Why you should read Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

We’re delighted that Lucy Treloar’s debut novel is one of the six books shortlisted for this year’s Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. Here’s why we think you should read this book.

1. Salt Creek is an Australian classic in the making.

Salt Creek has all the trappings of an Australian classic in the making – and it’s stacking up the award nominations to confirm it. This debut novel has won the Matt Richell Award for a New Writer, the Dobbie Literary Award and the Indies Award for Debut Fiction. It has also been shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, AND, of course, our own Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction 2016. Phew.

2. This historical story powerfully resonates with contemporary Australian politics.

It’s 1855 and Stanton Finch and his family have fallen on hard times and relocated to Salt Creek – a remote, beautiful coastal region in the new province of South Australia. Formerly wealthy political activists, the Finch family struggle to make a life for themselves, and their actions have devastating repercussions for the Ngarrindjeri people they have dispossessed in their arrival. It is all too easy to trace the domino effect of these consequences throughout Australia’s history and this novel explores land rights, women’s rights, and other urgent questions of our time, particularly around the way white Australia treats Indigenous people and people of colour.

3. This novel is a great challenge for readers who avoid historical fiction.

If you aren’t normally a reader of historical fiction, don’t be scared to delve into Salt Creek’s pages. It might be intimidating at first – there’s a lot of landscape, and Treloar’s writing style is deliberately reminiscent of the time – but you’ll be soon swept into a plot that offers tragic death, forbidden love, thwarted plans, heartbreak, lies, betrayal and more. This isn’t a dry read, but rather an immersive family saga full of drama.

4. It’s obvious that Lucy Treloar has done her research.

Reading this novel will transport you to the Coorong – a distinctive landscape south-east of Adelaide that spans more than 130 kilometres of the South Australian coastline – as well as to the 1800s. Treloar brings this period of time to life, and she also compellingly creates the sense of isolation that the Coorong still provokes in visitors today.

5. Hester is a wonderful feminist heroine who will break your heart.

Salt Creek is told through the perspective of the eldest daughter, Hester, who is 15-years-old when the book opens. Her account is intimate and compelling, and she is so fully realised as a character you might find yourself expecting to see her walk off the page. Hester is independent and strong-willed, with modern ideas around marriage and education, and her struggle with the restrictions placed on her because of her gender is painful and moving to read. If you want to read a little bit more about Hester (and other aspects of the novel) the book’s publisher Pan Macmillan has created some terrific reading notes that you can download as a PDF.

Find the full Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction shortlist here, and don’t forget you can buy all six of our wonderful shortlistees in a specially-priced pack.

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