Women and memoirs dominate Indie shortlists

Geraldine Brooks lives with her family on a rural property at Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts, where they grown organic vegetables and have pet alpacas. Photo: Randi BairdGail Jones interview Charlotte Wood interviewStephanie Bishop interviewGeraldine Brooks interview

Women writers look likely to dominate the fiction awards this year, as they pushed men aside from the Indie Book Award fiction shortlists announced on Monday.

The Indies, which are awarded by Australian independent booksellers, are the first national awards of the year and often a guide to the books that will win big awards such as the Miles Franklin.

This year they celebrate a revival of confidence among booksellers.

“Readers are moving back to print,” says Jon Page, of Pages and Pages Booksellers in Mosman, Sydney. “It had been tough when the dollar was at parity and there was talk of the death of the print book, but research in the past 12 months shows people are ditching their e-reader. They like coming into bookshops to discover new authors.”

Mark Rubbo, of Readings bookshops in Melbourne, agreed: “The disruption seems to have stopped for the moment.”

On the Indies fiction shortlist are four strong contenders: A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones, a cool psychological mystery about a group of Nabokov-inspired visitors in Germany; The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, the fiery feminist story of 10 victims of sexual assault imprisoned on a country property; The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop, a lyrical study of a migrant couple torn between Australia, England and India; and The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks, a deeply researched and imagined life of the Bible’s King David.

The impressive debut fiction shortlist also features four women, three of them mature beginners: Relativity by Antonia Hayes, a young former book publicist; Rush Oh! by filmmaker Shirley Barrett; Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar, a long-time student and teacher of writing; and The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader, an academic in creative writing and medieval literature.

Richard Glover, an ABC radio presenter and Sydney Morning Herald columnist, is the only man on the non-fiction shortlist, in which family memoir is the only genre after the dominance of world war history last year. Glover’s Flesh Wounds joins One Life by novelist Kate Grenville, Reckoning by comedic actor Magda Szubanski, and The Anti-Cool Girl by TV blogger Rosie Waterland.

It seems the Stella Prize for women’s writing, started in 2013 to counter a perceived bias towards men’s books in major prizes, has helped to make judges aware of the strengths of women’s writing. And a large number of women are writing particularly well.

“Women’s fiction really stood out this year,” says Kate Becker at Thesaurus Books in Melbourne’s Brighton who is judging the debut fiction winner.

Male writers storm back in the kids’ books categories. A new award for young-adult books, responding to the booming field, features Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, Prince of Afghanistan by Louis Nowra, Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years 1: The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan, and Soon by Morris Gleitzman.

On the children’s shortlist are Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad and Lucia Msciullo, The 65-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, The Bad Guys, Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey and The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan.

Independent bookshops make up a third of the Australian book retail market, compared with 10 per cent in the US and less than 5 per cent in Britain, where Amazon has consumed sales.

Page says the independents champion literary books that might not be sold by the discount stores, which focus on sales volume, and he sees a resurgent willingness by publishers to back new authors.

As for the huge sales of adult colouring books that boosted book sales in 2015, he says, “They were a bonus, like sudoku 10 years ago. They were an easy go-to add-on gift but they dropped off after Christmas.”

Rubbo says, “We experienced the colouring book thing mid-year and by Christmas it had died down. It was a very strong Christmas season for us in ‘real’ books.”

The Indie winners and overall book of the year will be announced on March 23.


A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones (Random House Australia)

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin)

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop (Hachette Australia)

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (Hachette Australia)


Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover (HarperCollins Australia)

One Life by Kate Grenville (Text Publishing)

Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski (Text Publishing)

The Anti-Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland (HarperCollins Australia)


Relativity by Antonia Hayes (Penguin Australia)

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader (HarperCollins Australia)


Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad & Lucia Masciullo, Illus (HarperCollins Australia)

The 65-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Illus (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The Bad Guys, Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Australia)

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)


Cloudwish by Fiona Wood (Macmillan Australia)

Prince of Afghanistan by Louis Nowra (Allen & Unwin)

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years 1: The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan (Random House Australia)

Soon by Morris Gleitzman (Penguin Australia)

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 老域名.

Comments are closed.