obsessed with the traumatic events of his youth. He proposes a last reunion with his lost lover, in the hope of laying his ghosts to rest, but this mission too seems doomed to failure. Like Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Snow Falling On Cedars, My Beautiful Enemy explores questions of desire and redemption against the background of a savage racial war. In this context, Arthur’s private battles against his own nature, and against the conventions of his time, can only end in heartache.
About the Author
Cory Taylor is an award-winning screenwriter who has also published short fiction and children’s books. Her first novel, Me and Mr Booker, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Pacific Region). She lives in Brisbane.
by Tim Winton
Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring.
But even in his seedy flat, ducking the neighbours, he’s not safe from entanglement. All it takes is an awkward encounter in the lobby. A woman from his past, a boy the likes of which he’s never met before. Two strangers leading a life beyond his experience and into whose orbit he falls despite himself.
What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times ñ funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting. Inhabited by unforgettable characters, Eyrie asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.
Tim Winton has published twenty-one books for adults and children, and his work has been translated into twenty-five languages. Since his first novel, An Open Swimmer, won the Australian/Vogel Award in 1981, he has won the Miles Franklin Award four times (for Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and Breath) and twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize (for The Riders and Dirt Music). He lives in Western Australia.
by Alexis Wright
The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.
The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.
Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her books include Grog War , a study of alcohol abuse in Tennant Creek , and the novels Plains of Promise , and Carpentaria , which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Victorian and Queensland Premiersí Awards and the ALS Gold Medal, and was published in the US, UK, China, Italy, France, Spain and Poland. She is a Distinguished Fellow in the University of Western Sydneyís Writing and Society Research Centre.
by Evie Wyld
Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep ñ every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.
It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.
Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.
Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop London. Her first novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show’s Best New British Novelists. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Runners-up from the Longlist:
by Ashley Hay
In a small town on the land’s edge, in the strange space at a war’s end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.
In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank McKinnon is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.
Written in clear, shining prose and with an eloquent understanding of the human heart, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart. It’s a story of life, loss and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.
A story that will break your heart with hope.
Ashley Hay is the author of four books of non-fiction – The Secret: The strange marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron, Gum: The story of eucalypts and their champions, and Herbarium and Museum with the visual artist Robyn Stacey. A former literary editor of The Bulletin, her essays and short stories have also appeared in anthologies and journals including Brothers and Sisters, The Monthly, Heat and The Griffith Review. Ashley’s first novel, The Body in the Clouds was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize ‘Best First Book’ (South-East Asia and Pacific region) and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.
by Melissa Lucashenko
When Jo Breen uses her divorce settlement to buy a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a blossoming connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter Ellen, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours, and a looming Native Title war among the local Bundjalung families. When Jo stumbles into love on one side of the Native Title divide she quickly learns that living on country is only part of the recipe for the Good Life.
Told with humour and a sharp satirical eye, Mullumbimby is a modern novel set against an ancient land.
Melissa Lucashenko is an Australian writer of mixed European and Murri (Aboriginal) heritage. She was born in Brisbane in 1967, and attended public primary and secondary schools there. Melissa received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University, graduating in 1990. She lives between Brisbane and the Bundjalung nation.
by Trevor Shearston
It is 1865. For three years Ben Hall and the men riding with him have been lords of every road in mid-western New South Wales from Bathurst to Goulburn, Lambing Flat to Forbes. But with the Harbourers’ Act made law, coach escorts armed now with the new Colt revolving rifle, and mailbags more often containing cheques than banknotes, being game is no longer enough.
The road of negotiated surrender is closed. Jack Gilbert has shot dead a police sergeant at Jugiong. Constable Nelson, father of eight, lies buried at Collector, killed by John Dunn. Neither time did Ben pull the fatal trigger, but he too will hang if ever the three are taken. Harry Hall is seven. Ben has not seen the boy since his wife Biddy left to live with another man, taking Harry with her.
The need to see his son, to be in some way a father again, has grown urgent. But how much time is left before the need to give the game away and disappear becomes the greater urgency?
About the Author
Trevor Shearston is the author of Something in the Blood, Sticks That Kill, White Lies, Concertinas, A Straight Young Back and Dead Birds. He lives in Katoomba, NSW with his family.
by Nicolas Rothwell
Elegiac and seductive, Belomor is the frontier where truth and invention meetówhere fragments from distant lives intermingle, and cohere. A man seeks out the father figure who shaped his picture of the past. A painter seeks redemption after the disasters of his years in northern Australia. A student of history travels into the depths of religion, the better to escape the demons in his mind. A filmmaker seeks out freedom and open space, and looks into the murk and sediment of herself.
Four chapters: four journeys through life, separate, yet interwoven as the narrative unfolds.
In this entrancing new book from one of our most original writers, we meet European dissidents from the age of postwar communism, artists in remote Australia, snake hunters, opal miners and desert magic healers. Belomor is a meditation on time, and loss: on how the most bitter recollections bring happiness, and the meaning of a secret rests in the thoughts surrounding it.
About the Author
Nicolas Rothwell is the award-winning author of Heaven and Earth, Wings of the Kite-Hawk , Another Country , The Red Highway and Journeys to the Interior . He lives in Darwin, and is the Australianís roving northern correspondent.
by Tracy Farr
The debut novel from a wonderful new talent.
This is the story of Dame Lena Gaunt: musician, octogenarian, junkie.
Lena is Music’s Most Modern Musician; the first theremin player of the twentieth century.
From the obscurity of a Perth boarding school to a glittering career on the world stage, Lena Gaunt’s life will be made and torn apart by those she gives her heart to.
About the Author
Australian-born author Tracy Farr has lived in Wellington, New Zealand since 1996. Her debut novel, The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, is published by Fremantle Press.
This article appears courtesy of Booktopia.