The Best of the best in Australian books in 2012


The Miles Franklin Literary Award announced the 2012 long list and I would not like to be in the shoes of these jurors, how do you choose just one winner from such a great line up? This is also one of the longest lists in the 58 year history of this award and it is almost equally divided between female and male authors and between historical and contemporary fiction. Many among the nominated books have already been major best sellers in Australia and five of the authors have been either nominated or they previously won the the Miles Franklin Award for their other books. It is fantastic to also note a couple of “rookies” on this list. Past the Shallows by Favell Parrett is her first novel and it was also one of my favorite books of the entire last year. Heart breaking story (make sure you have a box of tissues around) beautifully told and set in the haunting landscape of Tasmania. Anna Funder ventured into the field of fiction for the first time in her unforgettable portrait of Dora Fabian a real life German heroic Nazi resistant. All That I am  is an interesting exploration of bravery and the sacrifices some people make for their beliefs and our responsibility not to forget these heroic acts. For the historical fictions fans, Kate Grenville is at the top of her game in Sarah Thornhill which continues the story of the early Australian settlers depicted so vividly and candidly in her best selling The Secret River. Frank Moorehouse’s Cold Light is the third and the final volume of his Edith Campbell Berry saga. He has already won the Miles Franklin Award for Dark Palace which was the second instalment of this series. The whole trilogy is definitely time investment but probably one of the best that you can make. The other novel which is also a bit of the door stopper is The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman but this was my favorite book of  last year and I still keep talking about it to anybody that would listen. The story set between the contemporary New York City and the gas chambers of Auschwitz will leave you breathless and reading well into the night. Mark Dalphin’s Spirit House also dips into the theme of an old Jewish War survival who is haunted by the ghosts of his long dead comrades. Steven Carroll’s The Spirit of Progress brings yet another dimension to the experience of war as he muses on the creative spirit that emerged from the tough war years that Melbourne experienced. Gillian Mears goes further back in the history setting her Foal’s Bread on an Australian farm just before the Second World War. This novel has been eagerly awaited by many of her fans and it has been described as “love story of impossible beauty and sadness”. Alex Miller,who has already won the Miles Franklin Award twice, has also given a bit of the history twist to his Autumn Laing but it takes more of the personal dimension as it follows an 85-year-old woman who is looking for a redemption for things that she has done in the past. The remaining four nominees are books set in contemporary times. Tony Birch once again explores the lives of those who come from the margins of society. In his Blood  he has created an unforgettable pair of siblings whose strength of innocence is powerful enough to stand up to the violence and evil that they encounter in their short lives. Virginia Duighan’s The Precipice will keep you on the edge of your seat in her psychological thriller that draws a mesmerizing portrait of what happens when an obsession takes over you. Gail Jones celebrated for her sparkling prose, shines once again in Five Bells a story of five lives that get completely changed in the course of one day, all against the backdrop of Sydney’s iconic Circular Quay and the Opera House. Charlotte Wood also sets her  masterpiece Animal People in one day, during which she paints a brilliant “portrait of urban life, a meditation on the conflicted nature of human-animal relationships”. So if you are wondering what to read next, don’t look any further. Choose one of these great books, discover Australian writing and count your luck that you are not a judge of the Miles Franklin Literary Award . How will they choose just one winner! If you have have fallen in love with any of these books ( and I am sure you will)  don’t forget to check the National Year of Reading Book Club were you can find some more best-selling and well loved Australian books that Australians themselves have chosen as a must read in 2012!