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Miles Franklin Award 2021 winner announced

July 15, 2021

Nothwithstanding this week’s Monday Musings posts on literary awards, I still like the Miles Franklin – partly because of its significance in the Australian literary firmament – and so I am sharing today’s announcement of this year’s winner which I watched via You Tube.

You may remember that this years shortlist was:

  • Aravind Adiga’s Amnesty (Lisa’s review)
  • Robbie Arnott’s The rain heron
  • Daniel Davis Wood’s At the edge of the solid world
  • Amanda Lohrey’s The Labyrinth (Lisa’s review)
  • Andrew Pippos’ Lucky’s
  • Madeleine Watts’ The inland sea
Book cover

And the winner is: Amanda Lohrey’s Labyrinth

(Lisa will be pleased!)

Just to recap, from my shortlist post: Each of the shortlisted writers received $5000 from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, with the winner receiving $60,000 prize. This year’s judges comprised, as always, continuing judges and new ones, providing I think a good mix of experience and fresh ideas: Richard Neville (State Library of NSW), author and activist Sisonke Msimang, and critics Melinda Harvey, Bernadette Brennan and James Ley.

So, more on the winner …

This is Lohrey’s second listing for the Miles Franklin award, but her first win. The panel described the novel as a “profound mediation” on loss, with judging panel chair, Richard Neville commanding the “clarity” of her prose in exploring “loss at so many levels”. (Notably, Neville also mentioned the increasing cultural diversity appearing in the awards, by which I assume he meant, in the books submitted. Ninety-six titles were submitted.)

Amanda Lohrey spoke briefly, thanking various people – including family, publisher, editor, of course. She praised her publisher, the wonderful Text Publishing, for supporting “literary values” and she talked of the award’s benefactor, Miles Franklin, as “the great Australian nonconformist”. She also thanked the readers whom she described as an “indestructible tribe” in a world of Netflix (etc). She characterised the relationship between writer and readers as “an extraordinary exchange among strangers.” I like that.

Book cover

The presentation also included last year’s winner Tara June Winch congratulating Amanda Lohrey. She said that what she gained, in particular, from the award, was “a readership”. Isn’t that great to hear, because that – and the “gift of time” – is what we hope awards like this offer books and their writers.

And, finally, just for fun. Today The Sydney Morning Herald published an article on How to win the Miles Franklin: Analysing 64 years of data, by Pallavi Singhal. It looks at the usual issues like gender, origin (birth location, ethnicity), age, but also other points you may not have considered like length (“write about 400 pages”, it says), title style (“Begin your book title with ‘the’ and keep it short”) and publisher (Allen & Unwin is ahead at the moment)!

Do you have any thoughts on this year’s winner?

23 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2021 17:11

    I haven’t actually read any of the books on the shortlist…yet. I always seem to be a bit behind with that, but I do like to take note of the authors listed each year. I think Tara June Winch’s point about “readership” is very interesting, because one of the most important benefits of literary awards for me, is that it propels the names of authors into the forefront of my mind. Then, when I am browsing through a bookstore or the Lifeline booksale, I’ll see their name, and remember, and give them a go. Especially if they are women.

    • July 15, 2021 17:36

      Like you I havent read any of them either Karen, but I love that you validate Tara June Winch’s belief in what awards do. Thanks for commenting on that.

  2. July 15, 2021 18:16

    Not on this year’s, no .. But if you want my thoughts on the winner of 2010’s .. 😀

  3. July 15, 2021 18:23

    Winch’s comment about readership is interesting, I often wonder what long term effect the winning a prize has on sales. Do people buy the book just because it won a prize but don’t actually read it or do they buy it, read it but never read the author again. Data about Booker prize winners shows there isnt as much of a bump in sales as you might expect

    • July 15, 2021 19:34

      Yes, Karen, I had heard similar or at least mixed info about sales. Clearly it worked for Tara.

  4. July 16, 2021 10:43

    Yes, I am pleased!

  5. July 16, 2021 16:45

    The only thought I have is on the cover. It looks home made and I wouldn’t pick it up on that basis. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I always do!

    • July 16, 2021 18:16

      Yes, I have mixed feelings about the cover too Theresa, and yet it’s Text which usually does great covers. I haven’t properly looked at it in person yet though. I hope to buy it tomorrow and will see what I think then.

  6. July 16, 2021 17:37

    I’ve only read The Rain Heron on the shortlist, but Lohrey’s book was the other one the list I was interested in reading. So I definitely will one day.
    I’ve only read her essay The Clear Voice Suddenly Singing in Secrets by Drusilla Modjeska, Amanda Lohrey & Robert Dessaix from many years ago. I loved it, esp as it coincided with me joining a local choir for the first time.

    • July 16, 2021 18:18

      I hear the Arnott is great too Brona. I want to read it too. That essay sounds great. I’m not a singer but love singing so would be interested in reading it.

  7. buriedinprint permalink
    July 17, 2021 07:41

    All that data must be extraordinarily fun when you’ve got a longstanding familiarity with the prize!

    Also…all the power of the THE. And, yet, I can kinda see how that’s worked for some books!

    • July 18, 2021 09:34

      I reckon too, Buried. I love looking at data, and why not have fun with it.

      As for the “The”, it’s probably the case that the proportion of books that win titled this way, mirrors the proportion of books published titled this way (ie short and starting with “The”) – but I’d have to look at the data!

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