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Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 2010 Judges' Report

Non Fiction

A-Three-Cornered-Life-HancockJim Davidson: A Three-Corned Life: The Historian WK Hancock
An absorbing and important account of our most successful and internationally acclaimed Empire-era historian WK Hancock (1898-1988), against a backdrop of Australia – UK, Commonwealth and European relations. A magisterial work of history, meticulously documented, evidencing judicious judgements. Hancock comes to life in a comprehensive way with the personal life alternating with the academic life.

Breaking-NewsBen Hills: Breaking News: The Golden Age of Graham Perkin
An impressive organisational history of the ‘golden’ period in an Australian newspaper – The Age –  its ‘golden’ editor, Graham Perkin, as well as offering an excellent account of the broader industry and the socio-political context.

Into_the_WoodsAnna Krien: Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania’s Forests
Passionate, investigative journalism using meticulous data in a quest to locate the truth between wood-chipping capitalist conspiracies and tree-hugging ‘ferals. ’An absorbing account of the market and political forces behind the elimination of Tasmania’s (and by extension, Australia’s) forests.

MacquarieHarry Dillon & Peter Butler: Macquarie
A lucid and absorbing biography of the ‘Father of Australia,’ tracing his provenance, personality, politics, and especially his championing of the rights and future of ex-convicts. This important study describes Macquarie’s undoing by local gentry and colonial office, as well as his legacy – our sense of the ‘fair go.’

Reading-by-MoonlightBrenda Walker: Reading by Moonlight: How Books Saved a Life
This thoughtful and original book offers an important and gripping account of the healing power of books and reading throughout the experience of serious illness. Wise and intelligent in its honesty, it offers profound insights into the ways in which the various experiences of literature can reaffirm a self fractured and unravelled through the affront of illness.

The-Quest-For-JusticeKen Crispin: The Quest for Justice
A fine series of enlightening essays by a recently retired Supreme Court Judge and Law Reform Commissioner who shares his instructive views on the justice system, drugs, sentencing and the War on Terror. A highly accessible account for the general reader.

WA History

Vite-ItalianeSusanna Iuliano: Vite Italiane: Italian Lives in Western Australia
A very readable, comprehensive, lively yet scholarly history of Italians in Western Australia. Wide ranging in scope and true to its title, it captures the lives of Italians in Western Australia over the last 100 years.

Australind-JournalsPhyllis Barnes and James Cameron: The Australind Journals of Marshall Clifton 1840-1861
The painstaking task of careful editing and reproducing Marshall Clifton's voluminous journals combined with a scholarly and informative introduction has been a great gift to those interested in  Western Australia's colonial history.

Forgotten-ExplorersJ.J.E. Glover: The Forgotten Explorers: Pioneer Geologists of Western Australia 1826-1926
A well-written and well-illustrated book which pays fitting tribute to these often unknown heroes who helped to open up the state which has built its fortune on mineral riches.

Till-the-stream-runs-dryBill Bunbury: Till the Stream Runs Dry: A History of Hydrography in West Australia
This book, which shows a masterly use of oral history, captures the passion of the men (and later women) involved with the arcane sounding science of hydrography and makes the reader wonder why hydrography isn't the pre-eminent science studied, practised and funded in Western Australia.

Barracks-to-BurrupAndrea Whitcomb and Kate Gregory: From the Barracks to the Burrup
This is a book for Western Australians today. Beautifully presented, the unfolding of the National Trust story is an unfolding of the changing attitudes of the people of the state to its history and heritage and the growing awareness that there is a precious heritage which deserve preservation.

Scripts

Gwen-in-PurgatoryTommy Murphy: Gwen in Purgatory
Gwen’s new home, isolated in the desert of a new estate, is filled with incomprehensible modern devices. Here, a barrage of well-intentioned ‘organisation’ bears down upon her from family determined to look after the aging matriarch as well as claim her treasures. The simple mix of dialogue and action work a wonderful magic, pulling the reader (and ultimately, the audience) into a vortex that holds them long beyond the final fade of lights.

Songs-for-NobodyJoanna Murray-Smith: Songs for Nobodies
A charming exploration of five unknown women, each with a tenuous connection to one or other of five famous singers of the twentieth century. This script offers delightful, well-scripted vignettes and an opportunity for a tour-de-force performance.


Love-Me-Tender-2Tom Holloway: Love Me Tender
A play of intense suburban domesticity that explores the challenges of modern familial relationships, employing surprising leaps into metaphor and echoes of Greek tragedy. This is a fast-paced roller-coaster ride on dangerous ground.

Life-Without-MeDaniel Keene: Life Without Me
In what could be a Hotel California (without the music!) Keene brings us a drama that is not quite a Kafkaesque nightmare, but an existential work portraying a character unable to escape his established life’s patterns.

