The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2012

Three hearty cheers! And congratulations to Gillian Mears, for winning the PM’s award for her novel, Foal’s Bread. This follows on the gold medal awarded by the ALS (Association for the Study of Australian Literature).  I am delighted. I predicted, when I reviewed this book (see my post, “Best Australian Novel for 2011” that it would win the Miles Franklin this year. Well, as we all know, it didn’t; it was shortlisted, but Anna Funder’s All that I Am won. I read Funder’s best-selling novel on my recent trip to Sydney, and will review it soon.

I have to say, in brief, that I much prefer Foal’s Bread. Which is not a criticism of All that I  Am, just an acknowledgement of my subjective preference. As I  have said in a couple of recent posts/comments, reviewing is a very subjective process, as is judging. I have the luxury of judging freely, without the responsibility of awarding a major prize to one author, and denying it to those who are short-listed. So this is my space to say who my winner is.

I want to congratulate Gillian Mears with all my heart, and to say that I think this is a great and original novel, on a par with the best of Henry Handel Richardson, Randolf Stow, Patrick White, Tim Winton, David Malouf, Kate Grenville, Kim Scott, and other Australian writers who’ve won the hearts and minds of readers over the years by capturing our (colonial/indigenous/multicultural) spirit, our landscape and our history in their worlds of fiction. Gillian Mears, in this masterpiece, becomes one of the greats, the original and visionary mythmakers of the many ways of being Australian.

Good on you, Gillian. I hope you write another novel.



Filed under literary awards

8 responses to “The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2012

  1. Fantastic news. I agree with you Christina, and love all that Mears writes. I just couldn’t get into All That I Am, although I loved Funder’s earlier non-fiction book, Stasiland. As you say, personal preference is so important and that’s good too otherwise all judges would award prizes to a single book each year!

    • Interesting! I felt vaguely guilty when I had to keep making myself return to All That I Am; as if I were somehow lacking because I couldn’t see its greatness. It must be great, I thought, if eminent literary critics/writers say it is the best of the shortlist. But it felt too constructed to me, and I certainly can’t see that it is as close to Australian life as Foal’s Bread is. Essentially, it is about the prelude to the Nazi horror and the Second World War, and the resistance of a few brave souls working in exile. An international book, much more than it is a national one. But I will think more about it and write a review here soon.

  2. Well said Christina. I haven’t read the Funder yet – but heard her speak very eloquently yesterday. However, I do think Foal’s bread is a wonderful book. I think my reading group – which pretty well universally loved Foal’s bread – will do the Funder later this year. If we do, it will be interesting to see how they compare them. Some, I know, have already read it.

    • I’ll be very interested to know how your group like the Funder, and how they compare it with Foal’s Bread. Anyway, I’m so happy for Gillian Mears, it is a wonderful accomplishment for her, to have won the award that is surely the richest, and may become, with time, as highly regarded as the Miles Franklin is. One good thing coming out of the Federal government’s coffers!

  3. I see that Foal’s Bread did not win the Kibble award, announced today. I will read the winning book, Five Bells, by Gail Jones, some time in the whenever. But Gillian, you can rest on your laurels. Your book will have a long life.

  4. I agree that Foals Bread was a much more complete story, richer in every way. I enjoyed All that I Am and recommended it to my friends but, in my view, it doesn’t hold a candle to Mears work. I’ve read Five Bells and sadly I can’t seem to conjure up much about it. I did like it, but, for me, bordered on self consciously good whereas Foal’s Bread just seemed to be born complete.

  5. Hello, and thanks for your comment. I totally agree with your comments about Foal’s Bread and All that I am. As for Five Bells, I am interested, because I read a couple of other books by Gail Jones, and, like you, found them self-conscious, even contrived. And what a lovely description, that Foal’s Bread was ‘born complete’. Yes, it has that artless feeling, even though it took her, I think, several years to write, and no doubt much pain and effort. But that for me is the mark of great art; that it should seem artless, seamless, whole.

  6. just read, on another blog,, that Foal’s Bread has won the Age Book of the Year award for fiction. Vive la litterature! I’m so pleased that other judges recognise the originality and greatness of this work.

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