Stephen Romei, from The Weekend Australian, 8 January 2017, where the title is “Miles of new novels illuminate a year of literary largesse”
The next 12 months promise to be exciting for Australian literature, with no fewer than seven winners of the Miles Franklin Literary Award publishing new novels. The international fiction scene also looks impressive, with British writer Hilary Mantel due to produce the third and final instalment of her dual Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall trilogy. Nonfiction, too, has a lot to offer, with former prime minister Tony Abbott delivering a second memoir, Reflections, and author Grantlee Kieza considering a close but private side of the life of our most famous bushranger in Mrs Kelly: The Astonishing Life of Ned Kelly’s Mother.
Alex Patric. Picture: Aaron FrancisMICHELLE —Sydney Morning Herald
But it is in local fiction where the big guns will be firing. Indeed one of the most challenging — and thrilling — jobs of 2017 will be that of a literary prize judge. Melbourne writer AS Patric, who won this year’s Miles with Black Rock White City, follows up with Atlantic Black, a novel set on board a transatlantic ocean liner on New Year’s Eve 1939., from The Weekend Australia,
The previous winner, Sofie Laguna, also from Melbourne, will publish a novel titled The Choke, and the 2012 winner, Michelle de Kretser, has one called The Life to Come.Veteran authors Tom Keneally and Alex Miller, who each have two Miles wins, will publish Mungo Man and Passage of Love respectively. Keneally’s novel is about that landmark 40,000-year-old Australian, while Miller’s is about his time with his first wife. Melbourne author Stephen Carroll has written A New England Affair, the final book in his celebrated Glenroy suite. He won the 2008 Miles for the third book in this series, The Time We Have Taken.
Perhaps the highest expectations though are for West Australian writer Kim Scott, who won the 2011 Miles — and lots of other prizes — for That Deadman Dance. His first novel since, Taboo, is due in August. It follows a group of Noongar people who are trying to return to country, a journey complicated by the history of massacre and its ongoing stain and trauma.
Critic Peter Pierce, who edited The Cambridge History of Australian Literature, said the influx of novels by Miles winners highlighted “a remarkable feature of the Australian novel’’. “Look at how many long careers the novel has to show. Note the resilience and powers of reinvention the writers have displayed,” Pierce said.
Australian nonfiction writing looks strong in 2017, particularly in memoirs, where Nikki Gemmell, in After, writes about her mother’s euthanasia death and the emotional and legal fallout that followed. Caroline Baum recalls her unconventional childhood in Only: A Singular Memoir. Kate Grenville, best known for The Secret River and other novels, turns her attention to perfume in the nonfiction The Case Against Fragrance. Inspired by her own negative health experiences with perfume, it is an investigation of the “science of scent’’.
Celebrated writer Helen Garner is the subject rather than the author of a new book: Bernadette Brennan’s A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work . Brennan draws on previously unavailable papers in Garner’s archive to explore 40 years of her work.
In international fiction while readers will be keen to see how Mantel wraps up Thomas Cromwell’s life, the most anticipated novel is Lincoln in the Bardo, the debut of the acclaimed American short story writer George Saunders. The novel, set over just one night, centres on Abraham Lincoln, alone at a graveyard, grieving for his just-dead son Willie.
Also high on the must-read list will be Paul Auster with 4 3 2 1, his first novel in seven years, and Scandinavian star Karl Ove Knausgaard with Autumn/Winter, the latest book in his epic My Struggle autobiographical fiction series.