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Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 1998 Winners

Premier's Prize

Pomegranate Season - Carolyn Polizzotto
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
This is a beautifully written autobiographical account of the author's gradual acceptance of her child's disability.
It is structured as a detailed diary which has the effect of underlining the slow daily process of healing. The author focuses especially on daily minutiae concerning the plants growing in her garden, the tending of which she shares with her husband. Sometimes the plants have to be cut back or controlled in some way; sometimes they burst unexpectedly into wonderful blooms. The daily attention to the garden is a metaphor for the daily observance and care of the loved but disabled child who also sometimes performs in unexpected ways, bringing moments of unlooked-for joy. This is an innovative work by one of our most skilled writers.

Fiction

Going Inland - Pat Jacobs
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
In this novel the author uses the physical journey connected with travelling around Australia as a way of exploring various kinds of inner spaces and the potential for awakenings. The travellers re-assess their attachment to the land; they come to terms with a changed view of the cultural and physical landscape, and they reconsider their marital relationship. Pat Jacobs presents us with outstanding writing which offers the reader the opportunity to see the landscape and feel the tensions between the characters. At the end of the trip nothing remains the same. Happily, the writer resists the temptation to provide any resolution to these altered situations. This is skilled writing and a most impressive first novel.

Poetry (Joint Winners)

The Hunt - John Kinsella
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Kinsella's eighth collection of poems is concerned with capturing place and landscape in a new way. The poem always looks at its subject from an unexpected angle, whether it be country or people, moving freely and easily in the mind of the reader by offering vivid images of a recognisable world. These poems have a precision of image, a sharpness and a wonderful clarity. The Hunt is a satisfying and challenging volume of poems by a writer who has managed a robust and dynamic career earning him international acclaim.

The Gatekeeper's Wife - Fay Zwicky
Brandl & Schlesinger
This volume is a wonderful collection from a mature artist. Zwicky is confident enough to present poems as eclectic in their form and range as these - sometimes light and humorous and playful, and other times based on the most profound of emotional recollections. The project of each poem has an integrity of craft and approach and a voice that sings its knowledge and passion. The Gatekeeper's Wife is an elegant and eloquent volume of poems that are concerned with the current world and the act of looking back in re-consideration. There is dark humour and satire in this controlled and cerebral writing.

Historical & Critical Studies

Our State of Mind: Racial Planning and the Stolen Generations - Quentin Beresford and Paul Omaji
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
This is a much needed account of Western Australian state discrimination against Aboriginal people, based on a study of the legislation and planning which lay behind the removal of Aboriginal children. The authors also consulted a number of Aboriginal people who had the experience of being forcibly separated from their families. The authors see the origin of the racist ideas which underpinned this set of policies in the desire of Europeans to possess Aboriginal land and employ cheap labour. This is a well-written and accessible text based on substantial research, which the authors make the basis for their careful judgement. It has a good bibliography and index and will be widely consulted by both general and specialist readers for its historical and contemporary value.

Children's Books

Desert Dog - Pat Lowe and Jimmy Pike
Magabala Books
Lowe's engrossing biography of Spinifex is based on a true story told to her by Jimmy Pike, and her own experiences with dingoes during the years she lived in the desert. The third person narrative involves the reader intimately in the pup's life from the time she is captured and reared by Mala, an Aboriginal woman living a nomadic life, until her return years later, as a mature dingo. Between times both dingo and Aboriginals alternate between living traditionally and the white man's world of cattle station employment. This is an exceptional book in which the well paced narrative and convincing characters are set against the detailed backdrop of The Great Sandy Desert in the late 1940's and early '50s.

Dymocks Perth City Store Young Adults Award

Red Hugh - Deborah Lisson
Lothian Books
Based on one of the most celebrated episodes in Irish history, Red Hugh demonstrates once again that Lisson has made the field of historical fiction her own. With impeccable attention to historical research and the nuances of Irish English she has used her educated imagination to brilliant effect to bring this story alive. Captured by the English in 1587, young Hugh Roe O'Donnell was held hostage in Dublin Castle for four years as a guarantee that his powerful father would be unable to forge a united Ulster. The novel follows Hugh's capture, captivity and two escape attempts, the latter being successful albeit at a terrible cost. Dominating this compelling narrative is the character of Hugh, with whom the reader identifies totally as he struggles to survive the awful conditions of imprisonment, and the harrowing physical trials of his escape, sustained by the knowledge that his own people were looking to him for leadership.

Special Award

Pomegranate Season - Carolyn Polizzotto
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
See notes for Premier's Prize

Perth Theatre Trust - Screenwest Script Award

Milk and Honey - Ingle Knight
Perth Theatre Company
Ingle Knight's adaptation of Elizabeth Jolley's Milk and Honey is an original work. It is enormously successful in its act of transformation: of shaping a story into another form, into a work for the stage that relies upon a range of different narrative qualities. The use that Knight has made of characterisation and suspense and, particularly, the skill of selection and assemblage is impressive.