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WINNER OF THE 2017 MILES FRANKLIN LITERARY AWARD
He hated the word ‘retirement’, but not as much as he hated the word ‘village’, as if ageing made you a peasant or a fool. Herein lives the village idiot.
Professor Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, world expert on concrete and connoisseur of modernist design, has quarantined himself from life by moving to a retirement village. His wife, Martha, is dead and his two adult children are lost to him in their own ways. Surrounded and obstructed by the debris of his life – objects he has collected over many years and tells himself he is keeping for his daughter – he is determined to be miserable, but is tired of his existence and of the life he has chosen.
When a series of unfortunate incidents forces him and his neighbour, Jan, together, he begins to realise the damage done by the accumulation of a lifetime’s secrets and lies, and to comprehend his own shortcomings. Finally, Frederick Lothian has the opportunity to build something meaningful for the ones he loves.
Humorous, poignant and galvanising by turns, Extinctions is a novel about all kinds of extinction – natural, racial, national and personal – and what we can do to prevent them.
Won - 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award
Won - 2017 Colin Roderick Award
Shortlisted - 2017 Prime Minister's Literary Awards (Fiction)
Praise for Extinctions:
In Extinctions, a compassionate and unapologetically intelligent novel, Josephine Wilson explores ageing, adoption, grief and remorse, empathy and self-centredness. Fred Lothian is a man in denial: a brilliant engineer, now retired and widowed. He knows that ‘for an engineer there was a bridge for every situation’; but solutions for the complexity of human problems elude him. So he looks away from his son’s tragic injury, his adopted Aboriginal daughter’s cultural loss: his only intimacy is with his collection of high design modernist objects. Only the intervention of his spirited next-door neighbour at his retirement village, Jan Venturi, forces him out of his carapace of self-absorption long enough to bring both comedy and recognition into his life, and some degree of redemption. Extinctions is set in Perth, a city of both recent settlement and ageless history, now disrupted; all the characters of Extinctions are negotiating geographical or familial disruption. Memory and love emerge as the countervailing forces to Fred’s blind egotism. The novel is also a meditation on survival: on what people carry, on how they cope, and on why they might, after so much putting their head in the sand, come to the decision to engage, and even change.THE 2017 MILES FRANKLIN LITERARY AWARD JUDGES' COMMENTS
There is great sensitivity and heart in this story of redemption and Wilson can be blackly funny.THE SATURDAY PAPER
Not that Wilson is ever at a loss for words. She wields the English language sometimes like a surgical instrument, sometimes like a weapon, but always with complete mastery of allusion and resonance.GILLIAN DOOLEY, AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW
Josephine Wilson’s paragraphs and sentences have a rounded shape, in contrast to the currently fashionable way of writing, which tends to jagged, broken sentences. Her style encourages readers to savour each image and insight as it is revealed, without feeling that the narrative is constantly rushing forward to the next piece of “action”. Some would call this style old-fashioned; in my view it has a lot going for it.DOROTHY JOHNSTON, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Peppered with clever observations, the writing is sharp and the interactions in Extinctions are complex, building a rewarding narrative about being lost but ultimately getting found.PORTIA LINDSAY, BOOKS+PUBLISHING