The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction considers first and second books from Australian authors, with the aim of recognising exciting and exceptional new contributions to local literature.
Over the past year, the judges have read their way through over 70 Australian titles and were impressed by the number of edgy voices who didn’t shy away from starkly original concepts. The task of filtering the terrific longlist down to a shortlist of just six books was difficult, but in the end they considered the following books to be their top picks…
The Windy Season by Sam Carmody
The Windy Season pulls the reader into a landscape which is violent, treacherous and unforgiving. 17-year-old Paul travels to a remote fishing community in search of his lost brother, and is drawn into a dangerous world. The language is immersive, the pace relentless. The Windy Season roars down and batters the senses. Unforgettable.
Australia Day by Melanie Cheng
The stories that make up Australia Day illuminate the lives of characters living in modern Australia who are not typically represented. Cheng’s writing examines ethnicity and the desire to ‘belong’ in a globalised society. The variations in character and viewpoint demonstrate that there are no easy answers to modern dilemmas. Cheng is talented at both creating characters, and writing compelling literature.
Jean Harley Was Here by Heather Taylor Johnson
Jean Harley is knocked down by a van as she’s riding her bike to work. Although we never meet her, we get to know her through the multiple viewpoints of friends, family, the man who drove the van, and even the family dog. While the subject matter is grim, the author maintains a light touch, infusing the book with humour, soul, and most importantly, hope.
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Kent demonstrates meticulous research in locating this superb novel in rural Ireland of 1825. The writing is compelling and atmospheric, and focuses on a young disabled boy being cared for by his grandmother and a teenaged servant girl, in an era where disability is shameful and hidden. Here is an accomplished storyteller, with true compassion for her characters.
The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
An imagined memoir of Franz Kafka’s literary executor Max Brod, The Lost Pagesis a psychological examination of rivalry, madness and unrequited love. The deepest of human emotions are laid bare and sifted through with a clear eye by the author. At times farcical, at other times surreal, this book is utterly unique.
From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
A truly original voice in the landscape of Australian historical fiction, From the Wreck features an alien cephalopod and a shipwreck survivor in 1850s South Australia. This novel brings the twin strands of history and trauma together in a lyrical and visceral meditation on the cost of survival.