This year’s winners have been announced at an awards ceremony on 31 January 2019.
The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour Australian writing. The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.
The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction: No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani (Picador Australia)
The Prize for Fiction: The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida (Faber & Faber)
The Prize for Drama: The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver (Currency Press, in association with Griffin Theatre Company)
The Prize for Poetry: Tilt by Kate Lilley (Vagabond Press)
The Prize for Writing for Young Adults: Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (Allen & Unwin)
The Prize for Indigenous Writing: Taboo by Kim Scott (Picador Australia)
The Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript: Kokomo by Victoria Hannan
People’s Choice Award: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee (Allen & Unwin)
The winners of the main suite of awards – fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, writing for young adults, and the biennial Prize for Indigenous Writing – each receive $25,000. The winner of the Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript receives $15,000.
The winners of the seven award categories go on to contest the overall Victorian Prize for Literature, worth an additional $100,000. This is the single most valuable literary award in the country.
A snapshot of what’s happening in my reading world. Three books! Three genres! Three reviews! My theme was originally started by Book Jotter under the title ‘Reading Looking Thinking’ but I’m only doing the Reading part for this installment.
Quote “I couldn’t stop staring at babies and toddlers in the street: their impossibly tiny nails, pores around their noses, the way each hair on their head existed not as an individual but as part of a silken wave.” Janice, Page 125.
Toni Jordan’s new book ‘The Fragments’ has hit the shelves and in preparation I’ve just read her novel ‘Our Tiny, Useless Hearts’ which I think is a clever rom-com story. Jordan has the knack of writing intelligent gems of heartfelt dialogue from the mouths of sincere characters then setting them in a ludicrous situation. Well, Caroline’s house isn’t ludicrous, it’s more a trendy vehicle for British-style upstairs, downstairs naughtiness and relevant sex scenes. The main players are two couples with shaky marriages (think clothes shredding) and the rest have grit in their relationships. Protagonist Janice (with microbiologist syndrome) is meant to be the sensible one but she has just as many hang-ups as those around her. Amid the embarrassing yet hilarious turmoil, Janice’s divorced husband Alec turns up. The tension escalates even higher, a bad case of ‘Who is going to explode into a million pieces first?’. I was entertained by this book of forthright and dysfunctional people who drew me into their lives. GBW.
Quote“Browsing is part of the tradition of a bookshop,” Florence told Christine. “You must let them stand and turn things over.” Florence, Chapter 5.
What a sombre little story this is. I try not to read reviews or publicity first so I was quite impressed when I saw that English novelist Penelope Fitzgerald wrote ‘The Bookshop’ in 1978 when in her sixties. That’s a lot of life experience, and later a Booker prize. Fitzgerald had worked for the BBC, taught in schools and ran a bookshop. I felt the struggles of Florence Green, fictional proprietor of the East Suffolk small town bookshop, were genuine. Her droll experiences with young helper Christine Gipping appear to be first-hand. In comparison, I found Mr Brundish, Milo North and the rapper (poltergeist) written along classical lines to add drama. Village life is parochial and Florence battles with Mrs Gamart and her far-reaching resentment against resurrecting Old House as a bookshop. Editor Hermione Lee says that Fitzgerald had a ‘tragic sense of life’ and I agree. But her finesse with dialogue, letter-writing and the unspoken has launched countless tropes. By all means prepare, this book has more thorns than roses. GBW.
Quote“My speciality is Ancient Civilisations with a bit of medieval and Tudor stuff chucked in for luck. As far as I was concerned, 1851 was practically yesterday.” Maxwell, Book 5.
The term preferred by Dr Bairstow, Director of the Institute of Historical Research at St Mary’s Priory, is ‘contemporary time’. Jodi Taylor, author of ‘The Chronicles of St Mary’s’ series, writes about a humorous herd of chaos-prone historians who investigate major historical events. They are led by intrepid historian Madeleine Maxwell (aka Max) Chief Operations Officer. After costume fittings, the historians travel in pods with armed guards to places like Ancient Egypt, Mount Vesuvius, Great Fire of London, etc, to observe and take notes while Time Police loom threateningly. Best read in chronological order but Dramatis Thingummy explains characters and each gripping story unfolds, threefold sometimes, as another disaster hits the team. Historians die; Dr Tim Peterson gets bubonic plague; at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Bard himself catches alight. There are currently 22 books, in long and short format. If, like me, you have ever daydreamed of visiting an historic moment in olden times, these books are for you. GBW.
