'Splendid' novel by wins 2021 Colin Roderick Literary Award
The enthralling coming-of-age story of a boy living in rural Victoria has won this year’s Colin Roderick Literary Award.
The Award, administered by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies based at James Cook University’s Bebegu Yumba campus in Townsville, has gone to Sofie Laguna’s novel Infinite Splendours.
Having previously been longlisted for her 2017 novel The Choke, Ms Laguna has been awarded the $20,000 prize and its accompanying H.T. Priestley Memorial Medal.
“I am thrilled to be the recipient of the 2021 Colin Roderick Literary Award and am honoured and grateful to the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies, to the late Professor Colin Roderick, and his wife, Margaret Roderick,” Ms Laguna said.
“Writers don’t write books with prizes in mind – our reasons are far stranger, more mysterious and complex – but to have our work acknowledged in this very public and generous way is deeply affirming, not to mention helpful in the most practical of ways.”
With heartbreaking intensity, Infinite Splendours tells the story of Laurie Loman, a bright, artistic 10-year-old boy living in rural Victoria as he experiences horrific betrayal, and in the aftermath tries to recover his life and sense of identity.
One of the many striking elements of Infinite Splendours is its mixture of weight of subject and lightness of voice. The narrative is poetically rich but also precise and persuasive. Read more.
2021 Short List
The 2021 Colin Roderick Literary Award short list was released in August 2021. Female authors dominate, having written five of the six shortlisted books, among which Witness by Louise Milligan is the only work of non-fiction.
Disher’s Consolation is about Paul Hirschhausen, the only police officer in a small town in country South Australia. There’s a lot going on in the area patrolled by ‘Hirsch’, while Disher’s descriptions of people and places are deft and full of energy. Consolation is another classy whodunnit from a reliably skilful writer.
Melting Moments tells the story of Ruby, from childhood to old age, the latter almost unexpected, so vivid and vibrant is Goldsworthy’s portrait. Ruby has had some ‘melting moments’ in which she has queried notions of what women enjoy and aspire to, but struggles a little as her daughter embraces the social change of the sixties and seventies.
Harper offers a multi-stranded ‘whodunnit’ that centres on the changing world of a tourist town whose people know each other almost too well. With dexterity and sympathy she depicts family conflicts and small-town relationships, while unravelling a series of secrets that have, until now, protected the guilty and the innocent in equal measure.
This novel opens out an apparently simple question: what happens when a clever and creative child is not able to fulfil the promise that seemed inevitable? Sustained only and largely in secret by his art, the narrator is a troubled and troubling character. In a story that builds slowly, Infinite Splendour has a denouement that will leave you gasping for breath.
Using examples from actual court transcripts, Milligan shows the ordeal of acting as a witness in a trial for sexual assault, a process in which defence barristers, often expert and experienced courtroom performers, try their utmost to fulfil their professional duty to create ‘reasonable doubt’. The effects on witnesses can be compounded when they have been the victims of the crime committed by the defendant.
If some readers might find Jessie Tu’s story of a young woman who combats her sense of isolation with sexual adventures confronting, others will find it enthralling. The novel asks how teachers and families respond when young people – here, a former child prodigy on the violin – assert control, escaping the constraints of family and of professional cultures.
Conte’s expansive and impressive book focuses on a dedicated reader of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, who happens also to be a surgeon in the invading German army in the winter of 1941. His clashes with the dedicated keepers of Tolstoy’s house and memory are tempered by their shared love of the writer.
Convery shows the empathy of a participant and the diligence of a scholar in her sensitive and intelligent discussion of the sport of boxing. She opens out the reasons why the effects of contact sports are taken for granted, with disastrous consequences for participants.
A frank and briskly-paced memoir of an Australian Victoria Cross winner that emphasises the difference between war as it is presented by Hollywood and the media, and war as it is lived by soldiers in training and combat – the latter a world in which ‘death comes easy, efficiently, and with no fanfare’.
We all learned about Banks at school, but Kieza manages to combine some very thorough research with an engaging style and sympathy for a very original man of his time. Banks may be one of the best-known early European scientists to have visited Australia, but this is an engaging re-introduction to him.
With a lively working-class male protagonist dispatched to an elite private school, and its visceral evocation of Melbourne, this ironically titled novel will recall Christos Tsiolkas’s Barracuda for some readers. It shows the distances and disconnections that can limit family life and friendships.
Appealing to younger readers and hockey players, Bindi is a sequence of well-crafted and lively poems about family and school life. A late set of poems on the family’s experience of bushfires, and well-crafted drawings, add emotional weight to a finely produced book.
Set in the fictional town of ‘Darnmoor’, ‘Gateway to Happiness’, Simpson’s novel is both epic and domestic, with finely crafted writing to match. It presents a detailed, loving portrait of an Indigenous family living in rural Australia that culminates in a terrible and misguided reckoning for a history of racist violence.
Tan’s writing mixes originality and philosophical seriousness with humour that is often droll or ironic. The title story will have special appeal for those tiring of the new fashion for domestic electrical appliances to have minds of their own, and a tendency to patronise their users.
A children’s picture book that tells the story of a family formed on the Victorian goldfields in 1851. The daughter of an English immigrant meets a teenage boy from Canton, against the background of the conflict and violence that culminate in the Eureka rebellion.