Pageturners enjoyed wonderful discussions about the authors and books longlisted for the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Awards. Here are some of their comments:
Infinite Splendours by Sophie Laguna – “Amazing story, riveting, powerful, tragic, engrossed by it, the man wanted to recapture being a 10 year old boy, it is the greatest tragedy this, child abuse destroys his life, quite confronting, there’s a big gap in the book, incredibly brave book, dark themes, her writing shows depth and anxiety, it is a way into the characters, you can really feel what they went through, it can help people to understand the subject.”
Amnesty by Aravind Adiga – “An illegal immigrant story, living under the radar, drags on a bit, Australia not shown in a good light, the cactus was strange, fear of discovery well portrayed, the inhumanity of the immigration system is shown, could have been halved, the education course could’ve been a scam, they might do the right thing but the country won’t do the right thing, it too there is too much happening for one day, the way he wrote it was tedious, he was having a terrible time, he was taken advantage of, it shows what it is like to be an illegal immigrant, the book is like him and the stress he lives under, all these different thoughts keep coming up in his mind, it is thought-provoking, worth reading and persevering with.”
The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott – Told in four parts, starts with a legend of a beautiful bird, the setting could be anywhere, the story goes back to childhood and into the future. I enjoyed it, beautiful imagery, it lost me a bit, what is a “steep plain”, it is really different.
Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos – The timelines were a bit tricky, Greek Australian culture, a lot about families, the ending was underwhelming, , easy and quick to read, there were two times – 1913 and 2002, it is very believable, all the intersections of characters were well done, enjoyed it, parts of it were really up and going, well-constructed, very Australian.”
The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey – Art can be ruthlessly destructive or restorative, positive and hopeful, a mother’s guilt, she was not upset by mental illness, there needs to be a sequel, so many unanswered questions, what happens? Her son is in prison, I was really touched by this story, the book is the labyrinth – it meanders and spirals etc, very clever. This book is an “experience”, the prison scenes are confronting, there is so much in this story, the labyrinth is healing, destructive and beautiful all at once.
Stone Sky Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe – It started of being really interesting, it’s about poverty, gold prospecting, children, struggle, but then it goes “Pfft….” by the end, really went nowhere and implodes on itself.
The Fifth Season by Philip Salom – This was a little tedious, I wanted to enjoy it, it is set in a coastal town, the fifth season is truth, love or knowledge, it is clever and esoteric, I wanted to love these characters, but it was self-indulgent.”
At the Edge of the Solid World by Daniel Davis Wood – This is a masterpiece, it is about grief, a child dies and life disintegrates, tragedy, it is red hot for 400 pages, it drills down the grief, you are there with him every step of the way, it is very real, you can easily see someone going through this, he deals with grief differently than his wife, he never sleeps, he follows the shooter story – that’s how he tries to cope.
The 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist is:
- Amnesty by Aravind Adiga (Pan Macmillan): Danny – Dhananjaya Rajaratnam – is an illegal immigrant in Sydney having fled Sri Lanka. For three years he’s been trying to create a new identity for himself, but then one morning he learns a female client of his has been murdered.Should Danny come forward with knowledge he has about the crime and risk getting deported, or saying nothing? Over the course of a single day he must wrestle with his conscience and decide if a person without rights still has responsibilities.
- The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott (Text Publishing): Robbie Arnott’s second novel is equal parts horror and wonder, and utterly gripping. Ren lives alone on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup. High on the forested slopes, she survives by hunting and trading – and forgetting. But when a young soldier comes to the mountains in search of a local myth, Ren is inexorably drawn into an impossible mission.
- At the Edge of the Solid World by Daniel Davis Wood (Brio Books): In a village in the Swiss Alps, a husband and wife find their lives breaking apart following the death of their firstborn. On the other side of the world, in their hometown of Sydney, a man commits an act of shocking violence that captures international attention. As the husband recognises signs of his own grief in both the survivors and the perpetrator, his fixation on the case feeds into insomnia, trauma and an obsession with the terms on which we give value to human lives.
- The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey (Text Publishing): This deeply meditative book follows Erica Marsden, who, in a state of grief, retreats to a quiet hamlet near the prison where her son, an artist, has been imprisoned for homicidal negligence. Living in a rundown shack, she obsesses over creating a labyrinth by the ocean. To build it, Erica will need the help of strangers. This is a hypnotic story of guilt and denial as well as a meditation on how art can be both ruthlessly destructive and restorative.
- Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos (Pan Macmillan): The book centres around Lucky, a second-generation Chicago-born clarinet-playing Greek man who finds himself in wartime Australia in the ’40s, escaping service by impersonating “king of swing” Benny Goodman. Lucky comes into money through personal tragedy and uses it to run a successful franchise of cafe diners. Spanning decades, this unforgettable epic tells a story about lives bound together by the pursuit of love, family, and new beginnings.
- The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts (Pushkin Press): This debut novel is about coming of age in a dying world and exploring our capacity for harming ourselves, each other and the world around us. Facing the open wilderness of adulthood, our young narrator finds that the world around her is coming undone. She works part-time as an emergency dispatch operator, tracking the fires and floods that rage across Australia during an increasingly unstable year. Drinking heavily, sleeping with strangers, she finds herself wandering Sydney’s streets late at night as she navigates a troubled affair with an ex-lover. Reckless and adrift, she begins to contemplate leaving.
Pageturners enjoyed discussions about which book may win the prize. The winner will be announced Thursday 15 July at 4pm.