Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 21, 2010

Miles Franklin Shortlist 2010

Here’s the 2010 shortlist for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and links to the ones I’ve reviewed.

• Alex Miller – Lovesong, see my review.
• Brian Castro – The Bath Fugues, see my review.
• Craig Silvey – Jasper Jones, see my review.
• Deborah Forster – The Book of Emmett, see my review.
• Peter Temple – Truth (I’ve read it, but I don’t review crime novels).
• Sonya Hartnett – Butterfly,  see my review.

The press release describes the books as a celebration of diversity….

  • Lovesong is a story of marriage, of people coming undone by desire, of ordinary lives and death, love and struggle, told in Miller’s distinct voice which is filled with intelligence, clarity and compassion.
  • The Bath Fugues is a meditation on melancholy and art, in the form of three interwoven novellas; each dealing with questions of deception and discovery and each stretching the bonds of trust and friendship.
  • Jasper Jones: When Jasper Jones visits Charlie Bucktin on a hot summer night in 1965, Charlie bears witness to Jasper’s horrible discovery and in the summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.
  • The Book of Emmett:  Emmett Brown is dark and moody – but also a waylaid romantic with one hand on his Hemingway and the other around a bottle. As he becomes a terror to his wife and children, his family form bonds which are complex, strong and impossible to break. As Emmett lays dying, they come to discover love – however imperfect – is the best protection.
  • Truth is the much anticipated sequel to The Broken Shore and is a novel about murder, corruption, family, friends, honour, honesty, deceit, love, betrayal – and truth.
  • Butterfly – On the verge of her fourteenth birthday, Plum knows her life will change. But she has no idea how. Over the coming weeks, her neighbour will show her how she might fly, her brother will court catastrophe in worlds she barely knows exist and her enemies will try to lead her on and take her down. Who forgets what happens when you’re fourteen?

Responses

  1. Hi Lisa,
    Given your extensive reading of Aussie literature, I’d be keen to know what you think it takes to win the MF, that is, are there any themes or attributes that all or most of the winners possess that others don’t? Or is it more dependent upon that year’s judges? Are there any recent trends for the winners?
    jb@LD

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  2. What do you think of this list, Lisa? I thought Butterfly was average and Jasper Jones was very poor (not yet reviewed it, but it’s only worthy of 2 out of 5 stars IMHO). I’ve not read any of the others, but my first (uneducated) opinion is that this is a pretty rubbish short list. I’m prepared to be convinced otherwise.

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  3. ‘I don’t review crime novels’ — what the ??

    Truth is on the MF shortlist because it’s a great Australian novel, irrespective of genre. Pretty shortsighted attitude to refuse to review it it because it features police and criminals. Bit like saying Jasper Jones or Butterfly are YA novels because they feature underage protagonists.

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    • Hey Wilma, it takes time and effort (and a certain amount of skill) to review a book. I do this for fun and I don’t want to put that time and effort and skill into reviewing books I don’t like. Plenty of other people can do it if they want to…find their reviews, please, and don’t have a go at me because I don’t choose to write about a book or a genre that you’re interested in.
      BTW I don’t label books YA because they have teenage protagonists. The protagonist in Great Expectations is a teenager for a significant part of the story but that’s great literature. Books are usually labelled YA by the publishers who market them, not by me.
      I’ll happily admit that I haven’t read very many of them. Why would I? I’m an adult, and I use the time that I’ve got to read, in reading books that interest me, not books that interest teenagers. As I have written elsewhere, IMO books for the YA market that I have read seem simplistic in their themes and immature in their preoccupations: teenage love, or the lack of it; being misunderstood; relationships with peers and parents; body image issues and so on. I don’t usually find them interesting at all…
      It’s a wonderful diverse world and we all like different things. This is my blog, and it’s about stuff that I like. If you don’t like it, don’t read it!

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  4. Oh gosh, John, what do *I* think it takes to win the MF? This is a hard question, especially since I was so hopelessly wrong in my pick for last year LOL!

    As I have written elsewhere:
    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.

    ‘Literary merit’ is hard to define, and ‘Australian life in any of its phases’ is hard to define. It’s easy to see that Butterfly is too shoddily edited to be a serious contender for a book of high literary merit, and it’s easy to see that a book like Figurehead has a rather tenuous place in the longlist because it’s about a journalist in Cambodia and he could just as easily have been a journalist from anywhere else (still a great book though!) But after that? Your question is really hard. (And remember, I haven’t read Jasper Jones yet. I keep putting it off. )

    If you look at the books that I think are serious contenders for this year’s prize (and remember, I got it wrong last year!) Lovesong is more accessible than The Bath Fugues, but The Bath Fugues is infinitely more sophisticated. The Book of Emmett is more relevant and more ‘Australian’ than either of them, but its literary qualities are not quite in the same league. (Which is ok, it’s a first novel. It’s really, really good for a first novel, and I don’t say that to be patronising, I say that to suggest that we can look forward to some even better writing as Forster’s work matures).

    It seems to me that a choice has to be made between very sophisticated, challenging writing of international quality and at the cutting edge of innovation i.e. The Bath Fugues, and a book of high literary merit but not especially innovative i.e. Lovesong. I think I’d vote for the sophisticated innovative writing, but I’d almost certainly be outvoted by others who think it’s important to engage a wider reading public with a book like Lovesong. I’m not discounting The Book of Emmett but if the judges are looking for a book to appeal widely they might hesitate because the subject matter would probably be a but off-putting for many?

    So my prediction would go to Lovesong, except that this is such an odd shortlist, with such strange and IMO unworthy books on it that I think this judging panel could choose anything!

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  5. Kim, I agree it’s an odd list, but it’s not a ‘rubbish’ list. Lovesong is great literature, The Bath Fugues is brilliant, and The Book of Emmett – well, you know, because you read my review, that Forster has a touch of the great George Johnson about her writing.
    I haven’t read JJ either but I’ll take your word for it because we often agree, and the others, well, let’s just say I’d be embarrassed if either of them went round the world as the best Australian book of 2010!

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  6. Admittedly my labelling this list as “rubbish” was my attempt at playing devil’s advocate. Having only read two, both of them not “great” literature IMHO, I don’t think I’m really qualified to comment.

    Who would you like to win it (rather than who you think will win it)?

    BTW, will be reading Book of Emmett next week — I’m off on a week’s holiday and want to get plenty of reading done.

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    • Sorry, Kim, I didn’t mean it to sound as if I was ‘ticking you off’ *rueful smile*. I know who I don’t want to win, but I’m really torn between The Book of Emmett, The Bath Fugues and Lovesong. All three are great reading and I’d like to see all three authors get a nice fat grant so that they could give up whatever work they do forever and just write books for me to read. Or failing that, I’d like a philanthropist to cough up instead. (Why are rich people in Australia so stingy with their money? Miles Franklin wasn’t a rich woman – far from it – but she’s made a lasting contribution to Australian literature through her bequest, and so did Barbara Jefferson. Why don’t some of our rich-list do the same??) But I haven’t read Jasper Jones yet so I can’t really choose – I’ll have to get to that after I finish Siddon Rock… Lisa

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  7. Thanks for your response Lisa.

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