Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 21, 2010

NOT the Miles Franklin Award 2010

I’ve been mulling over the inexplicable omission of Cate Kennedy’s The World Beneath from this year’s Miles Franklin Award longlist, and have decided to emulate last years NOT the Booker, and see what my readers think.  (I’m still bemused by the omission of Joan London’s The Good Parents(see my review) from the MF listings a year or so ago, and then there is Kate Grenville’s perennial omission – the judges so often get it wrong IMO!)

Your nominations must conform to the rules of the MF trust.  Miles Franklin was passionate about Australian literature and she would be furious to see the inclusion of Peter Carey’s Parrot and Olivier in America in the longlist.   I haven’t read it (and am unlikely to) but I have scoured all the reviews and can’t find one that explains how it meets the provision that it presents Australian life in any of its phases.  (Update, well, yes I did read it eventually, see my review).  As the MF Trust website declares:

The Miles Franklin Literary Award, our first and most prestigious literary award, was established in 1954 with a bequest from the author Miles Franklin. She was concerned to see Australian literature flourish and knew first hand the struggles most authors have in Australia.

The Miles Franklin Literary Award celebrates Australian character and creativity and nurtures the continuing life of literature about Australia. It is awarded for the novel of the year which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.

Some of the literati think this clause is too limiting, and that the global market means that the condition should be jettisoned.  Their argument is that the once the Australian literary identity was formed, i.e. stopped being derivative of English writing, there was no need to protect it. Australian  writers are international now, they say, and can write about anything they like.  Well, of course they can, but they can’t win the MF if the book isn’t about ‘Australian life in any of its phases’.  I’ve read Jill Roe’s award-winning biography, Stella Miles Franklin, and I’m confident that Miles Franklin wanted to support writers who wrote about Australians living Australian lives.  Just as we love to ‘see ourselves’ on TV and in the movies, we love to read about ourselves too.

So, let’s have some nominations for the NOT the Miles Franklin Award 2010 Novel of the Year.  Please add your suggestions to the comments below, including the author, title, publisher & date of publication and your brief reasons why it (a) is of the highest literary merit and (b) presents Australian life in any of its phases.  (I’ll then add them to the list in this post, so please make it easy for me to simply copy and paste by following the format that I’ve used for my nomination).  Titles on the MF judges longlist are eligible too, IF they meet these conditions.   Nominations close at Easter, and then we’ll vote for a shortlist, to tie in with the timing of the MF shortlist, and eventually a winner.

What will the winner get?  Honour and glory in the LitBlog world, and more sales, we hope, because sales encourage our best writers and their publishers to produce more of the books we like!

Of course I’m going to kick off with Cate Kennedy’s book but I’m hoping someone who’s read it will nominate

  • Andrea Goldsmith’s Reunion, which is on my TBR and I expect it to be really good too
  • Gerald Murnane’s Barley Patch, which is also on my TBR, and is bound to be brilliant.

NOT the Miles Franklin Award 2010 Longlist

The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy, Scribe 2009.

The main action of this novel takes place in the Tasmanian Wilderness, and two of its central characters came of age in the defining political moment of 1983 – the fight to save the Franklin River.   The intersection of the intense significance of this moment for Rich and Sandy, with their daughter’s indifference to it, comes to its conclusion in a heart-stopping struggle for survival on Cradle Mountain. Character development is superb, and Kennedy is masterful in contrasting contemporary Australian lifestyles with the timelessness of the wilderness.  See my review.

Update 31.3.10

Reunion,by Andrea Goldsmith, Fourth Estate 2009

I was right – this one ought not to have been left off the longlist either.  This is a compelling novel of ideas that befits its setting in Melbourne, a city of books, writing and ideas.   See my review.


  1. Fun idea Lisa but I have nothing to add. As I said in my Miles Franklin longlist blog I really haven’t read a lot of very current Aussie fiction in the last year. I’ve read The Bee Hut, but that’s poetry, and I’m reading Ransom but would probably have to stretch it to make it fit the rules.

    I am also about to read Andrea Goldsmith’s Reunion – but not until May probably – so can’t even suggest that one!

    I will be interested though to see what others say.


  2. Ransom is so brilliant, it explains why the literati want to tinker with the MF rules – will it win the PM’s award, I wonder? Or (based on last year’s rank outsider winning) are they tasked with finding new talent rather than rewarding well-established writers?
    PS Thanks for the edit *grin* which I’ve fixed.


  3. yes, I’m loving Ransom. I read about 25 pages last year before I went to the literary breakfast with him and devoured it, but decided to put it aside until my f2f was going to do it, which is this month. I reread those pages and more this morning and loved it again. His writing is stunning isn’t it.


    • I think I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by David Malouf. Someone wrote somewhere that Ransom is a book that couldn’t have been written by a young man. What do you think?


  4. Great idea, Lisa, although I have nothing to contribute seeing as all the great Aussie stuff I want to read never seems to get published over here and I have to go home and stuff my suitcase every couple of years! But your post has inspired me to read The World Beneath, because I did pick that up when I was in Melbourne at Xmas thanks to you and Angela Myer’s recommendation.


  5. Hi Kim
    Roll on the day when publishers make eBook versions available simultaneously with the print version and international readers can download them the day they discover them, eh?
    Cheers Lisa


  6. It doesn’t get much of a mention in any of the reviews, but there is actually a chunk of Parrot & Olivier set in Australia – Parrot lives there for awhile and has an Australian wife. Sorry, I just had to put my oar in because I’ve seen this criticism everywhere (often by people who haven’t read Parrot).


    • Thank you, Cate, I appreciate this information, and feel free to put your oar in any time!


  7. Another flippant comment from me, Lisa, as a Tasmanian-born reader, re the omission of The World Beneath…. it’s obviously because it’s set in Tasmania. All those maps of Australia omitting the island state have influenced selection.


    • Pam, you must be right LOL, what other reason could there be? Mainlanders have every reason to be jealous of the writing talent coming out of Tassie, a State that punches well above its weight in terms of literary output! Julia Leigh, Richard Flanagan, Christopher Koch – where would we be without them?


  8. I’m in the same situation as Gums, but without the Bee Hut, and I haven’t started Ransom.


  9. Oh DKS, don’t be so formal. You can call me Whispering!


  10. […] amid the banality of everyday life.  Still, longlisting, at the expense of other really terrific books whose omission I’ve posted about, must mean there’s more to Butterfly than the usual teenage angst, […]


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