Australia has a long tradition of travel and expatriotism: in fact one could say that travel is a key part of the Australian experience—the other side of settlement that is unsettlement. Increasingly, much ‘Australian’ literature can be read in a context of ‘world’ literature. A Guide to Berlin is in some ways a very Australian book, but not one parochially so—it reconnects the Australian story to the experience of travel, to displacement, to unsettlement, AND to world literature which is also the shared Australian heritage. Jones’s sentences are crystalline like the snow she writes about so beautifully and poignantly. The narrative took the reader where the story inevitably had to go: on a misadventure. It was a poignant story of lost and dysfunctional postmodern wanderers in search of a tribe, desperate globetrotting people drawn together in their mutual pursuit of some kind of magic in a broken, unhallowed world and ultimately finding only themselves, a lack of moral courage, and bumbling into more brokenness, more hurt, and more damage.
The winner was selected from the following shortlist of which submissions were of a uniformly high standard across several genres ranging from biography and memoir, to history and social commentary, to fictional and imaginative work.
This debut novella struck the right balance between story and beautiful imagery. In its dark psychological pursuit across Europe in the face of grief and a mystery, it reminds one of Tim Winton’s The Riders. It was also a masterful reflection on the refugee crisis and on Australia’s conscious refusal of dealing with modern day displacement. In the end, the narrator’s grief was processed in a very poignant way that acknowledged a connection between her repressed grief and the refugee situation on our doorstep, and she took steps to make amends. For a publishing debut, this book is very strong and we look forward to more writing by Collins as she matures and hones her craft.
This work is an important contribution to the study of Australian modernity and modernism. As well as dealing with “the lives of John and Sunday Reed”, it recreates the whole Heide scene and the beginning of Australian modernist bohemia as well as various tragic ends. A great story that pretty much tells itself.
Ravages, both human and environmental, are the subject of John Kinsella’s Crow’s Breath, a masterful and mature collection of short stories. Kinsella’s stories are evocative, poetic, full of damaged people and places. Kinsella’s fiction is understated and polished. It has that haunting quality about it that makes great short fiction last, like Alice Munro’s and Tim Winton’s, and which compels readers to return to it again and again.
This biography of Archbishop Mannix– arguably the most influential churchman in Australia over the past century – is a masterly study of a complex and very private man. Sympathetic but never hagiographic, it casts a wide net, covering Irish, Vatican, and Australian politics with insight and discernment. Its Introduction is a moving and eloquent reflection on the difficulties and challenges for a biographer in relation to primary research material.
Scrupulously researched and elegantly written, this is a major work by a distinguished biographer at the top of her form.
Beautifully written, often poetic, with surprising epiphanies to spare, and tapping into new environmental consciousness. A meditation on the Australian landscape and its spiritual effect—and a delight to read.
The judges would also like to acknowledge the following titles which made the longlist: