‘Move over ladies, the big boys are back in town’ could almost be the catch-cry for this year’s Miles Franklin Award. In 2013 it was the fairer gender who took centre stage, but in the last twelve months the male masters of the game all pushed out new product – J M Coetzee, Thomas Keneally, Richard Flanagan, Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas, Steven Carroll and Alex Miller. These behemoths don’t need awards to give their sales spikes – their names and oeuvre do that for them. To call the winner will be tough, but I know who my money will be on
Unlike the Miles Franklin, my best reads for the year, by necessity, are not restricted to that published in the previous twelve months. In my final years in the workplace I went on a book buying frenzy, expecting my retirement years would be financially quite straightened. This has not come to pass, but I now have a fair old backlog sitting in the man-cave to get through. Of course 2013 still saw me frequenting Fullers most weeks, but I had to be tough with myself and not be too tempted by their beguiling shelves. So following comes the best stuff I have read over the past calendar year:-
10. ‘The Forgotten War’ – Henry Reynolds – places the question as to why the great Aboriginal warrior leaders of the Frontier Wars are not held in same regard as Monash, Morshead and Blamey.
09. ‘Whatever You Love’ – Louise Doughty – the sex was truly awful, but as a mother’s worst nightmare this was sure a page-turner.
08. ‘Sydney’ – Delia Falconer – on my ‘bucket list’ is the aim to read all titles in this series’ fascinating takes on our major urban areas.
07. ‘Richo’ – Martin Flanagan – a larger than life local footy hero bought to life by our best writer on the native sport.
06. ‘The Rosie Project’ – Graeme Simsion – rightly the commercial smash hit of the year and I loved it.
05. ‘A World of Other People’ – Steven Carroll – one of my favourites doesn’t disappoint with this tale of love amidst the ruin of war.
04. ‘The Memory Trap’ – Andrea Goldsmith – this author more than matches it with the big boys in this intricate, maze-like journey through relationships across continents and race.
03. ‘Five Bells’ – Gail Jones – a single iconic location on a single day but what a magic web Jones weaves.
02. ‘Coal Creek’ – Alex Miller – with the main protagonist, Bobby Blue, Miller creates the voice of the Outback.
01. ‘The Narrow Road to the True North’ – Richard Flanagan – heartbreakingly the best novel I have read this century. If it doesn’t take the honours in the aforementioned award I’ll cry into my beer. Flanagan’s Dorrigo Evans is a flawless masterpiece of a creation – the type of heroically flawed man our nation treasures.
HMs to ‘Eyrie’ (Tim Winton), ‘Pictures of You’ (Caroline Leavitt), ‘You – a Novel’ (Joanna Briscoe)
Richard Flanagan is a proud, feisty Tasmanian and I think it would be fair to day my little island punches above its weight in the literary boxing ring of the nation. Sadly one of our local literary heavyweight champions retired into the sky this year. Thank you CK for all the reading joy your work has given me down through the decades.