Australian writing has never been finer, which means this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award Longlist is jam-packed with extraordinary books, ranging from literary to exhilarating and everything in between.
There are nine books competing for the prestigious award and all of them have been picked for their strength in representing the concerns of Australian modernity, such as assisted suicide in The Easy Way Out by Steve Amsterdam, loss and solitude in The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn, brutal murder in An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, family redemption in A Loving, Faithful Animal by Joesphine Rowe, and so much more.
The judges are going to have a hard time selecting a winner. Who do you think will win? Pick your number one from the longlist here:
The Easy Way Out by Steve Amsterdam: If you could help someone in pain, would you? In this powerful novel, award-winning author Steven Amsterdam challenges readers to face the most taboo and heartbreaking of dilemmas. Would you help someone end their life?
An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire: When 25 year old Bella Michaels is brutally murdered in the small town of Strathdee, the community is stunned and a media storm descends. An Isolated Incident is a psychological thriller about everyday violence, the media’s obsession with pretty dead girls, the grip of grief and the myth of closure, and the difficulties of knowing the difference between a ghost and a memory, between a monster and a man.
The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn: Ava Langdon is often not herself. Having fled her early life in New Zealand and endured the loss of her children, she now lives as a recluse in the Blue Mountains. Regarded by locals as a colourful eccentric, she dresses in men’s clothes and fearlessly pursues her artistic path. All that matters to Ava is her writing. Words offer beauty and a sense of possibility when so much else has been lost. But can they offer her redemption in her last days? Poetic, poignant, and at times bitingly funny, The Last Days of Ava Langdon takes us into the mind of a true maverick.
Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill: O’Neill has written a hilarious novel in the guise of sixteen biographies of (invented) Australian writers. Meet Rand Washington, hugely popular science fiction author (of Whiteman of Cor) and holder of extreme views on race and gender. Meet Rachel Deverall, who discovers the secret female source of the great literature of our time – and pays a terrible price for her discovery. Their Brilliant Careers is a playful set of stories, linked in many ways, which together form a memorable whole.
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe: This book is an incandescent portrait of one family searching for what may yet be redeemable from the ruins of war. Tender, brutal, and heart-stopping in its beauty, this is a hypnotic novel by one of Australia’s brightest talents.
Waiting by Philip Salom: Big is a hefty cross-dresser and Little is little. Little’s cousin, Angus, is a solitary man who designs lake-scapes for city councils, and fireproof houses for the bushfire zone. A handy man, he meets Jasmin – an academic who races in her ideas as much as in her runners. All four are waiting, for something, if not someone.
Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson: Finding those carved trees forged a bond between Jay and her four childhood friends and opened their eyes to a wider world. But their attempt to protect the grove ends in disaster, and that one day on the river changes their lives forever. Seventeen years later, Jay finally has her chance to make amends. But at what cost? Not every wrong can be put right, but sometimes looking the other way is no longer an option.
Hold by Kirsten Tranter: When Shelley meets a man who seems to be Conrad’s uncanny double, the mysterious room begins to dominate her world, becoming a focus for her secret fantasies and fears, offering an escape which also threatens to become a trap. A waking dream of a novel, Hold is spellbinding, sensual and unsettling.
Extinctions by Josephine Wilson: When a series of unfortunate incidents forces him and his neighbour, Jan, together, he begins to realise the damage done by the accumulation of a lifetime’s secrets and lies, and to comprehend his own shortcomings. Finally, Frederick Lothian has the opportunity to build something meaningful for the ones he loves. Humorous, poignant and galvanising by turns, Extinctions is a novel about all kinds of extinction – natural, racial, national and personal – and what we can do to prevent them
About the award
The Miles Franklin Literary Award was established in 1957 through the will of writer Stella Miles Franklin. The bequest came as a surprise to the literary world as Franklin had told nobody – save her trustees – of her plans.
Her will stipulates that ‘[the] prize shall be awarded for the Novel for the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases …’.
The winner of the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award will receive $60,000 in prize money.