2023 Long and Short Lists

'The Jaguar' wins 2023 Margaret and Colin Roderick Literary Award

The winner of the Margaret and Colin Roderick Literary Award for 2023 has been announced and it is Sarah Holland-Batt for her novel The Jaguar, published by University of Queensland Press.

The Jaguar, by Sarah Holland-Batt, was praised by Award judges for the author’s sustained intensity of imagery in a powerfully-coherent collection of poems written around the dying and the death of the poet’s father.

“It’s rare for a volume of poetry to be so coherent: it functions as a complete whole, a volume not just a collection,” Chair of the judging panel, Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson, said.

“The Jaguar is astonishing for its use of rhetorical, poetic and metaphoric language to convey strong, sometimes searing and sometimes intimate emotions.

“Holland-Batt almost overwhelms us as she uses every poetic tool at her disposal to come to terms with her grief.”

Ms Holland-Batt’s poetry collection was chosen from an Award shortlist of seven and a longlist of 15 books that seeks to reward the best Australian book from any genre.

The Jaguar has already been recognised by The Australian Book of the Year Award, the Stella Prize, and the Queensland Premier's Award for a Work of State Significance.

Read more.

2023 Short List

Released on 17th August 2023, the short list is a winnowing of one of the biggest, most diverse, and best set of Roderick entries ever received.

The shortlisted titles are:

With some cynicism and with humour, The Angry Women’s Choir looks long and hard at feminism and the patriarchy in the 2020s. The women are angry, and their anger produces not just beautiful music but a national movement of reform. All the women who make up the choir have fascinating stories – a good read with a strong message.

What happened next? is the basis for this fascinating tale of Johnny Day, a little boy from Ballarat. At ten he became the World Champion in pedestrianism, the sporting craze of the day. A few years later he won the Melbourne Cup on a horse called Nimblefoot and then he disappeared. Drewe reimagines what his life could have been, in a great yarn.

Aimed at the tween/teenage market, this book addresses some heartbreaking problems in an engaging way. Jones moves to the city from the country at eleven years old and befriends August. Together they face their problems with courage and humour – Jones has cancer, August has family problems but they make a bucket list of adventures and embark on them. Not just for kids, this is a great read.

A powerfully-coherent collection of strong, sometimes searing, sometimes intimate, poems written around the death of her father. The rhetorical, poetic, metaphoric language almost overwhelms as she attempts to use every tool at her disposal to come to terms with her grief.

This lyrical volume explores the possibility of a perfect story to convey and soften the hardest things.  It’s a memoir, a family celebration, an odyssey through the terrors of illness and death; a salutation to the power and promises of storytelling. Tracing her partner’s illness while searching for the perfect way to tell and protect her small sons, the writer highlights the joy of reading, and uncovers the transience and endurance of family life. Beautifully written, effectively and surprisingly illustrated, it is a storybook for dark and light times.

Largely ignored by historians, two Adelaide men, Howard Florey and Mark Oliphant, played significant roles in the victory in WWII. Florey discovered how to create penicillin in large enough quantities to be useful; Oliphant developed microwave radar and persuaded the US to build the atom bomb. It’s detailed but fast moving and you can’t put it down.

An outstanding first novel about a disappearance in a small country town; a detective novel that manages to focus on the community, friends, families as well as the detective from the prelude, the day of disappearance, the search, and its aftermaths from many points-of-view. Detailed and finely-written Australian rural noir.

2023 Long List

15 books were longlisted for the 2023 Margaret and Colin Roderick Literary Award, including an art book and an encyclopaedic dictionary. The 225 submissions reflected this diversity, and so does the longlist …

2023 Margaret and Colin Roderick Literary Award Long List

Longlisted books include those below and the seven listed above in the short list.

This beautiful book is a map of country, an art book, a guide to country and a celebration of place and culture. It reproduces Pike’s extraordinary luminous drawings and paintings alongside accompanying stories and photographs, generously introducing readers to Ngurrara (home country) around Juwaliny (the Great Sandy Desert), depicting law, land, seasons, creatures and plants.

Another first book by a very accomplished writer (and a very significant artist), it frequently surprises the reader with seemingly random changes of narrative focus, chronology and even tone. A finely-written, and ultimately very coherent, account of the long life-journey “home” to Australia and changes in perceptions and relationships.

This novel cleverly addresses the fictional nature of life writing, intertwining the stories and lives of autobiographical subjects–Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf—with that of an imagined biographer, Alice Fox.  It is also a lively and witty meditation on the struggles, pleasures and politics of writing.  Setting part of the book during the COVID pandemic uncovers unexpected ways in which past lives infiltrate the present.

This small gemlike book takes as its starting point the great fire which destroyed most of Salonika (Thessaloniki) in 1917.  It ranges across the lives of the women and some of the men in and around the Scottish Women’s Field Hospital at this World War 1 front, portraying moments of challenge and unspeakable damage and exploring the importance of reflection and self-reflection.

A massive outcome of 50 years of collaborative research by Indigenous and non-Indigenous speakers and researchers from many disciplines, this is both a comprehensive dictionary of Warlpiri language and an encyclopaedia of a way of being and knowing which challenges Western comprehension.  For a non-Indigenous reader its arrangement of words and sentences with meanings and examples indicates the richness and complexity of Warlpiri culture and points to the wealth of living and endangered languages in Australia.

While every Australian knows something about the breakout by Japanese prisoners of war in Cowra in WWII, this book sheds a new light on how and why it happened. It examines the motivations and expectations of both prisoners and their guards and explains how the differences in their cultures made reconciliation impossible. It brings history alive.

The third in his Bass Strait historical trilogy is a moving account of interactions between the small group of Europeans and Tasmanian first nations people who end up in the doomed community at Wybalenna on Flinders Island. Deeply respectful, mournful, spirited and widely-researched.

Another first book, it’s a remarkably wise, compassionate and eloquent memoir by a young Gomeroi/ Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi woman: a work of both memory and discovery of the pressures of growing up in a pretty dysfunctional family; and a beautiful account of growth as a woman, a mother, a writer, a daughter and a wife while learning to live on new country and in a new professional identity.