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Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 2000 Winners

Premier's Prize

Into the Wadi - Michèle Drouart
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Judges' Comments
A rare and illuminating insight into the cross-cultural marriage of a Western woman and a Jordanian man. It is a work that neither uncritically celebrates nor condemns, but traces in fine detail and with great sensitivity the daily lives and cultural practices of the extended family into which the narrator has married. However, even as the narrator accommodates and understands, the relationship becomes strained. This painful awareness is recounted without acrimony and with the unusual understanding that her husband in a Western country would have had similar difficulties. A moving, metaphorical account, often rendered with a fiction writer's detached point of view, that reminds us that examination of cultural difference need not relapse into the crude stereotypes of orientalism. A brilliant antidote, moreover, to the "Western woman's escape from the barbaric Arab world" genre of popular weeklies.

Fiction

The Australian Fiancé - Simone Lazaroo
Pan Macmillan
Judges' Comments
In a spare but elegant style, Simone Lazaroo manages to give life to a couple of unlikely lovers who are brought together in fateful circumstances in the aftermath of World War II. Lazaroo skillfully presents Australian life and customs as they are seen through the eyes of a young Eurasian woman, a former prostitute and victim of war, who finds herself physically and culturally isolated in a remote part of Western Australia. The author's own voice intervenes into that of the narrator as she explores the intensely painful emotions that accompany the woman's gradual rejection by a lover who has his own pastoral lineage to consider. Although written in the genre of romance, the novel eschews the genre's predictable conventions to examine in a moving and imaginative manner, themes of love, hope and loss in a cross-cultural relationship.

Poetry

Parochial - Mark Reid
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Judges' Comments
Reid is a poet who can recall grief and hold it by recreating simple moments. Written in a precise, forthright style, these poems about life and ordinary people have an unusual emotional power, direct and uncompromising. Whether communing with his bicycle or empathising with a dementia sufferer, Reid brings a compassionate as well as whimsical perception to his subjects. The voices range from the elegiac to the detached and critical.

Historical & Critical Studies (2 Awards)

Into the Wadi - Michèle Drouart
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Judges' Comments
For Judges' Comments please see the Premier's Prize entry.

The Shark Net: Memories and Murder - Robert Drewe
Viking
Judges' Comments
A superbly structured work written with the skill of a seasoned writer of fiction. Drewe brings to life the sleepy fifties and early sixties of Perth where a serial killer disturbs the serenity of people who never locked their doors. The narrator enters the scene of murder through his own boyhood recollections and produces a magnificent account of a city wracked by fear. Drewe weaves together his own story with that of the multiple murderer, Cook, who was active in the immediate environment in which he grew up. The writing is direct, the story easy to read. Yet one is aware, finally, of the great gulf between generations, as the child grows up to inhabit a world undreamed of by his parents. A work of non-fiction that is as strong as any work of fiction on the subject.

Children's Books

Zarconi's Magic Flying Fish - Kirsty Murray
Allen & Unwin
Judges' Comments
Gus's mother is seriously ill so she sends him off to his grandparents where he finds that they have strange, foreign names and run a circus. Gus gradually becomes part of the circus and realises his destiny as the circus moves slowly up the coast from Esperance to Broome. The narrative moves at a great pace as Gus's genealogical past is gradually revealed. The relationships between the characters, particularly Gus and Effie, are well drawn, as are the Western Australian settings. Full of magic, mystery, and a delightful elephant, the story is meant for wide-eyed older children.

Dymocks Hay Street Mall Store Young Adults Award

The Darkness - Anthony Eaton
University of Queensland Press
Judges' Comments
A dark, evocative, sometimes threatening seafarer's yarn about a lighthouse in Isolation Bay, WA. The people of the tiny ex-whaling town cling to life at the mercy of the Southern Ocean and the Darkness, the merciless storm that sweeps in every ten years. The novel works through superstition, fear, curse, and small-town gossip to build a narrative that reaches its peak when Rohan, already affected by the loss of both his father and grandfather during earlier visits of the Darkness, confronts the return of the storm in the company of the newly arrived Rachel on East Barrier Island. This strong tale of young adults against the backdrop of the sea and the broken lives of people at an erstwhile whaling outpost withholds the predictable romantic conclusion.

Special Award

For the 2000 Awards, this category was combined with the Historical and Critical Studies section creating a new award for Non-Fiction for which there were two awards presented.

Script Award

Scripts were not included in the 2000 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards.