2010 Prime Minister's Literary Awards

Winners

Fiction

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung

Judging panel comments

To the ancient folkloric and literary traditions of children lost, then raised and nurtured in the animal world, Eva Hornung brings her own compassionate and contemporary outrage at the treatment of refugees and outcasts. Dog Boy is a testing but triumphant feat of the imagination. Hornung challenges us to believe that an abandoned child in a decaying city in deep winter can sympathetically enter the small, embattled but protective society of a dog pack. The resonances of the novel are bleak and unsettling, but the resolution is both shocking and apt, the experiment and the manner of its telling have a compelling assurance. The winner of the 2010 Fiction Awards is a remarkable work of international standing.

Non-fiction

The Colony: The History of Early Sydney by Grace Karskens

Judging panel comments

The Colony is a marvellous story grounded in the landscape—from pre-history to successive transformations of the colony from campsites to towns, from garden plots to huge land-holdings.

Tracing and exploring the sense of place is the backbone of Karskens' narrative. Always present in Karskens' story is the Indigenous population, a dynamic, pervasive presence, a presence with victories as well as defeats, of shapers as well as of the dispossessed.

Karskens' scholarship is rich in the exploration of what she lovingly calls ‘the city of words’ – the work of fellow historians, archaeologists, geologists, museologists, and art and architectural historians. Karskens' own voice is a confident one, balanced, perceptive and startling in its simplicity and directness as she challenges received wisdom.

The Colony deserved this year's award for its high literary quality and originality. As a fine history, it is a story which also informs the present and gives us signposts for the future. The narrative is enthralling in its detail and exciting in the picture it draws of the great, brave achievement that the colony was from its earliest days.

Young adult fiction

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God  by Bill Condon

Judging panel comments

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God is a poignant, funny and deeply insightful rite of passage novel. Set in 1967, the author makes it seem contemporary, skilfully employing a nuanced first-person narration.

Neil Bridges attends a Catholic boys' school where classmate Ray (Zom) is accused by a Brother of stealing a wallet and is expelled after a fight with his accuser. Neil knows who stole the wallet, but refuses to tell. Ray's father is so ashamed that Ray is cut off from his family—save for his older sister Sylvana.

Neil falls in love with Sylvana, but, implicated in Ray's disgrace, his loyalties and motives are deeply conflicted. The pain of first love, and the morality attached to individual life choices, is evoked with real empathy.

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God also portrays the strength of ordinary families and the love even between warring brothers. There's a poignant hint too, of more loss ahead, in Neil's brother Kevin's conscription for the Vietnam War. Condon declines to indulge in historical revisionism, while the economical prose attains a rhythm that is almost poetry.

The short, chiselled chapters ensure that not a word is wasted. Condon is a writer of considerable craft who eschews the flamboyant in search of deeper truths.

The winner of the 2010 Young Adult Fiction Award is a work of tremendous honesty and integrity, exploring moral issues pertaining to the rite of passage experienced by teenagers. Judges were enormously impressed with the way the writer canvasses these concerns in a concise, emotionally charged novel.

Children's fiction

Star Jumps by Lorraine Marwood

Judging panel comments

Lorraine Marwood's Star Jumps is a verse novel set on a dairy farm, and is a lyrical portrait of rural life seen vividly through the eyes of Ruby, the youngest of three siblings. Star Jumps is the favourite game of Keely, Connor and Ruby, a game they play among the marshmallow weed when their work is done; and is also a metaphor for the joy of life, for the here and now.

As prolonged drought threatens to take the farm and Dad has to sell many of the best stock, Ruby makes a list of the things they can do to help and comes up with mini hay bales made from the grass around the fences. Ruby tells the family's story in a voice which offers us a child's view of a changing world.

This is a moving evocation of home and family bonds, and the rhythms of farm life, and explores the effect of drought on all of these things. Star Jumps speaks with a natural poetry and unfussy richness, offering the reader evidence of the power of individual action and of hope in a small, perfectly inscribed way.

Star Jumps was selected as the winner of the 2010 Children's Fiction Award for it is a deceptively simple work with enormous resonance which, in the verse novel format, both evokes a place with warmth and great empathy, and enters into the world of the child with lucid charm and clarity. Star Jumps takes the reader into the lives of a family at a moment of change, sharing with the reader joy, fear and hope. It was the ‘surprise package’ in the list and the voice in which it is written is appealing, authentic and irresistible.

Shortlists

Fiction

  • Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
  • The Book of Emmett by Deborah Forster
  • The Lakewoman by Alan Gould
  • Dog Boy by Eva Hornung
  • Ransom by David Malouf
  • Lovesong by Alex Miller
  • As the Earth turns Silver by Alison Wong

Non-fiction

  • The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent by Michael Cathcart
  • Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness by Will Elliott
  • The Colony: A History of Early Sydney by Grace Karskens
  • The Life and Death of Democracy by John Keane
  • The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir by Mark Tredinnick
  • The Ghost at the Wedding by Shirley Walker

Young adult fiction

  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher
  • The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke
  • Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God by Bill Condon
  • The Museum of Mary Child by Cassandra Golds
  • Swerve by Phillip Gwynne
  • Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen
  • Beatle meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams

Children's fiction

  • Cicada Summer by Kate Constable
  • The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrator Andrew Joyner
  • Just Macbeth by Andy Griffiths and illustrator Terry Denton
  • Mr Chicken goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs
  • Running with the Horses by Alison Lester
  • Star Jumps by Lorraine Marwood
  • Mannie and the Long Brave Day by Martine Murray and illustrator Sally Rippin
  • Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children by Jen Storer
  • Harry and Hopper by Margaret Wild and illustrator Freya Blackwood

Judges

Fiction panel

  • Professor Peter Pierce, chair
  • Professor John A. Hay AC
  • Dr Lyn Gallacher

Non-fiction panel

  • Mr Brian Johns AO, chair
  • Mr Colin Steele
  • Dr Faye Sutherland

Children's and Young Adult Fiction panel

  • Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright, chair
  • Ms Mary-Ruth Mendel
  • Mr Mike Shuttleworth

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