2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award Winner

And the winner is …….. drum roll……Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey. Congratulations!

Erica Marsden’s son, an artist, has been imprisoned for homicidal negligence. In a state of grief, Erica cuts off all ties to family and friends, and retreats to a quiet hamlet on the south-east coast near the prison where he is serving his sentence.

There, in a rundown shack, she obsesses over creating a labyrinth by the ocean. To build it—to find a way out of her quandary—Erica will need the help of strangers. And that will require her to trust, and to reckon with her past.

The Labyrinth is a hypnotic story of guilt and denial, of the fraught relationship between parents and children, that is also a meditation on how art can both be ruthlessly destructive and restore sanity. It shows Amanda Lohrey to be at the peak of her powers.

Watch the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award Announcement.

Congratulations to Peggy and Ann who chose the Labyrinth as the winning book!!!! A prize goes to you both!!!

Next Meetings

The Pageturners August meetings will be held on Wednesday 11 August:

The Daytime meeting will talk about The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald.  The Evening group will talk about Sincerely, Ethel Malley by Stephen Orr.

The September meetings will be held on Wednesday 8 September:

The Daytime group will talk about Sincerely, Ethel Malley by Stephen Orr. The Evening meeting will talk about The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald.

Miles Franklin July Discussion

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.

Orange Readers and Writers Festival

Snuggling up beside the fire with a good book is one of winter’s pleasures. So we hope to inspire your reading with our incredible guest authors at this year’s Festival to be held at the Hotel Canobolas, Orange on Saturday 31 July.

Enjoy a lively program of non-fiction and fiction authors with Robert Tickner, Petronella McGovern, Michael Brissenden, Helen Ennis and Todd Alexander.

The main Festival event on Saturday 31 July will be supported by Collins Booksellers. Books by the authors will be available for sale and signing on the day. Tickets $95, early-bird tickets $75 before 1 July.

You are also invited to join expert Kay Soderlund for the Care For Your Collections and Family Heritage Workshop on preventive conservation. Kay will share her knowledge on how to preserve and care for your collections including photos, artworks, objects, textiles and metal.  Please bring along an object or photograph from your family treasures for discussion on Friday 30 July. Tickets $35.

See you soon!

Miles Franklin Shortlist

The Miles Franklin Shortlist has been announced!

The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, alongside award trustee Perpetual, announced the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist, featuring six books by a mix of debut, early career and established authors, all reflecting the rich and diverse fabric of Australia’s cultural landscape.

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 Book Discussion Group will be talking about shortlisted and longlisted novels for this most prestigious literary award at Orange City Library on Wednesday 14 July at the 12.30pm Daytime Meeting and 5.30pm Evening Meeting. We will also try and guess who will win the award!

Enjoy this Miles Franklin Literary Award Shortlist Reading Guide by the ABC.

See you there!

The Paris Library Discussion

Author Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles was inspired by the true story of librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II. Two young women come of age under very different circumstances – one in occupied Paris and one is rural Montana some forty years later.

Pageturners talked about the themes it raised – loyalty – the lack of it and remorse; relationships – with parents, employers, neighbours, siblings and friends; and learning from life lessons.

Pageturners comments included: “I didn’t know about the American Library in Paris, loved all the people that went into the Library, did like it, easy to read, liked all the facts and history, both Odile and Lily were jealous characters, it was a bit contrived, really enjoyed it, the Lily bit was superfluous, Lily reminded Odile of herself, one was in the past and one was in the present, it was so “Mills & Boon”,  it had potential but didn’t fulfil it, some parts were shocking, it is hard to imagine how you would react in the same situation, I didn’t like Paul, poor Margaret,  it didn’t need the Lily story, that whole bit could’ve been cut out,  I wanted more about the story in Paris, I didn’t like all the Dewey Decimal references, I thought they were amusing, the red belt was significant, there was quite a twist at the end.”

Ratings ranged from 2.5 to 4 out of 5.

