The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction 2015 shortlist

We’re delighted to announce the 2015 shortlist for The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction! Established in 2014, this prize supports published Australian authors working in fiction, and recognises exciting and exceptional new contributions to local literature.

The six shortlisted books are:

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
Last Day in the Dynamite Factory by Annah Faulkner
In the Quiet by Eliza Henry-Jones
Arms Race by Nic Low
Hot Little Hands by Abigail Ulman
Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

You can read more about the six shortlisted authors here.

Our judging panel comprises Readings Managing Director Mark Rubbo, St Kilda Shop Manager Amy Vuleta, Readings Monthly Editor Elke Power and Hawthorn Buyer Danielle Mirabella. Guest judge Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites and co-founder of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, will join them to select a winner from the shortlist. The winning author will be announced in mid-October and will receive prize money of $4000. (You can read more about the Prize here.)

Kill Your Darlings will also be hosting a free event at our Carlton shop to celebrate the shortlist on Tuesday 22 September. Hosted by online editor Veronica Sullivan, six readers/writers will mount a case for why their favourite book from this year’s shortlist should win. Find out more here.

Below are the judges’ comments for the six shortlisted books.


The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

Stephanie Bishop’s second novel, The Other Side of the World, is a timeless examination of homesickness and belonging, and a portrait of a marriage. Set in England, Australia and India in the 1960s, Bishop brings Charlotte and Henry, and the worlds they are struggling to find their place in, to life. Like her characters, Bishop has a deep sensibility for place and the nuances of relationships – especially those between partners, and between parents and children. The Other Side of the World reveals uncomfortable, and potentially devastating, truths about what is to be human, and about the inescapable dangers of reconciling, or failing to reconcile, conflicting aspects of self.

These are not people pushed to the brink by war or catastrophe, these are people for whom the crisis is internal, daily and fundamental. Bishop has a rare gift for capturing seemingly insignificant but breathtakingly revealing moments in life with poignant accuracy. The Other Side of the World is exquisite – elegant, profound and unforgettable.

You can read an extract from The Other Side of the World here.


Last Day in the Dynamite Factory by Annah Faulkner

In the beginning of Last Day in the Dynamite Factory we are introduced to our protagonist Christopher Bright, a successful and well-respected restoration architect & happily married father. Christopher leads a stable and relatively uneventful life and is content with his lot apart from one question that has remained unresolved his entire life – who was his birth father? After the death of Christopher’s much-adored adoptive mother (his birth mother’s sister) he decides to seek an answer. Christopher’s quest for the truth is all consuming and the frustration of years of silence and hidden truths takes its toll – family secrets are brought to light and the more he discovers the more unhinged and fractured his life becomes.

Annah Faulkner is a gifted storyteller. Following her Miles Franklin shortlisted debut, The Beloved, her highly anticipated second novel is unique and deftly weaves its characters’ stories and the events of the past into the present.

You can read an extract from Last Day in the Dynamite Factory here.


In the Quiet by Eliza Henry-Jones

Eliza Henry-Jones’ debut novel is a story of love, loss and grief narrated by the novel’s central character, Cate Carlton. Cate has recently and unexpectedly died. She now observes, from an unexplained place, her loved ones dealing with their grief. As time passes we follow the daily lives of Cate’s teenage children & her husband as they struggle with the loss of their mother and partner, and also cope in varying ways. We are witness to each family member’s immeasurable heartache and also the helplessness Cate endures from afar. Set on a rural Victorian horse property, the Australian landscape and the family’s relationships with their horses feature crucially throughout.

Simply, In the Quiet is a beautiful and tender debut novel. Eliza Henry-Jones is a bright new talent in Australian literature with a voice that is accomplished, fresh and utterly engaging.

You can read an extract from In the Quiet here.


Arms Race by Nic Low

The short stories that make up Nic Low’s debut, Arms Race, are constructed with precision. That is to say, the intricate plots, complex characters and extraordinary situations are complete, fully realised works that have a resolved agenda and make their point. Dealing with technological apocalypse, guerrilla terrorism, sexually transmitted artistic genius, climate change and Indigenous sovereignty, the stories are by turns funny, disturbing and surreal.

This collection is thematically and stylistically coherent, yet diverse in form and content. The strength of these stories, and indeed the pleasure in reading them, lies in their absurdity and cleverness, which, without artifice, engages the reader in the underlying social, cultural, or political comments they are making in a way that is direct and deliberate.

You can read an extract from Arms Race here.


Hot Little Hands by Abigail Ulman

This collection of short stories offers an effortless and intelligent read. Set in Melbourne, San Francisco and New York, it narrates in clear prose the stories of characters who are coming into themselves in the very moment of our reading. In this way, Ulman masterfully matches the content of the stories to their narrative style. Connected by a common theme – young women and adolescent girls who are negotiating the terms of their sexuality – Ulman explores the sexualisation of these girls and women by themselves and by others, and how they relate to the world.

What is striking about these stories is the challenge they so boldly deliver. Whether you can recognise or relate to the characters and their experiences, or behold them with voyeuristic unease or a sort of anthropological fascination, Hot Little Hands is a book that demands an audience.

You can read an extract from Hot Little Hands here.


Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

In Heat and Light, Ellen van Neerven’s stories draw the reader in with a quiet urgency that is hard to resist. Her characters are fully realised and compelling, their responses to the situations in which they find themselves powerful and haunting, and, at times, all the more devastating for their understatement. The intersections between the inexplicable, even mystical, and the painfully recognisable – in human behaviour and preoccupations, and in place – weave together these unblinking stories of identity, survival, and family spanning past and future generations.

Van Neerven’s imagery leaves deep impressions on the mind, and having been caught up their plight, unable to look away, her characters’ presence lingers. Heat and Light is an affecting and commanding work of fiction from an impressive new talent.

You can read an extract from Heat and Light here.

You can buy a special discounted pack of all six Australian books shortlisted for The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction 2015 here.

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Hot Little Hands

Hot Little Hands

Abigail Ulman

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