The shortlist for this year’s The Miles Franklin Literary Award has been announced today and though the award has sometimes been criticised in the past for male writers dominating the shortlist, this year four out of the five shortlisted authors are female.
Australia’s most prestigious and highly anticipated literary prize has been around since 1957 and was established through the will of My Brilliant Career author, Miles Franklin.
The prize is awarded each year ‘to a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.’ Miles Franklin believed that “without an indigenous literature, people can remain alien in their own soil.”
This year’s shortlisted books (with descriptions by the judges) are:
Hope Farm by Peggy Frew (Scribe Publications): A quietly powerful and haunting novel, full of the aching intensity of the outcast, rendered in pitch-perfect tone and heartbreakingly believable.
Leap by Myfanwy Jones (Allen & Unwin): A beautiful story about the resolution of grief, not by moving on or forgetting, but by finally accommodating, absorbing and accepting its weight.
Black Rock White City by A.S. Patric (Transit Lounge): A fresh and powerful exploration of the immigrant experience and Australian life that explores the damages of war, the constraints of choice, the possibility of redemptive love and social isolation amid suburbia.
Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar (Pan Macmillan): This portrait of frontier life is a timetraveller’s delight as it unsettles assumptions about European ‘settlement’ and its devastating effects on Aboriginal culture, while graphically charting the unequal nineteenth-century power relations between men and women.
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin): A confronting story of misogyny that is both shockingly realist in its details and deeply allegorical in its shape
Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian, Richard Neville, said: “The focus of this year’s shortlist is the creation, maintenance and manipulation of identity: the impact of its dislocation, the devastation of its theft, and the consequences of its re-imagination.
“The 2016 shortlist moves around colonial society, a dysfunctional late twentieth century and a disturbing future, all realised with divergent but consistently powerful voices.”
In addition to Neville, the judging panel includes the Australian journalist and columnist, Murray Waldren; Sydney-based bookseller, Lindy Jones; writer and editor, Craig Munro; and Emeritus Professor, Susan Sheridan.
Perpetual’s (the Award’s sponsor) National Manager of Philanthropy, Caitriona Fay, congratulated the shortlisted authors: “As the shortlist announcement shows, Miles Franklin’s legacy continues to make a significant impact on the lives of authors and booklovers alike.
“There is a passionate literary community in Australia and through Miles’ commitment to philanthropy she has helped to make sure that community continues to thrive.”
Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors. Watch this space for the winning author in August.
See our interview with last year’s winner, Sofie Laguna for The Eye of the Sheep
See the full 2016 longlist here