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Breath by Tim Winton, winner of the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary AwardCongratulations to Tim Winton, whose novel Breath is the winner of this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Tim Winton is among Australia’s best-loved novelists. His winning work, Breath, is an extraordinary evocation of an adolescence spent resisting complacency, testing one’s limits against nature, finding like-minded souls, and discovering just how far one breath will take you. It’s a story of extremes - extreme sports and extreme emotions.  On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrillseeking and barely adolescent boys fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando. Together they form an odd but elite trio. The grown man initiates the boys into a kind of Spartan ethos, a regimen of risk and challenge, where they test themselves in storm swells on remote and shark-infested reefs, pushing each other to the edges of endurance, courage, and sanity. Breath is a rich coming-of-age tale from one of world literature’s finest storytellers.

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About the Miles Franklin Literary Award:

The award is Australia's oldest and most prestigious literary award. Miles Franklin was an Australian feminist and author, best known for the memoir/novel My Brilliant Career. Franklin lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. She was proudly Australian and determined to see Australia have its own strong literary voice.

The prize she left behind in her estate is awarded annually in the amount of AU$42,000 to the Australian work of fiction best portraying Australian life or experience.

The other four finalists for this year's prize were:

 

Ice by Louis Nowra

Ice

Louis Nowra

Ice tells the story of Malcolm McEacharn, the man who brings joy to early Sydney in the form of an iceberg and who later pioneers the first successful refrigerated voyage from Australia to London. He is a brilliant businessman who will later bring electricity to Melbourne, become its Lord Mayor and be one step away from becoming Prime Minister - but he is driven by an obsession that threatens to destroy him and his world.

Ice also tells a parallel story, set in contemporary Sydney, of a young biographer who lies in a coma, and her bereft husband's desperate attempts to resurrect her by unearthing the truth about her subject McEacharn. Both stories are redolent with longing, suffused by regret, illuminated by extraordinary imagery, hypnotic language and the spectre of suspended life in the 'mythical country of ice'. It will never let you go.

The Pages by Anthony Bail

The Pages

Murray Bail

On a family sheep station in western New South Wales, a brother and sister work the property while their reclusive brother, Wesley Antill, spends years toiling away in one of the sheds, writing his philosophy.

Now he has died. Erica, a philosopher, is sent from Sydney to appraise his life's work. Accompanying her is Sophie, who needs distracting from a string of failed relationships. Her field is psychoanalysis.

The pages Wesley wrote lie untouched in the shed, just as he left them. What will they reveal? Was he a genius? These turn out to be only a couple of the questions in the air. How will the visit change the lives of Erica and Sophie?

The Pages is a beguiling meditation on friendship and love, on men and women, on landscape and the difficulties of thought itself, by one of Australia's greatest novelists, the author of the much-loved Eucalyptus.

Wanting by Richard Flanagan

Wanting

Richard Flanagan

It is 1839. A young Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, is running through the long wet grass of an island at the end of the world to get help for her dying father, an Aboriginal chieftain. Twenty years later, on an island at the centre of the world, the most famous novelist of the day, Charles Dickens, realises he is about to abandon his wife, risk his name and forever after be altered because of his inability any longer to control his intense passion.

Connecting the two events are the most celebrated explorer of the age, Sir John Franklin - then governor of Van Diemen's Land - and his wife, Lady Jane, who adopt Mathinna, seen as one of the last of a dying race, as an experiment. Lady Jane believes the distance between savagery and civilisation is the learned capacity to control wanting. The experiment fails, Sir John disappears into the blue ice of the Arctic seeking the Northwest Passage, and a decade later Lady Jane enlists Dickens' aid to put an end to the scandalous suggestions that Sir John's expedition ended in cannibalism.

Inspired by historical events, WANTING is a novel about art, love, and the way in which life is finally determined never by reason, but only ever by wanting

 

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

The Slap

Christos Tsiolkas

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event. In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth.


 

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