The Best of Australian LiteratureOctober 20, 2014

Miles Franklin, who was born on October 14, 1879, would have been stoked if she were around. She was supportive of Australian writers, and to prove it, she stated in her will that she was bequeathing her estate to fund an award. It was fitting that it would be named the Miles Franklin Literary Award. This recognition is not only for a written work of the highest literary merit, but it must also present a unique perspective on Australia.

For this year, the award goes to Evie Wyld for "All the Birds, Singing". The author, the daughter of an Australian mother and a "very very British" father, runs a small bookshop in London.

"It's been a hell of a week. I've won the Encore, the Jerwood and now this, which is genuinely a prize I've followed since I was 13. I'm just astounded," she said.

"We're really, really lucky in that we get to do for a living the thing that we want to do most in the world, but it doesn't make a lot of money."

"The next book is at the moment only about 500 words long so I can tell you it's very short," she laughed.

"I think it's going to be something to do with my English family, but I haven't yet written anything that hasn't taken place in Australia."

Roll call

This is a good time to recall some of the past recipients of this prestigious award. They represent the best in Australian literature. Let's take a look:

"Voss" (1957) by Patrick White. The author's fifth novel is about Ludwig Leichhardt, a naturalist who disappeared whilst on expedition into the Australian Outback. The often use of religious symbolisms probes into the spirituality of Australia's indigenous people.

"My Brother Jack" (1964) by George Johnston. This semi-autobiographical novel is studied by many students. It's a tale of Jake and David Meredith, two brothers who turned out to be different later in life. David is more urbane and more successful, while Jake is more physical and more laid back. It's not hard to guess which one is more Australian. This makes a good conversation (inside and outside of school).

"A Horse of Air" (1970) by Dal Stivens. The title may prompt readers to think of the four-legged creature, but it's about a low-flying parrot endemic in Oz. It's a search for this endangered species, which can be a yarn.

"The Acolyte" (1972) by Thea Astley. It's a fictional tale, which some might wonder if Astley based it from actual events. Jack Holberg, a renowned musician, and Paul Vesper, an engineer, cross paths. Vesper will do an admirable deed, which is to give up his career in able to be Holberg's "eyes". So what happened during their first encounter? Readers must find out.

"The Well" (1986) by Elizabeth Jolley. It's about Hester and Katherine, sisters who are living in a remote farm. Hester is possessive of Katherine, her younger sister. Their relationship takes a turn when Katherine accidentally hits something (or someone). She becomes guilt stricken, where she starts to hear voices from the well. But they've been there for a long time.

It's your turn to tell your favourite titles.

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