QuackIan Wilding: Quack
An allegorical journey through societal attitudes in this frighteningly gory, zombie-filled satire. You’ll need to be prepared for a night of blood and mayhem in a provincial town described as ‘a cesspit of moral bankruptcy.’

Do-Not-Go-GentlePatricia Cornelius: Do Not Go Gentle
Using the metaphor of Scott’s Antarctic expedition, this play compassionately explores the challenges faced by six opinionated characters as they approach the end of their lives.

Young Adults’

Happy-as-LarryScot Gardner: Happy as Larry
This is an ambitious, original and compelling novel with complex, philosophical themes. Every character in the story comes alive on the page, and the conclusion, while ‘happy,’ is still complex and challenging, and in perfect accord with the rest of the book.

Anonymity-JonesJames Roy: Anonymity Jones
An engaging book with wry narration and gripping dialogue. The main character is flawed but very likeable, and her growing realisation that she won’t be taken for a fool any longer gives her power and, to the reader, a very satisfactory resolution. Some important themes well disguised in a highly readable story.

FitzOsbornesMichelle Cooper: The FitzOsbornes in Exile
Readers are immediately drawn into this complex world with the narrator Sophie’s engaging voice. This novel contains strong women, a gay brother – who, just is, without any fuss - and has historical elements woven seamlessly throughout the fictional aspects. The dialogue is appealing and although it is part of a series, it also works effectively as a self-contained book.


WavelengthAJ Betts: Wavelength
Selfish and confused, Oliver grows on the reader as the book progresses and the narrative is peopled with other well-drawn characters, with a rare intergenerational mix. Containing both humour and important themes, this is one of those books that leaves you wanting more of the characters and more of the story.

This-is-ShynessLeanne Hall: This Shyness
Haunting, original and memorable, the world of this novel is well-established – if magical –and the characters believable. The use of the present tense gives an urgency to the narration, which covers intense events of just a few hours.

The-Midnight-ZooSonya Hartnett: The Midnight Zoo
A beautifully written allegorical tale. Using a magical realist style, this is an original and challenging meditation on war and the resilience of the imagination.

Children’s Books

TopplingSally Murphy and Rhian Nest James: Toppling
This is a simply powerful book. Written in blank verse, it tells the story of John, a boy who loves dominoes and spends hours of his time setting up patterns and lines. His greatest joy is to set up the line and then – by pushing one – watching the whole line topple.  He is a contented youngster with a good group of friends. Until the time that John's friend Dom falls sick and is diagnosed with cancer - then John and his friends' worlds fall apart. It is not just the dominoes that topple. In moving ways, Toppling shows how a group of friends must battle to come to terms with their friend’s illness. They have to think seriously about what is truly important for them and even find support and understanding from an unlikely source within their class, the school bully.

Henry-Hoey-HobsonChristine Bongers: Henry Hoey Hobson
Henry Hoey Hobson feels out of step with the world. A new boy (yet again) he discovers that he is the only boy in grade 7, in a Catholic school. Fatherless, friendless and non-Catholic, he even earns a reputation as a vampire on his first day, when ill-fitting braces make his mouth bleed. Making matters worse are his only friends, a mob of weirdos from next door. This very funny,  bittersweet novel about fitting-in brings alive the complex years at the end of Primary school.


Sarandis-Dragon-KiteJanine M. Fraser and Elise Hurst: Sarindi’s Dragon Kite

Sarindi is a little boy living in Indonesia.  He longs more than anything  for a colourful Dragon Kite for his birthday. However, later that same day, a disaster strikes. An earthquake flattens the town of Bantul, where Sarindi's cousins live, and Sarindi and his father must travel there immediately to help. The town is totally destroyed and Sarindi fears that all of his family are dead. Only after they find his young cousin  do they return home. Family love and respect for one another is the underlying theme of this gently written story perfect for lower-middle primary readers.

The-Three-Loves-of-PersimmonCassandra Golds: The Three Loves of Persimmon
Whimsical and quirky, this story of a young women named Persimmon is paralleled by the story of a mouse, also looking for adventure and belonging.  Persimmon lives a solitary life, pouring her passions into the florist shop she owns in the underground railway station. Her only companion is Rose, a talking cabbage. Persimmon longs for the love of her life, but makes unfortunate choices. Very much a love story, it is also a story of fulfilment where both girl and mouse find unexpected happiness in the most unlikely of places.

The-Red-WindIsobelle Carmody: The Red Wind
The first story in a trilogy – a mix of science fiction/fantasy but also a drama and a story of survival. Two brothers Zluty and Bily live happily in their little house in the desert. Every year Zluty journeys to the great forest while Bily stays to tend their desert home. And every year Zluty returns with exciting tales of his adventures. But when a devastating red wind sweeps across the land destroying everything in its path, all that the two brothers know is changed. Zluty, the brave brother no longer knows where to go and what to do.  His timid and shy brother becomes the strong one. In addition to the resilience of the characters, the book demonstrates a love and respect for the  natural world.

