The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award shortlist

The Birdman's Wife cover

The Birdman's Wife

Melissa Ashley

Affirm Press

About the book

A woman overshadowed by history steps back into the light… Artist Elizabeth Gould captured the sublime beauty of birds the world had never seen before but her legacy was eclipsed by her husband’s fame. The Birdman’s Wife gives voice to a passionate and adventurous spirit who falls in love with an ambitious genius but comes into her own as an artist and adventurer who defies convention by embarking on a trailblazing expedition to discover Australia’s ‘curious’ birdlife.

About the author

Melissa Ashley is a writer, poet, birder and academic who tutors in poetry and creative writing at the University of Queensland. What started out as research for a PhD dissertation on Elizabeth Gould became a labour of love and her first novel, The Birdman’s Wife. Inspired by her heroine, she studied taxidermy as a volunteer at the Queensland Museum.

Judges' Comments

A beautifully realised historical novel that reclaims a woman lost to history because her husband, John Gould, was famous. Artist Elizabeth Gould spent her life capturing the sublime beauty of birds the world had never seen before. Her story is inspiring and tragic and Melissa Ashley resurrects her in the most subtle and empathetic fashion.


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Vancouver cover

Vancouver

Nick Earls

Inkerman & Blunt

About the book

In the third novella of the Wisdom Tree series, Vancouver is the story the character Paul would tell if he were living in plague times - a story that comforts, a story that wards off evil. His story is about the giant that influenced his life, it's about the day the world changed, and it's about what happens when our giants come tumbling down.

About the author

Nick Earls is the author of 26 books for adults, teenagers and children. Two of his books have been adapted into feature films and five into stage plays. The novellas in his most recent work, the Wisdom Tree series, have won the People’s Choice Award at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, gold medals at both the Independent Publisher Book Awards and ELit Awards in the US, and the Australian Book Design Award for best series

Judges' Comments

Nick Earls is always experimenting and his recent novella series is one of his most successful experiments. It’s a coming of age tale and a cautionary one at that about a young man and a figure who loomed large in the landscape of his life. It’s about hope and disappointment and coming to grip with the reality of the world. Its brevity belies serious intent.

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A Hundred Small Lessons cover

A Hundred Small Lessons

Ashley Hay

Allen & Unwin

About the book

Luminous and deeply affecting, A Hundred Small Lessons is about the many small decisions - the invisible moments - that come to make a life. The intertwined lives of two women from different generations tell a rich and intimate story of how we feel what it is to be human, and how place can transform who we are. It takes account of what it means to be mother or daughter; father or son. It's a story of love, and of life. Through one hot, wet Brisbane summer, seven lives - and two different slices of time - wind along with the flow of the river, as two families chart the ways in which we come, sudden and oblivious, into each other's stories, and the unexpected ripples that flow out from those chance encounters.

About the author

Ashley’s first novel, The Railwayman's Wife, received the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies' Colin Roderick Award, and the People's Choice at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. It was published in the UK, the US and in translation. Her earlier work has won accolades in Australia and abroad, most recently the 2016 Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing. She has been longlisted for awards including the Miles Franklin and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and shortlisted for awards including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Kibble. She lives in Brisbane.

Judges' Comments

Ashley Hay’s book is about home and hearth, about ordinary lives and the places we call home. It’s beautifully written and has a clarity that is engaging and a familiarity that means we can all identify with the characters in this quietly charming book.

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The Good People cover

The Good People

Hannah Kent

Pan Macmillan

About the book

Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference. Unable to care for the child alone, Nóra hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow's house. Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken…

About the author

Hannah Kent is the co-founder of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings. In 2011, she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award for her debut novel, Burial Rites. Since its publication in 2013, Burial Rites has been translated into nearly thirty languages and has received numerous awards and nominations.

Judges' Comments

Nobody does what Hannah Kent does. This book takes us to a faraway place and time where people struggle to survive. Set in the 19th century at a time when fear and superstition rule. Set in Ireland, it is familiar on the one hand but this world is a place where physical hardship and injustice reign and a woman must fight against it. Tough, visceral and utterly brilliant.

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The Museum of Modern Love cover

The Museum of Modern Love

Heather Rose

Allen & Unwin

About the book

Arky Levin is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has asked him to keep one devastating promise. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky. As he watches and meets other people drawn to the exhibit, he slowly starts to understand what might be missing in his life and what he must do. This dazzlingly original novel asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love and finds a way to answer them.

About the author

The Museum of Modern Love is Heather Rose's 7th novel. Her novels span adult literary fiction, children's literature, fantasy/sci-fi and crime. Heather's previous novels are White Heart (1999), The Butterfly Man (2005) and The River Wife (2009). Heather also writes the acclaimed Tuesday McGillycuddy series for children (written under the pen-name of Angelica Banks with fellow-author Danielle Wood and published internationally). The series is Finding Serendipity (2013) A Week Without Tuesday (2015) and Blueberry Pancakes Forever (2016). Heather won the Davitt Award in 2006 and her work has been shortlisted for the Nita B Kibble Award and the Aurealis Awards, and longlisted for the IMPAC Awards. She is also a recipient of the international Eleanor Dark Fellowship. Heather was the inaugural Writer in Residence at The Museum of Old and New Art (MoNA) in Hobart 2012-13 where she did much of the research for The Museum of Modern Love. Heather is currently studying Fine Arts at UTAS.

Judges' Comments

This is a novel with artistic sensibility at its core. The protagonist gets caught up in Marina Abramovic's 75-day performance piece, The Artist is Present, staged at MoMA in the spring of 2010. Abramovic polarises people but her work asks serious questions about what it is like to be human. And this book does the same in the most intriguing fashion. Beautifully written and compelling.

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