One post with three acts READING, LOOKING, THINKING, an idea started by Book Jotter, innovative blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley. Her invitation to participate offers a slight change from Thinking to Doing if that suits your purpose. I can love, like or loathe in three short bursts! GBW.
Imagine a world where human inhabitants must bulk-up and hibernate through brutally cold winters, watched over by armed Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently guard the susceptible sleeping citizens. Or do they?
“Early Riser” is the latest novel from bestselling author Jasper Fforde.
A unique and inventive writer, Welsh resident Jasper Fforde creates a mystery novel with skewed social values, high level corruption, bureaucratic cover-ups, bad dreams, mindlessness and the ever-present fear of freezing to death, all set in a bleak yet frighteningly droll otherworld in Wales.
Perfect for the cold northern hemisphere and a cool read for the hot southern hemisphere.
SPOILER ALERT – Jasper Fforde should have his own genre, writing a review is difficult! Please note the book contains references to real food brand names.
Jasper Fforde is known for creating strong female characters and in “Early Riser” he does not disappoint. Aurora and Toccata immediately spring to mind but I won’t go into details. Let’s just say they are not related to Thursday Next, although there are a couple of fan-fic moments.
In this speculative postmodern standalone, the protagonist is Charlie Worthing, a novice Winter Consul who has been trained to stay alive through the bleakest of winters.
Although rather young and innocent, Charlie is chosen to accompany notable Winter Consul and hero, Jack Logan, to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of snow-covered Wales. It’s an honour but Charlie is not at all prepared for what awaits in frigid Sector Twelve.
Part of Charlie’s job is to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation and, first up, there’s the care and delivery of a vacant Nightwalker Mrs Tiffen which causes an unexpected disaster.
With a facial deformity which quickly earns him a nickname, poor Charlie learns dreaming is not encouraged. Especially not about a mysterious blue Buick or a large beach parasol, part of the main “Early Riser” plot. He floats in and out of another Charlie’s dream, and also has problems with a young woman, Jonesy, who takes a fancy to him and decides to create their own backstory as if they are an old married couple.
Winter Consuls carry a Thumper and a Bambi which are deadly guns or, for extra grunt, a Vortex Canon is deployed when necessary to blast snow and anything in it. Thus Deputy Charlie begins Pantry Duty, guarding the winter pantry, under the tutelage of seasoned campaigner Fodder – and things get even weirder!
"Dark humour and entertaining pseudo geek-speak punctuate an otherwise intense novel which touches on community issues relevant today" GBW.
In “Early Riser” prominent themes are human relationships, mental health, bad coffee and sugary food as the isolated enclave carbo-load in preparation for the enforced SlumberDown. Certain behaviour, although legal in this story, is reprehensible by our standards. In Sector Twelve nothing is wasted, so-called Vacants become unpaid workers or body-farmed for those who have lost limbs due to rat gnawing or frost bite.
In most of Jasper Fforde’s tales, the world is run by an evil corporation and here we have HiberTech which supplies Morphenox drugs and encourages the growing of a winter “coat” for hibernation. Charlie encounters The Notable Goodnight, shivers hearing the maybe-less-than-mythical Gronk, and has a shock meeting with posh Villains. Snowy dangers abound, like WinterVolk and Campaigners For Real Sleep. Classic Fforde!
I listened to the “Early Riser” audio book and narrator Thomas Hunt does a variety of accents which keep the pacing levels high. His Attenborough-like chapter introductions are hilarious, a blend of hushed tones and Fforde’s dry wit. Wales comes across as a kind of decimated never-never land, and I’m sure it’s not, but thankfully snow is a rare commodity in Australia otherwise I’d be shaking in my shoes.
+ PLUS Innovative story with a world in a world, the snowbound and the dream-state. – MINUS Some repetition and some chapters are heavy with world-building.
