Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 2002 Winners
Mussolini - Richard Bosworth
This is a major literary accomplishment, as well as an extraordinary biography of a perplexing and paradoxical personality and an internationally significant contribution to an understanding of Mussolini's role in history. It is a massive work of substance, of historical research and analysis, and yet is readily accessible to the lay reader. The work may well enter the lore of works that become a yardstick by which other biographies are measured. Drawing upon original sources, in both English and Italian, Bosworth's book is a triumph of scholarly research, human endeavour, extraordinary commitment and passionate belief in the power of historical narratives. It is a hefty book that will nevertheless emerge as something of a bestseller among those interested in Fascism, the Second World War, and the dynamics of power. Its Western Australian author has already been acknowledged as making an immense contribution to the international debate on the meaning of Mussolini to twentieth-century politics.
Black Mirror - Gail Jones
In this debut novel Gail Jones has produced an outstanding work of archival recovery and artistic re-creation set in Paris, London and the Western Australian Goldfields. The protagonist Anna Griffin progressively discovers her own identity as she researches the life of a fellow Australian and surrealist artist, Victoria Morrell, for a biography. These two emotional and intelligent women, Victoria and her biographer Anna, share an obvious background of place and the plot works to draw the various other links of their lives together through the language of both painting and the written word. Here is a complex, delicately layered work which explores the nature of love, art and the emotional forces that fashion the lives of her characters. Dazzling, rich in metaphor with prose often rendered with the cadence of verse, and demonstrating a superb mastery of art criticism as well, this novel is destined to become a major work by a Western Australian writer.
Going Feral - Barbara Temperton
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
'Feral cat, surrounded by angry birds,/has the deck stacked against her.' These are two representative lines from Barbara Temperton's title poem that signal, immediately, the forthright style of this poet. Temperton has produced a captivating collection of poems notable for their arresting imagery and a strong sense of place. The poet touches us with the intensity of her attachment as people and places are memorably recalled as 'explosion(s) of grief/ and feathers'. The collection engages the reader by virtue of its accessibility and the exhilarating sense of participation one gets in lines that give the impression of being written with quite effortless ease. Here is verse at once immediate and tender ('Christmas') and frighteningly prescient ('I remember Wittenoom'). Temperton writes with an unusual (but not too obvious or declared) mastery of her public and private worlds.
Non-Fiction (2 Awards)
Mussolini - Richard Bosworth
For Judges' Comments please see the Premier's Prize entry.
Out of the Desert: Stories from the Walmajarri Exodus - by the Walmajarri storytellers, and edited by Joyce Hudson, Pat Lowe and Eirlys Richards
The storytellers of the Walmajarri people of the Great Sandy Desert have preserved elements of their recent history in this splendid bi-lingual publication. They have done so in a unique way: by combining traditional-style art, photographs and written accounts in both Walmajarri and English they have produced a book marked by attention to detail and quality of production. Generations to come will have a vibrant cultural and historical record of the Walmajarri move from the desert and its effects. It is an important work which establishes a picture of a people whose practical focus is on the provision of food, water and shelter. Beyond this the storytellers take us through to their first, often unhappy, contacts with white people, and to a situation where their original culture is almost lost. The stories chronicle the slow disintegration of a traditional life-style and culture, the Walmajarri people's resignation to white dominance and finally acceptance of some of the positive features of that encounter. Although the stories will resonate with those familiar with the history of colonisation of indigenous people, there is something wonderfully unique, personal, and engaging here. For the Walmajarri people themselves, the very act of telling these stories captures and gives voice to a past that has been so often denied them.
The Legend of Moondyne Joe - Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac
Cygnet Books (University of Western Australia Press)
This work detailing the life of one of Western Australia's antiheroes, the bushranger Moondyne Joe, is told with directness and is beautifully illustrated by the immensely inventive Frané Lessac. The gouache paintings are a delight, the bright, strong colours and 'naïve' figures complementing perfectly the straightforward text. Mark Greenwood creates a narrative with pace, does not seek to judge his subject and conveys a great deal of factual information about the convict system in Western Australia, the way justice was dispensed and life generally in the early days of the colony. The glossary and the endpapers add to the appeal of this book and underscore the attention to detail in the publishing. The work is a strong testament to making our history fun and accessible to young people.
Young Adults Award
Feeling the Heat - Pat Lowe
Penguin Books Australia
Award winning Pat Lowe has crafted an assured and accomplished novel. Nineteen-year-old Matthew Scott returns from years of living in Perth, to his boyhood home in the Kimberley in search of his childhood friend, Frances. In this coming-of-age story he not only finds his friend, but also matures psychologically and the Aboriginal wisdom he can draw from serves him well. On arrival in the coastal town, Matthew joins up, somewhat reluctantly, with Jeff Baxter, a character whose marriage has failed and who is grieving for his wife, his young family and his failed dreams. The stories of these two characters run parallel against the harsh and beautiful landscape of the Kimberley region. Station life, small town isolation and nurturing, Aboriginal culture, both traditional and suburban, all come within the purview of this story. The cultural values of Aboriginal and white peoples are cleverly juxtaposed. There is no neat, happy resolution here as not all characters gain what they want. This is real life and we are all the richer for having shared their journey.
Bench - Hellie Turner
Hellie Turner has created an absorbing play in telling the stories of three damaged women's lives through their meetings at a park bench. This is moving and provocative theatre, tightly written yet widely suggestive of women's resilience in the face of emotional adversity. While the individual stories of the three protagonists are bleak, there is a poignancy about the situation where their aloneness draws them together. In the sharing of the bench and their 'dark secrets' there is a growing honesty between them which carries its own epiphany. While there is no real dramatic climax, the individual stories carry an inherent drama. There is a strong feminist agenda which reaches its ironic height in the final scene, with the women sitting naked on the bench.