Barbara Jefferis Award Winner 2016

It is with great pleasure that the ASA announces that Peggy Frew’s novel Hope Farm (Scribe) has won the 2016 Barbara Jefferis Award.

The Barbara Jefferis Award is offered for “the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society”. The Award is in its seventh year, and previous winners include Helen Garner, Rhyll McMaster, Kristina Olsson, GL Osborne, Anna Funder, Margo Lanagan and Fiona McFarlane.

Peggy will receive $50,000, with $1000 being awarded to each of the shortlisted authors.

The Award judges in 2016 are Marele Day, Garry Disher and Anne Maria Nicholson.

Shortlist

Sarah Hopkins: This Picture of You (Allen & Unwin)
Gail Jones: A Guide to Berlin (Vintage)
Alice Pung: Laurinda (Black Inc.)
Claire Zorn: The Protected (University of Queensland Press)
Peggy Frew: Hope Farm (Scribe Publications)
Charlotte Wood: The Natural Way of Things (Allen & Unwin)

The following novels were highly commended:

Vikki Wakefield: In Between Days (Text Publishing)
Mireille Juchau: The World Without Us (Bloomsbury)

Judge's comments

Peggy Frew, Hope Farm 

Winner

The sensate imagery of this well-paced narrative vividly captures the complexity of emotions that bind and separate enigmatic hippie Ishtar, who became a mother too young and her daughter Silver, forced into premature self-reliance. Narrator Silver looks back at their year at Hope Farm commune with the charismatic but demonic Miller, the weight of what happened to him and the burden of carrying secrets. This is an exquisite novel of female sensibilities, about the decisions women have to make and the consequences of living with them.

Sarah Hopkins, This Picture of You

Shortlist

Compelling and with slow burning revelations, this novel is full of rich surprises. Maggie, a successful artist, and Martin, a prominent judge, have been together for 37 years, living comfortably in suburban Sydney while doting on their grandson. But when Martin crashes his car, his slide into dementia accelerates and Maggie discovers some shocking secrets including strange links her husband has with an Aboriginal family. While Martin’s memory flickers obsessively on the day the couple met in New York four decades earlier, Maggie deals with their unravelling lives and their son’s failing marriage. With deft plotting from past to present, Hopkins has created a family drama that shines a mirror on themes of race, society and family values.

Gail Jones, A Guide to Berlin

Shortlist

This is a fine homage to Berlin and Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiographical Speak, Memory. Six international visitors to the city, including Cass, a young Australian, meet regularly in various unoccupied homes to relate a densely remembered story or detail from their lives. These are moving and tragic, involving personal, public and historical events. Berlin is a sombre, melancholy city in this novel, overlaid by its past, memories, snow and the meshing and interlocking of the train system. Beautifully descriptive, with finely drawn characters, each with a troubled secret self, the novel reveals how memories are made of many small observations.

Mireille Juchau, The World Without Us

Highly commended

Set in an idyllic rural community in Northern New South Wales, this story centres on the Mullers, a family falling apart following the death of a child.   Beekeeper Stefan, a German immigrant, and artist Evangeline are the survivors of a commune called the Hive, ruled by a manipulative egomaniac and destroyed by a mysterious fire. Along with their parents, the two surviving adolescent daughters, Tess and Meg, struggle through each day enmeshed by grief at the loss of baby Pip from leukaemia.

Juchau elegantly weaves her characters, many who dabble with alternative lifestyles, into the wider natural world which is facing ecological disaster from pollution from a gas company. Vividly written, the novel is profoundly moving.

Alice Pung, Laurinda

Shortlist

This debut novel pitched at young adults is a sharp and funny depiction of the teenage daughter of Vietnamese refugees who wins a scholarship to an exclusive Melbourne school for girls. Lucy Lam is catapulted from her happy life as a top student in a multicultural, co-ed school into Laurinda where privilege and bullying, of both students and teachers, prevails. Lucy must navigate between this world of snobbery and inherited wealth and her diverse local community where expectations of her are high and where her own family struggles to provide life’s basics.    

Beautifully written and observed, Pung evokes the contemporary world of race and class with humour and optimism.

Vikki Wakefield, In Between Days

Highly commended

This is a novel about teens, family relationships and small-town loneliness. Seventeen-year-old Jacklin Bates, adrift between her teen years and adulthood in a stifling, moribund country town, is absorbed in reading – and misreading – herself and the other richly detailed characters in her life.  Frequently funny, but then moving and unsettling, it appeals to the readers’ senses and all of the relationships – between siblings, lovers, townspeople, parents and children – ring true.

Charlotte Wood, The Natural Way of Things

Shortlist   

Tough and compelling, this is a dystopic vision of women sent to exile in a harsh Australian landscape and treated like animals. They have all been involved in sex scandals which reference actual news stories – Verla the cabinet minister’s moll; Yolanda shared by the football team; Maitlynd the school principal’s head girl; big Barbs from the Army, gamer girl Rhiannon; cruise-ship girl Lydia; Joy the singer from PerforMAXX. It is a profound examination of misogyny, how men treat women, women treat women, and how violence brutalises the offenders as well as the victims. Narrated from the points of view of Yolanda and Verla, this novel takes the reader to primal places and the possibility of transformation. 

Claire Zorn, The Protected

Shortlist

This novel is testament to the strength and vigour of young adult writing in Australia. It explores the inner life of Hannah, whose family is torn apart by the death of her older sister. A story of guilt, fragile trust, adolescence, bullying and family life under strain, it’s beautifully written and deeply felt. The characters, from the narrator to the parents and the quirky school counsellor, are vividly realised through dialogue and actions. All of the relationships are refreshingly complex and fraught, and, unusually for a YA novel, the parents are not sidelined but central and crucial. Finally, the novel is expertly structured, with buried secrets teasing the reader and creating tension and suspense. 

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