Book rating 4-Star and recommended for readers who can handle comprehensively quirky writing.
When I discover an author with a quirky style, a neo-noir writing streak, I rejoice in their words. It’s a delight to get away from mundane formats, tired classics and generic phrases so overworked in today’s writing scene.
I can remember when ‘dust motes’ were all the rage, not mere dust, it had to be motes floating in the sunlight. Goodness knows why, padding perhaps. I think it’s beneficial for both writer and reader to veer off in another direction occasionally. Leave those tropes behind!
For bookish readers, I will list some of the absurdist fiction writers who have given me a literary lift and added a bit of sparkle to my jaded memory banks. These 10 books impressed me with their originality and unique take on adult life, some with remarkable page layouts.
Numbered but NOT rated in order of preference:
♥ 1 Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Quote “Richly imagined, intellectually teasing: these are not so much small fictions as windows on to entire worlds. A brilliant, giddying read” said Sarah Waters and I definitely agree.
♥ 2 The Midnight Promise by Zane Lovitt
John Dorn is a private investigator solving human puzzles. Complex and beautifully observed characters lead John towards his moment of truth as he strives to keep his promise.
♥ 3 An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen
Speculative erotica showing the best and worst of human nature through Liv as she ages alongside high technology innovation. The transition to a state beyond age, to transcend the corporeal…
♥ 4 The Eyre Affair Series by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next, a fearless woman who traverses a parallel universe inside books. Created with breathtaking ingenuity, her literary world is more believable than most peregrinations.
♥ 5 A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Self-destruction with music in the background. Intimate lives of several characters who reconnect again and again trying to escape the past, delay the future and defy their fate.
♥ 6 Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs…She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse by Paul Carter
Gritty, masculine and rather shocking true story of working on oil rigs in the ocean. Horrible, humorous happenings written down in easily digestible form so that you can’t stop reading.
♥ 7 Atomic City by Sally Breen
A stylised contemporary story set on the glittering Gold Coast, Queensland. Chameleon Jade gets a new identity and with her grifting partner she dares to swindle the Casino swindlers.
♥ 8 Les Norton Series by Robert G. Barrett
Les Norton, a red-headed country lad, works in the big city, fights men, wows women, loves the beach, is either an Aussie icon or a yobbo but each adventure guarantees a twist.
♥ 9 The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen
Lucky, a galah in a remote coastal town, receives transmissions from a satellite dish beaming messages between Apollo 11 and Houston, Texas, which co-mingle with the community psyche.
♥ 10 Dead Writers in Rehab by Paul Bassett Davies
Foster James is supposedly in rehab but he’s probably dead. A dystopian must-read, loaded with satire, dark humour, sexual tension and famous writers like Coleridge and Hemingway.
I think my Top 10 list will suffice . . . oops, I just have to add ‘A Dirty Job’ by Christopher Moore and ‘Insomniac City: New York, Oliver Sachs and Me’ by Bill Hayes and ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders and ‘Human Croquet’ by Kate Atkinson. I love any book by Terry Pratchett and DBC Pierre and there are further ingenious authors I could name (and so could you!) but I will stop here.
How pathetic! We have 24 glorious hours in a day and only one is chosen! And it’s not even held simultaneously around the country! Have you read your one hour today?
This year Australian Reading Hour falls on Thursday 20 September 2018 and the nominal time in the evening is 6pm to 7pm. But individual reading and group reads will be happening all day to avoid important sporting fixtures, special events and venue opening hours, and to accommodate the different time zones in Australia.
Fair enough, however, it’s still one lousy hour! What is the Australian Reading Hour committee thinking? There are 8760 hours in one year, so use some more of them.
If more hours aren’t forthcoming next year, why not (1) disrupt your sporting fixtures (2) put the special event on hold (3) pause during venue opening hours (4) delay that visit to the gym and (5) forget a few things to stop and READ for ONE lousy hour!
Meanwhile, find a really quiet, cosy place and settle down alone. Betcha read for longer than an hour!
Or gather a group together at school, work, bookshops like Avid Reader, the library, the park or get the family together in your own home and read, read, read for one lousy hour.
