Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 18, 2021

2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist

The 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist was announced today.  I’ve only read three of them, and if you look at the (same old) morbid themes that the judges are enthused about, you can see why.

  • Amnesty by Aravind Adiga, see my review
  • The Rain Heron was Robbie Arnott, on my TBR
  • At the Edge of the Solid World by Daniel Davis Wood
  • Our Shadows by Gail Jones
  • Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna
  • The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey see my review
  • The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay
  • Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos
  • Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe, on my TBR
  • The Fifth Season by Philip Salom, see my review
  • Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson, on my TBR
  • The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts

“The 2021 Miles Franklin longlist is a rich mix of well-established, early career and debut novelists whose work ranges from historical fiction to fabulism and psychologism. Through an array of distinctive voices these works invite their readers to engage with questions regarding the natural and animal worlds, asylum, sexual abuse, colonialism, racism and grief. These are stories about trauma and loss, and also about beauty, resilience and hope,” said Richard Neville, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian.

How can anyone take these judges seriously when they don’t even longlist The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, by Richard Flanagan?

PS, the next day: Those in the know, which most of us are not, tell me that Flanagan’s book was not entered. The judges, IMO, could and should have ‘called it in’ as a significant book that deserved recognition, and if they found themselves unable to do that they could and should at the very least have made mention of it in their press release.


  1. Richard doesn’t allow himself to be entered anymore, I understand…


    • You might be right. You probably are. If I were him, I’d tell them to take a flying leap too.


      • Or, is it because like Patrick White did, I believe, he wants to give others a chance? (BTW I hadn’t heard that he’s withdrawn from the field but am just pondering the reason.)


        • Whatever his reasons might be, the MF over time has failed to recognise him as one of Australia’s finest writers. The last time he was shortlisted was in 2014 with The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and they gave it to Evie Wyld who wasn’t even born here and has lived most of her life in the UK. In a very strong year in 2009 they passed over Wanting and gave it to Breath which was the weakest of the five on the shortlist. (I wouldn’t have minded if they’d given it to The Pages or Ice, but no.) In 2002 they gave it to that dreary Dirt Music instead of Gould’s Book of Fish which is a work of genius. In 1995 they passed over Death of a River Guide for that tawdry Hand That Signed the Paper.
          As far as I know he hasn’t even had the ALS Gold Medal.
          Don’t tell me politics doesn’t come into it!

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Agree Flanagan is overlooked. EspeciallyNarrow Road which was magnificent.
    Bet you’re happy about the Lohrey (which I still haven’t read!)


    • Yes. That and The Fifth Season are the standout novels for me. I expect to like the ones on my TBR because that’s why I bought them, but I don’t expect any of them to be in the same league as Labyrinth and The Fifth Season.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only read two on this list, but Stone Sky Gold Mountain is one of my favourite reads of 2020.


  4. Interesting list, and I love your interesting commentary. Seems to me that lots of things in the lit community that should probably be discussed, don’t get widely discussed. I’ve no idea if that’s because of fear of putting one’s head above the parapet, lack of interest, or simply because no-one who might be a disinterested observer (such as journalists may have been in the past) has the resources to investigate further?


  5. I’m less enamoured of Flanagan than you. I’ve read, or part read, four books now, and in amongst some brilliant writing, I also find a voice that gets rather carried away by its own cleverness and self-importance at the expense of the story and his characters. I’ve spent ages trying to like him more than I do. But that’s what makes reading so interesting in the end – our differing responses.

    Having said that, I am utterly absorbed/horrified by his recent non-fiction offering, Toxic.


    • I haven’t read that one, I’m not sure I will since most of what he’s on about has been covered in the media anyway.
      I hear what you say about being less enamoured, though I don’t think cleverness is a fault. But that is not the point. I don’t care for Gail Jones’s fiction much, but I bet she’s sick of being passed over time and again by books that are barely literature, and I can see that she hasn’t been treated fairly either.
      The MF has also never seen fit to give the nation’s highest award to Gerald Murnane either despite him being a contender for the Nobel Prize. What is our most prestigious prize for, if not to recognise these writers?


  6. Exactly why I don’t buy books based on awards. I got cross when Bernadine Evaristo had to share her Booker with Margaret Atwood. It’s all political. I just continue to read what I like. The hype often doesn’t live up to the reality. Just my 2 cents.


    • Yes, it’s disappointing.
      (And you have your 2 cents worth here any time!)

      Liked by 1 person

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