The Miles Franklin Shortlist 2016

First, some background…
What is the Miles Franklin Award?

The Miles Franklin Award celebrates outstanding works of Australian literature, honouring our brightest and most ambitious writers. As described on the website:

The Miles Franklin Literary Award is Australia’s most prestigious literature prize. Established through the will of My Brilliant Career author, Miles Franklin, 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.

First presented in 1957, the Award helps to support authors and to foster uniquely Australian literature. Miles Franklin believed that “Without an indigenous literature, people can remain alien in their own soil.”  She also had first-hand experience of struggling to make a living as a writer and was the beneficiary of two literary prizes herself.

Who are the contenders?

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The 2016 shortlist showcases a wide range of Australian experiences, including grief, death, oppression and new beginnings. The shortlisted books I have read so far have challenged my world view and widened my understanding.

Why read the shortlist?

Reading a novel short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award can be difficult at times. These books are complex literary fiction and the style can be hard to engage with.

As someone who has lent towards young adult fiction this past year, making the switch to literary fiction was hard. Books like Black Rock White City  andThe Natural Way of Things are confronting and thought-provoking. The tropes that we see often in YA are not found within the pages of a book shortlisted for the MF Award. Tropes can be annoying and tiresome when they pop up in every book, but they are also safe and easy to digest, because you know exactly what is going to happen. Books on the MF shortlist are not safe or predictable, for many of us reading these books is like swimming in dark, unknown waters.

 

While getting through a shortlisted book may require dedication, the effort is well worth it. These are the kind of books that change you as a person. Great books like those on the MF shortlist help us connect with our humanity and we are better people as a result of reading them.

My Progress:

Finished:

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Black Rock White City by A.S Patric

Currently Reading:

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

To read:

Leap by Myfanwy Jones

Hope Farm by Peggy Frew

Thoughts so far…

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

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The Natural Way of Things is a grim analogy of modern misogyny, described as The Hand Maiden’s tale meets Lord of the Flies, it does not flinch away from some controversial issues. The main characters Yolanda and Vera are transformed over the course of the novel as they endure horrible torture. The way the women and men interacted was humanity stripped down to its bare bones, with Wood drawing parallels between the ordeal faced by her protagonists and how women are treated in contemporary society. There is an overwhelming sense that the events in the novel could actually happen.

This book challenged me in a number of ways and I enjoyed reading something a little more serious. Yolanda and Verla are compelling characters, with a complex range of emotions. I was enthralled by their interactions and the powerful, enduring connection they forge over the course of the novel.

The only criticism I have is that the ending left a lot open and while I understand this was done to provoke discussion, I did feel a little let down.

Black Rock White City by A.S Patric

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This is not the easiest book to read, the language is complicated and allegorical, with constant flashbacks that left me a little disorientated.

Jovan and Suzanna are Serbian refugees living in Melbourne, working menial jobs despite their considerable academic prowess. This is a situation all too common in western countries. Patric does an excellent job highlighting the casual racism ever present towards refugees as he opens the door into an aspect of Australian society rarely explored.

Jovan’s journey provoked a roller-coaster of emotions within me as I bore witness to an extraordinary mind caged in an ordinary life. His displacement and heartache hit me full force by the end of the novel. The book closes on an emotionally bittersweet note, as Jovan’s journey comes full circle.

His wife Suzanna is a literary masterpiece and one of the strongest, most authentic women in fiction.Her quiet dignity and power, coupled an intense vulnerability made me eager to learn more about her life.

The supporting characters  fit seamlessly into the world, used by Patric as effective catalysts to drive the plot. Nothing in this book is cliche, everything event is well-crafted and thoroughly unpredictable.

When is the winner announced?

The winner of the Miles Franklin Award will be announced on the 26th of August!

 

Have you read any books on the Miles Franklin Shortlist?

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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