Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Do you want to read Down Under?

My loyal friend published an article featuring the shortlist of the first edition of the richest (in terms of $$$) literary award in Australia. What is odd is that the final decision on the winner is to be made by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, after reccomandations from the judges of course. This is why the prize is called Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award. Apart from the fact that I strongly doubt that a Prime Minister will have the time to read 14 books over the next few months, does he really know something about how to write a good book? Here’s the lsit of the 7 fiction books chosen:
  • Burning In by Mireille Juchau: Martine, a photographer in her late twenties, is leaving Sydney and moving to New York for reasons far more complex than her artistic career. Not only leaving her country behind, she’s also on the run from an ageing and lonely mother named Lotte, a Holocaust survivor, who over the years has become increasingly dependent on Martine.
  • El Dorado by Dorothy Porter: In Dorothy Porter's verse novel, a serial killer who gets his poems published in The Age, tough cops, cool teenagers and some oddly matched lovers propel an assonance-driven narrative.
  • Jamaica: A novel by Malcolm Knox: Six friends head for Jamaica to take part in the Negociante Classic, a notoriously tough and dangerous deep-water swimming race.
  • Sorry by Gail Jones: In the remote outback of North-west Australia, English anthropologist Nicholas Keene and his wife Stella raise a curious child, Perdita. Her childhood is far from ordinary; a shack in the wilderness, with a distant father burying himself in books and an unstable mother whose knowledge of Shakespeare forms the backbone of the girl's limited education. Emotionally adrift, Perdita develops a friendship with an Aboriginal girl, Mary, with whom she will share a very special bond. She appears content with her unusual family life in this remote corner of the globe until Nicholas Keane is discovered murdered.
  • The Complete Stories by David Malouf: ‘Here are the Aussie battlers in isolated hamlets, the sons of missing fathers, the mothers of outsize broods and the old women whose memories have led them into a kind of dreamtime. Reading these rich, beautifully wrought stories, you can almost smell the ti trees and hear the screeching as the cockatoos take flight.’ – The New York Times
  • The Widow and Her Hero by Tom Keneally: When Grace married the genial and handsome Captain Leo Waterhouse in Australia in 1943, they were young, in love - and at war. Being abandoned isn't the perfect idea of a marriage, yet Grace cannot quell her admiration for her husband. He is a volunteer on a dangerous mission - sink Japanese shipping in Singapore harbour. The team he's with has done it once, will a second go be as successful?
  • The Zookeeper's War by Steven Conte: another war story. It is 1943 and each night in a bomb shelter beneath the Berlin Zoo an Australian woman, Vera, shelters with her German husband, Axel, the zoo's director. Together, they struggle to look after the animals through the air raids and food shortages. When the zoo's staff is drafted into the army, forced labourers are sent in as replacements. At first, Vera finds the idea abhorrent, but gradually she realises that the new workers are the zoo's only hope, and forms an unlikely bond with one of them.
15/09 Sorry for the previous mistakes with the plots. The plots for The Widow and Her Hero and The Zookeeper's War should now be correct. The irony is that The Zookeeper's War is the winner of the prize.


  1. I'm not sure about the PM having the time... I read very quickly, and I hardly have time.

    Have you read any of these books? I'm surprised that "A Fraction of the Whole" isn't listed.

  2. You have your books confused. The plot you have given for The zookeeper's war is in fact for The zookeeper's wife by Diane Ackerman. And I don't think the Keneally book is set in a zoo in Berlin.

  3. Oh my gosh, anonymous user... you're right!