Josephine Wilson’s second novel Extinctions (UWA Publishing, 2016) has won the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award. This is the first book by UWA Publishing to win the most prestigious national book prize.
2017 marks the 60th year since the establishment of the award by My Brilliant Career author Stella Miles Franklin (1879-1954). The award is for a novel ‘which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases…’ Previous winners include Kim Scott, Randolph Stow, Elizabeth Jolley, and Tim Winton.
Josephine wrote Extinctions as part of her creative writing PhD at the University of Western Australia under the supervision of Associate Professor Tanya Dalziell. It follows the curmudgeon Frederick Lothian, retired Professor of Engineering, as he grapples with decisions and mistakes he’s made throughout his life, and his adopted daughter, Caroline, as she comes to terms with questions of heritage and identity.
Extinctions was the winner of UWA Publishing’s inaugural prize for an unpublished manuscript, The Dorothy Hewett Award. The Dorothy Hewett Award was established in 2015, and is funded by the Copyright Agency and supported by The Monthly.
On Extinctions, the Miles Franklin judging panel said: ‘In this clever and compassionate novel, Josephine Wilson explores ageing, adoption, grief and remorse; rescue and resistance to rescue. Her subject is extinctions both human (the Stolen Generation as well as individual deaths) and animal (the species extinctions that Caroline Lothian is researching for her exhibition). Images of extinct birds alternate with Fred’s images of the wonders of modernist design, suggesting the interplay of opposing forces that have produced the dilemmas of today – just as memory and love emerge as the countervailing forces to Fred’s blind egotism.’
Following her shortlisting Josephine Wilson commented on how the Miles Franklin Literary Award ‘defines the canon of Australian literature.’
The Award was announced this evening at a ceremony in Sydney. The other shortlisted titles were An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire (Pan Macmillan Australia); The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn (UQP); Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill (Black Inc.); and Waiting by Philip Salom (Puncher & Wattmann).
Josephine Wilson’s debut novel, Cusp (2005), was also published by UWA Publishing.
Image credit: Peter Marko