Monday, July 7, 2014

Miles Franklin Award winner Evie Wyld's All the Birds, Singing.

This novel, which is exceptionally good, beat off the front runner for this year's Miles Franklin award. This was a surprise and a profound disappointment to many people, who had considered Richard Flanagan's magnificent The Narrow Road to the Deep North a sure thing.

So did I. (

Word on the grapevine is that the judges were split. Whether that's true or not, I consider they made the wrong decision, just as they did last year in choosing Michelle De Kretser's Questions of Travel.

Wyld's book is a spare and beautifully written story of a young woman's flight from horror, pain and abuse. In a real sense it's a testimony to the ugliness of men. We are spared no lacerating detail of the harsh, brutal treatment handed out to the woman by the cruel and violent men she encounters in country Australia as she flees from the consequences of a tragedy she caused as a reckless 15 year old  in Darwin. Eventually she finds her way to a peaceful Isle off the coast of England where she lives alone and tends sheep.

But the dark beast of horror still pursues her.

While brilliantly rendered Wyld's novel has a fairly narrow scope and no where near the ambition, emotional power or intellectual depth of Flanagan's. You have to ask yourself whether the Miles Franklin judges have been spooked by the breakaway Stella Prize for women writers. Is a decidedly masculine work like Flanagan's handicapped from the start?

As I said, the judges, for the second year in a row, have made the wrong decision.

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