The Miles Franklin short list was announced yesterday afternoon at 2 o’clock. The baker’s dozen long list was reduced to five titles of which I have only read (and adored) two as well as a couple from the long list. It would, of course be lovely to have read them all but that is not to be the case this year.
Animal People by Charlotte Wood is noticeably absent from the short list, it seemed to be a no-brainer for inclusion. It is a sharply drawn and incisive narrative condensed into 24 hours in the life of Stephen who wakes us to a steaming Sydney morning determined to break up with his girlfriend. The momentum of his decision is the driving force of his day, but the Dalloway-esque detail fuels it.
A delightful inclusion is Favel Parret’s Past the Shallows. First time novelist Favel’s ties with the ocean are clear in this book, which is set in the deep, cold South of Tasmania and follows the young sons of a fisherman, Harry and Miles. There is little warmth in this austere, masculine world and while at times I felt a little emotionally manipulated it is told with clarity and deserves its place on the short list.Here's my review of Past the Shallows from Radio National's Book Show last year.
Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears is also a wise inclusion. This book made me want to sob. It brims with the intensity of a tempered love story. An extract of this intense and luminous work was published in Island 127, alongside 'For Gillian: feather, fire bracken and vomit,' an essay by Brian Camden about travelling to Venezuela with Gillian as she sought shamanic insight and healing for the MS she suffers.
Anna Funder's All That I Am and Cold Light by Frank Moorhouse I may or may not get to in this reading lifetime – but Tony Birch, I will. It’s exciting to hear about an author when they turn up on an acclaimed shortlist. Blood, was described on as “a novel suffused with the primal bonds of family, and heart-beating suspense" on ABC Radio National's Book Show last year.
Congratulations to all of the authors – and may the judges’ decision ruffle feathers, be applauded, furrow brows and start conversations.