Thursday, April 27, 2006

Australian Historical Fiction

It would appear that the state of historical fiction is pretty good here in Australia. Today the five nominations for The Miles Franklin Award 2006 were announced and all five of them are historical fiction.

The nominations are:

The Secret River by Kate Grenville

Historical novel set in the early years of the settlement of NSW, and follows the life and times of William Thornhill, who was sentenced in 1806 to be transported to NSW for the term of his natural life. With his wife and children, he eventually takes up land on the Hawkesbury River, and it’s this phrase, ‘takes up land’, that Kate Grenville examines, because it’s a phrase that doesn’t instantly invoke the risk and bloodshed that actually happened.

The Wing of the Night by Brenda Walker

The novel is mainly set in the farming communities of the south west of Western Australia where women were left to run farms. They formed strong bonds with their neighbours which transcended class divisions.

The book also explores what it was like for the men who survived the war and returned home.

Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany

Living off the land must be scientifically based. If you don’t do it properly, you fail. In the old days you’d starve. In the 1930s, a train carrying experts travelled across the countryside dispensing knowledge in the confident expectation that crop yields could be increased. This is the setting for an extraordinary novel by Carrie Tiffany, just published here and abroad.

The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald

Roger's latest novel delves into the tough and vibrant landscape that was the setting for the colony of New South Wales' emerging wool industry. In 'The Ballad Of Desmond Kale' two tough men - Kale, an Irish political prisoner and Parson/Magistrate Matthew Stanton become arch rivals as they both endeavour to produce the finest wool ever produced in New South Wales.

The Garden Book by Brian Castro

Brian Castro's new novel is set in the Dandenong Ranges in the years between the Depression and the Second World War. The story revolves around Swan hay, born Shuang He, daughter of a country schoolteacher, her marriage to the passionate and brutal Darcy Damon, and her love affair with the aviator and architect Jasper Zenlin. Fifty years after her disappearance, Norman Shih, a rare book librarian, pieces together Swan's chaotic life from clues found in guest house libraries, antiquarian bookshops and her own elusive writings. But what exactly is he hoping to find?

Of these the only one I have read is The Secret River and it was quite a good read. As for the others...well, I have added another four items to my TBR list! I'm excited at the prospect of discovering four new authors as well.

Previous winners of the award include Patrick White, Andrew McGahan, Thomas Kenneally and Tim Winton.

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