Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 6, 2018

2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist announced

Updated 17/4/18 to include a new review:

Well, I am surprised.  The 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist has been announced and Catherine Chidgey’s The Beat of the Pendulum isn’t on it.  Here’s the announcement from their website:

In the contest for the $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, University of Canterbury Professor of English Patrick Evans’ novel Salt Picnic vies with debut writer Annaleese Jochems’ Baby, Wellington lawyer Brannavan Gnanalingam’s Sodden Downstream, and novelist and creative writing teacher Pip Adam’s The New Animals. “We have selected four novels that directly confront and ask questions of both the world and the reader,” says the category judging convenor Jenna Todd. “These authors are pushing at the edges of what is possible in fiction in a style that’s both engaging and brave.”

They were looking for ‘engaging and brave’ and didn’t include The Beat of the Pendulum?   See my review here.

Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize:

  • The New Animals by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)
  • Salt Picnic by Patrick Evans (Victoria University Press), see my review
  • Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson), see my review
  • Baby by Annaleese Jochems (Victoria University Press)

So as it turns out, I have read only one two of the shortlist.  My review of  Sodden Downstream is here, and Salt Picnic is on my TBR on my wishlist to win but maybe not enough people will ‘get it’ for that to happen.

I couldn’t muster enough interest in the other two to track down a copy.

You can read about the shortlists for the other categories here and there are reviews of other longlisted books here.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony on May 15 2018, held as the first public event of the Auckland Writers Festival.


  1. Lisa, stuff happens! My book ‘Return to Moscow’ that you reviewed so enthusiastically last year – thank you again – has not been shortlisted or even longlisted for a single Australian book award. I have given up the cost of entering any more. My last throw of the dice will be the ACT Book of the Year award. As I live here and have won this award twice in the past, ‘Return to Moscow’ might at least be longlisted! Regards, Tony Kevin.


    • It’s very frustrating. In this case, I think the composition of the judging panel has something to do with it. Any panel that has a bookseller on it is always at risk of favouring popular fiction at the expense of less sellable literature.
      But your book, well, it’s swimming against a tide. I hope that at least the ABC and other journos who report on Russia are reading it!


  2. X-Mrs Legend has already expressed interest in Beat. This weekend I loaned my daughter half a dozen new Oz books for her dystopian book club and xML grabbed Terra Nullius. But I’ll buy Beat next time I’m at the bookshop and then see if I can talk her into notes for a review.


    • Nooo, don’t do that, I posted it to you late last week!


      • Of course! Embarrassing that I’ve let you see how poorly my short term memory works. I’ll check the PO tomorrow afternoon – I have half day off to.make up for yesterday’s stupid WA-only public holiday.


        • You don’t like public holidays? I’m a big fan of them myself:)


          • They’re ok to catch up with family but I don’t get anything done! Ordinary people take an hour off work but I often have to take a couple of days to make sure I’m home for any appointment booked in advance.


            • I don’t like public holidays much myself – now I’m retired anyhow! All those working people get in the way of our lovely quiet weekdays!! I just want them to get back to work where they should be, earning money to look after ME in my old age!! (Just joking.)

              Seriously though, you may have read only one Lisa, but that’s one more than I have. As for guessing what’s on shortlists, I don’t even try. I have assumptions that what might be there, but I’m rarely strongly surprised because it’s all so subjective in the end, and shortlists are so short. Not being shortlisted among 5 or 6 books is no indication of not being worth reading.


              • That’s true about shortlists, but I am very disappointed about the Chidgey book. It is so innovative, and so contemporary in its concerns. It really does deserve to be widely read.


            • I think they add joie de vivre to ordinary life… seriously. Even if you love your work, it’s like a gift to have a day off every now and again, a day that is a bonus, to use as you please. It can be unifying too … families get together at Christmas and Easter, friends celebrate New Year, and even people like us who are not interested in sport engage in a bit of frivolity on Melbourne Cup Day.


              • I know what you mean, but truck drivers, miners, police don’t get public holidays. So when we have a day off and have stuff to do, working days are better.


  3. […] Salt Picnic is third in Patrick Evans’ ‘Janet Frame’ trilogy, and IMO, it is definitely the best.  I have previously read and reviewed Gifted and The Back of his Head and appreciated Evan’s witty and provocative sense of humour.  But though Salt Picnic has mildly comic moments, it’s entirely different in tone and the narrative tension makes it a more compelling novel.  It’s been shortlisted for the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Award for Fiction. […]


  4. […] The Beat of the Pendulum didn’t get a mention… My post about the shortlist is here, and you can see my review here and there are reviews of other longlisted books […]


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