The shortlist for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards has been announced and her are the books in the Fiction category.
'Dark as Last Night' confirms, once again, that Tony Birch is a master of the short story. These exceptional stories capture the importance of human connection at pivotal moments in our lives, whether those occur because of the loss of a loved one or the uncertainties of childhood.
In this collection we witness a young girl struggling to protect her mother from her father's violence, two teenagers clumsily getting to know one another by way of a shared love of music, and a man mourning the death of his younger brother, while beset by memories and regrets from their shared past.
Throughout this powerful collection, Birch's concern for the humanity of those who are often marginalised or overlooked shines bright.
A neurotic freelance writer aims to prove that pianos kill elite pianists. For decades, he has grappled with the guilt that followed an accident in which he severed his talented sister's fingers, ending her promising career at the keyboard. His investigations centre on the violent deaths at 31 of three great pianists, his detective work taking him from Melbourne to Geelong and Sydney, to the south of France, London, Sussex, and the Czech Republic.
Prussia, 1836 Hanne Nussbaum is a child of nature – she would rather run wild in the forest than conform to the limitations of womanhood. In her village of Kay, Hanne is friendless and considered an oddity . . . until she meets Thea.
Ocean, 1838 The Nussbaums are Old Lutherans, bound by God's law and at odds with their King's order for reform. Forced to flee religious persecution the families of Kay board a crowded, disease-riddled ship bound for the new colony of South Australia. In the face of brutal hardship, the beauty of whale song enters Hanne's heart, along with the miracle of her love for Thea. Theirs is a bond that nothing can break. The whale passed. The music faded.
South Australia, 1838 A new start in an old land. God, society and nature itself decree Hanne and Thea cannot be together. But within the impossible . . . is devotion.
Potent, haunting and lyrical, Night Blue is a debut novel like no other, a narrative largely told in the voice of the painting Blue Poles. It is a truly original and absorbing approach to revisiting Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner as artists and people, as well as a realigning our ideas around the cultural legacy of Whitlam's purchase of Blue Poles in 1973.
It is also the story of Alyssa, and a contemporary relationship, in which Angela O'Keeffe immerses us in the essential power of art to change our personal lives and, by turns, a nation.
Moving between New York and Australia with fluid ease, Night Blue is intimate and tender, yet surprisingly dramatic. It is a glorious exploration of how art must never be undervalued.
'Red Heaven' is the story of a child's journey to adulthood, his loss of those he loves and his fixing of them in memory. It begins in the late 1960s in Switzerland, as the boy's ideas about life are being shaped by two rival influences.
'Red Heaven' is about the people who make us what we are: how they come into our lives, affect us, then depart the stage. This fiction, alive to the elusive beauties and sadnesses of the world, is Nicolas Rothwell's finest achievement.