One hour isn’t going to kill you, the world won’t crumble around you – but you and the adults and children of Australia will visit another place through the pages of a book. For one lousy hour…
This post will bore anyone without children in their lives.
Dads Read recognises that fathers reading to their children strengthens literacy, models positive reading behaviour and builds children’s self-esteem around reading, especially for boys.
Dads Read is an early childhood literacy initiative, developed by State Library of Queensland in 2010 and launched statewide in 2012 as part of the National Year of Reading, to promote family literacy. The program continues to expand and is now being delivered throughout Queensland and South Australia and plans are underway in Tasmania.
You can host your own event with their resources. I’ve seen this program in action with a dedicated group. Children choose a book, a slice of pizza and sit with their fathers to read.
Discrimination doesn’t apply, the Dads Read message is based on the simple but true premise that reading 10 minutes a day to your children is not only quick but also essential.
Dads Read aims to:
Raise awareness of the important role fathers play in their children’s development.
Inform fathers of the importance and benefits of reading to children from their early years, even before they start school.
Promote reading as a family.
Encourage fathers to read to their children and promote the value of reading.
Provide fathers with the tools to give them the confidence to read with their children.
My father was my reading mentor, instilling interest in books, and Dads Read program follows research which highlights the importance of dads reading to their children during their early developmental years. As little as 10 minutes a day improves children’s literacy levels and stimulates creative and critical thinking.
‘Investment in early childhood is the most powerful investment a country can make’. World Health Organization, 2007.
The Dads Read program has helped:
Address a real and significant issue which is at the core of our wellbeing as individuals, families, employers and communities: the need to be literate.
Support literacy development and help to develop the skills of Australia’s future workforce by building everyday skills for sustainable communities.
Build literacy levels among our younger generation while promoting family literacy and boosting the ability of reading in adults.
Connect families and communities in a cost effective and invaluable way.
Having written the first draft of my Memoir for my own need to make sense of the estrangement from one of my sons and subsequent personal upheaval, I was in the middle of a couple of years of therapy in 2016 when I attended the WAM Writers’ Festival. There was a focus on Memoir Writing and one of the published authors, Helena Pastor, had experienced this situation with her eldest son. I wanted to hear what she had to say about her book “Wild Boys: A Parent’s Story of Tough Love“, and how she found the words that were past the raw pain and confusion, which no-one would want to read. I came to realise at that time, I was still too immersed in my own recovery.
It was the previous year when Jessie Cole was featured in an interview by Jason Steger, formerly of the ABC’s long-running…
This fun tag was brought to my attention by productive book blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley of BookJotter fame. Originally created by Beth of Bibliobeth the idea is to share a picture (aka ‘shelfie’) of your favourite bookshelf and then answer ten questions related to the titles displayed.
Visit Beth’sblog to see more info, the logo and tag and view posts by participating bloggers. Then launch your own unique Q&A Shelfie by Shelfie.
I think many readers will find these titles unfamiliar…
1. Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?
Short answer is ‘subliminally shelved’. Long answer is there are many bookshelves in our home and until I decided to participate in Shelfie by Shelfie I didn’t realise that most of my books are grouped. Either when they arrived or over a period of time, I’m not sure. There are clumps like non-fiction, poetry, humour, crime, fantasy and (not all shown) Australian content.
2. Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you, i.e. how you got it / a memory associated with it, etc.
Hard to pick just one. I know some of the authors (or received uncorrected bound proofs to review prior to publication) but my all-time special one would have to be ‘My Beachcombing Days: Ninety Sea Sonnets’ by Brisbane poet John Blight. His daughter, a family friend, gave it to me as a birthday gift in the same year as disastrous flooding hit the city. The flood waters also coincided with me securing a glam job in a travel agency which had 12 inches of river mud throughout the ground floor office.
3. Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?
No contest! It would be Tom Keneally’s ‘Shame and the Captives’ a semi-factual diatribe about World War II prisoners-of-war from Italy and Japan who are held in a compound in Gawell, New South Wales, but allowed to work on a local farm. It does have its altruistic moments but there’s bloodshed aplenty and the ‘uncertainty and chaos’ never worked for me.
4. Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?