MirrorJeannie Baker: Mirror
Written without words, except for an introduction in Arabic and English, this beautiful book is illustrated with the use of collage and offers children – and adults – wonderful visual insights into cultural diversity and shared humanity. It is unique in its format as it has been created to be read simultaneously – one from the left in the European way, the other from the right – in the Semitic tradition. One side depicts an Arab family, and the other is an Australian family. As the reader turns the pages simultaneously we see a day in the life of two very different families, one from Sydney and the other from a small, desert-bound Moroccan town. The lives of these two families are, at first glance, very different.  However, the differences are superficial. We see that in the context of strikingly different lifestyles, different countries, landscapes, differences of clothing, the families are essentially the same – loving, caring and working together. 

Fiction

2011 Winner Kim Scott - That Deadman DanceKim Scott: That Deadman Dance
Kim Scott has produced a powerful and poetic novel which reveals the layers of complexity surrounding first contact between indigenous and settler cultures and how these are mediated through language. Set on the south coast of Western Australia and drawing on historical and contemporary Noongar language and culture, this novel reaches out to all readers by providing multiple points of view, and offering contemporary Australia an important new perspective on its complicated colonial past.

TraitorStephen Daisley: Traitor
A haunting and original meditation on the complexity of loyalty and attachments as seen in the fearsome crucible of war and its long, painful aftermaths. This book represents a startling and important new voice in Australian literature.

Body-in-the-CloudsAshley Hay: The Body in the Clouds
This innovative novel tells interconnected layers of story across different characters and periods in Australian history. Arcing over these sometimes disparate narratives, is the image of the Sydney Harbour Bridge – in its conception, construction and its symbolic capacity to lift the gaze and the imaginations of the people around it, up into the clouds.


Utopian-ManLisa Lang: Utopian Man

Lang’s central character, E. W. Cole was the visionary owner of a fabulous book arcade in Melbourne in the 1880s. Lisa Lang's novel explores Edward Cole's complex character and the richness of his life and historical moment in Marvellous Melbourne in this insightful and captivating novel.

indelible_ink_LRFiona McGregor: Indelible Ink

McGregor’s novel, set in Sydney’s northern beaches as well as on its seamier streets, provides an insightful and sometimes painful study of an older woman’s experience at a traumatic and yet also surprisingly cathartic point in her life. The prose is gritty and sharp, the story gripping and tender in its depictions of extraordinary experiences within the ordinary flows of family and the domestic.

English-ClassOuyang Yu: The English Class
This moving novel by Ouyang Yu explores the impact of learning English on the protagonist, Jing, at the end of the Cultural Revolution in China – an impact which brings him finally to Australia. The text plays with language in complex and intriguing ways, mirroring the central character’s movement between languages, place and cultures.

Poetry

Fire-DiaryMark Tredinick: Fire Diary
This impressive book offers a range of poems which are both intellectually challenging and emotionally compelling. The open lyricism of Tredinick’s style weaves a satisfying and generous web between the self, the domestic world and political realities, bringing us a voice which is philosophical, quietly observant and yet bold. An important contribution to Australian poetry.

Burning-BrightCaroline Caddy: Burning Bright
Caddy’s thoughtful poems bring a heightened sense of space and place – from the expanses and small towns of West Australia to far-flung China. An engaging and insightful collection which offers moments of sustained incandescent writing.

ColombineJennifer Harrison: Columbine, New and Selected Poems
A major contribution to Australian poetry which demonstrates Harrison’s evolving career and mastery. Its depth of intellectual and emotional registers, in addition to its sustained craft, makes this poetry demanding yet also immensely rewarding and enjoyable.

Dorothy-HewettKate Lilley (ed): Selected Poems of Dorothy Hewett

This is an important book, as it brings together an edited collection of one of the major Australian poets of the twentieth century for a new generation of readers. This selection, from Hewett’s daughter Lilley, gives us some of her best poems as well as offering a breadth of the poet’s abiding concerns: female sexuality, love, motherhood, politics and private life, and the vocation of the writer.

Pirate-RainJennifer Maiden: Pirate Rain

In humorous, sharp and clever poems, Maiden offers us imaginatively engaging and very readably commentaries on current ideas and events and, more generally, the contemporary western human condition.

Phantom-LimbDavid Musgrave: Phantom Limb

In his impressive first collection, Musgrave demonstrates both a beautiful and complex use of language and a degree of intelligence and insight which engages the reader. This is a well-crafted collection, structured around a recurring preoccupation with water – the element itself and our human relationship with it.