Further reading:

Burning the Books A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and their race to save the world’s most precious manuscripts by Oshua Hammer

Opening the Windows of the World

Interview with author:

Book Club Kit – Discussion Questions and Interview with Janet Skeslien Charles

Steinbeck Cannery Row Discussion

We had interesting discussions about American author John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row at Pageturners in May Evening and June Daytime meetings.

The slim classic book could be summed up by this quote at the beginning:

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen” and he would have meant the same thing.”

While some readers disliked it for its discomfort, sadness and lack of plot; others criticised it for being too nostalgic and sentimental while many loved the humour.

Pageturners comments included: ”well-crafted, loved this book, descriptive, extra points for the Model T scene, it was bittersweet, quite humorous in places, real acceptance of everyone, love his mind and how it operates, ecological writing, it is a series of vignettes, it is philosophical, I was a bit confused by the ending, get on with life – both the good and bad bits, analysing ordinary people, it is about collections, it is a take on corruption in society, resilience, sometimes it was too descriptive, it was experimental writing.”

“I didn’t get the poem at the end, it is a book of its time, loved the language and how they spoke, I think Steinbeck was Mack, it was so poetic, sadness of the circumstances, some part depressing, the two boys talking was cruel, I loved the parties for Doc, life is like a rockpool, there was the concept of family, it reminded me of Tom Sawyer, the characters were rough around the edges and the scenery was rough, they are misfits, there are parallels with Nomadland, there was a metaphyisical element – dream, faces, music; many funny little bits, it was captivating and entertaining,

In summary it brings up so many things – “judgement, humour, beauty, death, compassion and environment.”

And this: “We will still be reading Steinbeck in 50 years”.

The 5 star ratings ranged from 1.5 to “6” out of 5 with extra points for various scenes eg. Model T, frogs, boiler with no curtains.

Favourite quotes included:

“The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

“Hazel did 4 years in grammar school and 4 years in reform school and didn’t learn anything in either place. Reform schools are supposed to teach viciousness and criminality but Hazel didn’t pay enough attention. He came out of reform school as innocent of viciousness as he was of fractions and long division.”

“Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and turn it into wisdom. His mind had no horizon – and his sympathy had no warp. He could talk to children, telling them very profound things so that they understood. He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him.”

“It is the hour of the pearl – the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itsel.f”

“If a man ordered a beer milkshake he’d better do it in a town where he wasn’t known.”

Extra resources (thank you Eric):

New Steinbeck Novel?:

John Steinbeck’s estate urged to let the world read his shunned werewolf novel 

Steinbeck on King Arthur:

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck – Reading Guide: 9780143105459 – PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books 

Miles Franklin Longlist – July Read

Each year Pageturners read and discuss books in the running for Australia’s greatest literary prize – the Miles Franklin Literary Award. The award Longlist has just been announced! Both the Daytime and Evening groups will talk about these books on the 14 July. Usually each person reads one book and shares their thoughts with the others and we all try and guess who will win! The winner will be announced the next evening! The prize is awarded each year to a novel which is of “the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.”

Perpetual, the trustee of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, announced the 2021 longlist which includes a mix of acclaimed Australian authors and new voices showcasing the richness of Australian literature. One of the 12 authors will win arguably one of the most prestigious literary prizes in Australia, along with receiving $60,000.

The Miles Franklin Literary Award was established by feminist and author of My Brilliant Career, Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin. First presented in 1957, the Award celebrates novels of the highest literary merit that tell stories about Australian life, shining a light on some of the country’s most talented writers.