‘Withering-by-Sea’ written by children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell. Young heroine Stella Montgomery is the epitome of someone I would have loved to have known when I was a child. I did read a lot of British kids books! Set in Victorian England, the story is both adventurous and creepy. Apart from dressing up as a mature-age Stella Montgomery for library Book Week, two years ago I had my copy of the book signed by Judith Rossell when I attended her writers workshop in historic Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne.
5. Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?
Hmm, that would be a toss-up between Nobel Prize for Literature winner Patrick White ‘The Cockatoos’ and Miles Franklin ‘My Brilliant Career’ both yellowing reprints dated 1974 and 1979 respectively. I guess Mr White wins.
6. Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?
Another toss of the coin. ‘Truly Tan Hoodwinked!’ (Book 5) kids chapter book written by Jen Storer, and ‘Care of Australian Wildlife: For Gardeners, Landholders and Wildlife Carers’ by Erna Walraven, a 2004 revised edition but in mint condition and recently purchased in a second-hand bookshop. The most adorable teeny tiny Koala baby is on the front cover. The Koala wins by a nose.
7. Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)
I have a ‘thing’ for DBC Pierre, expat Aussie writer, and admire his off-kilter books. I own two of his novels (the rest were loans) and love ‘Breakfast with the Borgias’ which I willingly re-read; and I’m usually not a re-reader. Perhaps the fact that one of the characters is named Gretchen has something to do with it.
8. If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.
There is a small cardboard cut-out figure of Lisa Simpson from TV series The Simpsons which probably came with a McDonalds meal deal. Lisa is holding an armload of books and in the show she is the lone advocate of literacy and learning. I always like to think she influenced a generation of TV viewers to read. And that she’s happy on this shelf.
9. What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?
It doesn’t tell you that I borrow hugely from my local library; or that I read too many e-books; nor that my current audio book is, ironically, ‘The Book Case’ by Dave Shelton narrated by Colleen Prendergast. It does shout that I’m an Australian reader.
I read most genres and most writers regardless of nationality (translated helps!) but I keep coming back to Australian authors. In an online book forum, I recall an American reader saying he only read American books because he understood them. He didn’t mean the language, he meant emotional ties, recognition, connection. That’s what I get from Australian books, nevertheless, I do think we have to step outside our comfort zone.
10. Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.
A free question I can make up sounds good. NOTE I do not activate Comments, you will have to answer it in your own Shelfie by Shelfie blog post.
BONUS QUESTION: Do you discuss the books you read in a face-to-face situation, online book reviews, or clutch your latest read to your chest saying ‘my precious, my precious’?
Happy reading, blog stars!
For modern Australian book reviews I can recommend blogger and bookseller Simon McDonald https://writtenbysime.com/ while this list contains notably mature Australian authors: Thea Astley
Janette Turner Hospital
Jill Ker Conway
Leonie Judith Kramer
John Dunmore Lang
James Phillip McAuley
Bernard Patrick O’Dowd
Katherine Susannah Prichard
Henry Handel Richardson
Alfred George Stephens
Arthur William Upfield
Fabulous stage and screen actors reading gloriously fun books. I listened to eight beautifully narrated sound clips by Kate Winslet, Hugh Laurie, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Fry, Andrew Scott, Chris O’Dowd––and I’ve just drooled over Dan Stevens short reading of Roald Dahl’s famous ‘Boy’. What a selection!
Reviewed by Rachel Smalter Hall for Book Riot way back in 2013 who gushed:
“Rioters, I’m so excited. I just can’t hide it. I’ve been holding my breath to share this with you for weeks! The new upswing in audiobook publishing has sent lots of publishers to their backlist to record beloved classics, and one of my favorite projects in this vein is from Penguin Audio, who just released several Roald Dahl audiobooks in July and will release several more this September. The series features some of the UK’s best known screen and stage actors. Here are sound clips from eight of the narrations that have got me squealing like a thirteen-year-old at a slumber party.”
I SAY IT’LL MAKE YOUR EARS HAPPY––SMILES GUARANTEED
TAP ON EACH INDIVIDUAL TEASER WHICH I HAVE CAREFULLY SELECTED FOR YOU FROM A LOVINGLY CURATED ROALD DAHL SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST