Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 15, 2010

The 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award Shortlist

Prime Ministers come and go, and the recent ructions in Canberra made me fear for this award, but lo! here is the shortlist for 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award!


Summertime, J.M. Coetzee

The Book of Emmett, Deborah Forster, see my review

The Lakewoman, Alan Gould

Dog Boy, Eva Hornung , see Sue’s review at Whispering Gums

Ransom, David Malouf , see my review

Lovesong, Alex Miller, see my review

As the Earth turns Silver, Alison Wong, see my review


The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent, Michael Cathcart

Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness, Will Elliott

The Colony: A History of Early Sydney, Grace Karskens

The Life and Death of Democracy, John Keane

The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir, Mark Tredinnick

The Ghost at the Wedding, Shirley Walker, see my review

Young Adult Fiction

Stolen, Lucy Christopher

The Winds of Heaven, Judith Clarke

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God, Bill Condon

The Museum of Mary Child, Cassandra Golds

Swerve, Phillip Gwynne

Jarvis 24, David Metzenthen

Beatle meets Destiny, Gabrielle Williams

Children’s Fiction

I’ve read most of these but I don’t usually blog reviews of children’s books, just the ones sent to me for review on my LisaHillSchoolStuff blog and occasionally on Good Reads if I have time.

Cicada Summer, Kate Constable , see my review

The Terrible Plop, Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Just Macbeth, Andy Griffiths and illustrated by Terry Denton

Mr Chicken goes to Paris, Leigh Hobbs

Running with the Horses, Alison Lester

Star Jumps, Lorraine Marwood

Mannie and the Long Brave Day, Martine Murray and illustrated by Sally Rippin

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children, Jen Storer

Harry and Hopper, Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood

PS There are some nice photos of the Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett, making the announcement at Readings.


  1. Thanks for putting up the whole list, I’d seen an incomplete one. I think I’m loosing touch with adult fiction. I guess I’ve heard of all of them at least, and even read one (Ransom). Haven’t heard of any of the YA titles, and have read about half of the Children’s Section. I didn’t like Just Macbeth. Harry and Hopper is good. Freya Blackwood is from Orange. I saw her speak at the local art gallery a month or so ago, and it was just announced that she won the Kate Greenaway Medal this year for Harry and Hopper. Actually she was planning to go overseas when she spoke at the art gallery, maybe she knew then?


    • I like Freya Blackwood’s art…but I haven’t come across Harry & Hopper. Lisa


  2. Thanks for posting this – and the link, again. I’d like to see Eva Hornung win something, but that’s some fearsome competition there!


  3. Has anyone here read The Blue Plateau? I went from the title here to a description of it at the awards website (“told through a variety of literary forms – history, travel, biography, memoirs, poetry and prose”) and I’m wondering if it’s anything like William Least Heat-Moon’s PrairyErth, which also tries to get at a place in a variety of ways: it examines, geography, folklore, anecdote, ecosystems, etc. (I’ve thought about doing something like this, but I’d choose somewhere small-scale and underrated, like Moe.) Is there a sample of Tredinnick’s book online anywhere?


    • Don’t know, Deane…can anyone else help?


      • I’m stopping by to say that I’ve found a copy of The Blue Plateau. Verdict? It’s a smooth-moving non-fictional fiction — “its logic is poetic” — though Tredinnick has an anxious habit of being not just poetic but also Poetick, and speaking in fridge magnet grandeurs. “Who we are in the end is what love leaves behind,” for example, or calling a list of Aboriginal words, “this small poem of the sound of water falling in a valley.” Then a woman jots down a list of events she remembers and he writes, “This is a memoir in free verse.” (“Oh God,” he seems to be fretting, “what if they don’t understand that I’m a poet?”) Things are better when he relaxes and lets his research speak for itself. One short sentence about cooked parrot tasting like apples is worth more than all the sentences that insist on being Poetry. Good research, good organisation of material, and the “variety of literary forms” is well appreciated. Comparing it to Heat-Moon’s work, I think some of H-M’s nuts-and-guts approach wouldn’t have gone astray, but at least Tredinnick doesn’t (like H-M) spend the last chapter mistaking himself for the reincarnated love child of Walt Whitman and Chief Sitting Bull.


  4. Thanks for posting the list. Summertime is my favorite book among those published in the last year and that I have read. Yet, I am not rooting for it, because I would probably prefer to see a less well-known book and author get a boost. Coetzee should maybe be exempted from awards. I think everyone agrees he is brilliant, even those who may not particularly care for his writing.

    If they don’t, they should. Heh.


    • It’s a tricky issue, I think.

      In one way, I think that an award should be for the *best* book (however that might be defined). In another, high profile awards are an opportunity to bring lesser-known authors to public attention, and perhaps to introduce the public to more exhilarating writing.

      Patrick White exempted himself, but perhaps he could afford to. After all, even a Nobel prize winning author might not be well-off. I know nothing about Coetzee’s circumstances but I’ve never seen his books anywhere near the best-seller lists, not even in indie bookshops. So maybe an award which enables a great writer to go on writing is a good thing too.

      I also think that if I were an author of any merit, I might want to be acknowledged as such. I might want to win my country’s highest prestige award, just as cyclists want to win the Tour de France even if they’ve already won Olympic medals.

      I think the solution is to have lots and lots of awards. I want the philanthropists of Australia to fund many, many more…only now that there is talk of interference with the terms of Miles Franklin’s Will, who can feel confident that the award they set up will be honoured?

      I’ve only read three of the shortlist, but of those three, I think I would like Ransom to win. I think The Book of Emmett is a very fine first book, and Lovesong is beautiful – but there is something about Ransom which sings in my heart, months now after I read it. Lisa


  5. Your Prime Minister reads books? Wonderful.

    While admiring the breadth of the list, my only regret is that I know none of them in any detail.


  6. *chuckle*
    Oh Tom, it’s hard to say! Our PM till 3 weeks ago was Kevin Rudd and he was a workaholic. I don’t know whether he ever took time to read anything except political books but he did initiate this award two years ago, with a handsome tax-free prize of $100,000 AUD.
    However, his own party booted him out and now we have Julia Gillard. First female PM, but does she read books? Will this award survive under her leadership, if she wins the election she announced today? She’s more populist than him, and she may not care to be associated with ‘his’ award anyway.
    We shall have to wait and see…
    PS Tom, I would highly recommend Ransom to you…knowing you as I think I do, I think you would really admire it.


  7. Lisa,

    Excellent points, all. I admire Patrick White’s decision, but that shouldn’t mean I expect every other renowned writer to follow suit. And, as you say, we don’t know Coetzee’s situation. Though I find it hard to believe that with, what, two Bookers, a couple or three novels shortlisted for Bookers, and a Nobel that his backlist doesn’t do sufficiently well to keep him writing. Maybe it is that I just don’t want to believe that would be possible. But, I don’t know.

    I think the other thing is that I see this as an Australian award and I don’t see Summertime as an “Australian” book. In other words, Coetzee is sort of a ringer.

    Enough about my not rooting for Summertime, I do want it to be widely read and appreciated. It is an excellent book, an excellent conclusion to his atre-biographical (I think that’s the term he likes) trilogy.

    But, mainly, I hope the award stays around. $100k tax-free can keep a writer going for a bit.


  8. Well, Kerry, at least the award is still happening for this year!


  9. […] Happy Anniversary ANZ LitLovers! Celebrate by clicking that link, or this one to the announcement of the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award Shortlist. […]


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