The 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist is:

AuthorNovelPublisher
Aravind AdigaAmnestyPan Macmillan Australia
Robbie ArnottThe Rain HeronText Publishing
Daniel Davis WoodAt the Edge of the Solid WorldBrio
Gail JonesOur ShadowsText Publishing
Sofie LagunaInfinite SplendoursAllen & Unwin
Amanda LohreyThe LabyrinthText Publishing
Laura Jean McKayThe Animals in That CountryScribe Publications
Andrew PipposLucky’sPan Macmillan Australia
Mirandi RiwoeStone Sky Gold MountainUniversity of Queensland Press
Philip SalomThe Fifth SeasonTransit Lounge
Nardi SimpsonSong of the CrocodileHachette Australia
Madeleine WattsThe Inland SeaPushkin Press

“The 2021 Miles Franklin longlist is a rich mix of well-established, early career and debut novelists whose work ranges from historical fiction to fabulism and psychologism. Through an array of distinctive voices these works invite their readers to engage with questions regarding the natural and animal worlds, asylum, sexual abuse, colonialism, racism and grief. These are stories about trauma and loss, and also about beauty, resilience and hope,” said Richard Neville, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian.

The judging panel comprises Richard Neville – Mitchell Librarian of the State Library of NSW and Chair, book critic Dr Melinda Harvey, author and literary critic Dr Bernadette Brennan, book critic Dr James Ley and author and activist Sisonke Msimang.

Last year, the Miles Franklin Literary Award was awarded to Tara June Winch for her novel, The Yield (2020).

The shortlisted finalists will be revealed on 16 June 2021 and the winner announced on 15 July 2021.

For further information about the Miles Franklin Literary Award: milesfranklin.com.au

Pageturners June Reads

For the Pageturners Daytime Discussion on Wednesday 9 June at 12.30pm – 1.30pm join us for a chat about the classic American read Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Please book your place online or call the Library on 6393 8132.

In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful blend of misfits – gamblers, whores, drunks, bums and artists – survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief. Lee Chong, the astute owner of the well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured ‘boys’ call home. Dora runs the brothel with clockwork efficiency and a generous heart, and Doc is the fount of all wisdom. Packed with invention and joie de vivre Cannery row is Steinbeck’s high-spirited tribute to his native California.

****

And for the Pageturners Evening Discussion join us on Wednesday 9 June from 5.30pm to 7pm to talk about The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. Please book your place online or call the Library on 6393 8132.

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, The Paris Library is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbour. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbour’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favourite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

May Pageturners Reads

Join us for a discussion about The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles at the Pageturners daytime discussion at Orange City Library on Wednesday 12 May at 12.30pm. Please book your place online or call the Library on 6393 8132.

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, The Paris Library is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbour. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbour’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favourite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

And for the Pageturners evening discussion on Wednesday 12 May at 5.30pm – 7pm join us for a chat about the classics American read Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Please book your place online or call the Library on 6393 8132.

In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful blend of misfits – gamblers, whores, drunks, bums and artists – survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief. Lee Chong, the astute owner of the well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured ‘boys’ call home. Dora runs the brothel with clockwork efficiency and a generous heart, and Doc is the fount of all wisdom. Packed with invention and joie de vivre Cannery row is Steinbeck’s high-spirited tribute to his native California.

See you soon.

March Discussion A Room Made of Leaves

Pageturners March Day Time Group talked about A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville. The book is about truth and fiction and the life of Elizabeth Macarthur.

Comments from Pageturners included “I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Kate Grenville writes eloquently and she fictionalises Elizabeth Macarthur’s life in shrewd and playful ways, some things haven’t changes in relation to the position of women, women of the time “made do”, it was really interesting, she was the first educated woman in the colony,  her husband was unfair to her, I wondered what was true and what wasn’t true, you have to be aware it is historical fiction, she had a fire inside her but didn’t let on, she was skilful in handling her husband, she made him think tings were his idea, women have been doing this for years,  Grenville writes well, I enjoyed it, , this is by far the best of all her books, I didn’t understand the review which said “ a toxic appeal of false stories.”

There was a lot of discussion about whether you can use the past to create new fiction and whether descendants would appreciate things in the book being told as true, but may not be so.

The rating for this group ranged from 3..5 to 4 ….so high scores for this book.

Kate Grenville on A Room Made of Leaves: A Room Made of Leaves | Kate Grenville

Guardian Book Review: A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville review – 18th-century struggles | Fiction | The Guardian