David Malouf’s The Great World uses the lives and family history of the protagonists, Digger Keen and Vic Curran, to investigate aspects of Australian history and society before, during and after World War II. The place of Australia and Australians within the world at large and the Asia-Pacific region is a broad concern of the novel, yet this is examined through the lens of the personal history of Digger, Vic and their families. The reader’s understanding of Digger and Vic as men achieves great depth through a detailed examination of their childhood and relationships with their parents; in addition, the relationship between Vic, his adopted parents and his estranged son Greg illustrate the toll that his early childhood and war experiences end up having upon his future.
The history of the Laffey family, as told in Thea Astley’s It’s Raining in Mango,
intersects with that of Bidiggi and his descendants, beginning with young George and Bidiggi’s friendship in the 1870s and ending in the 1980s with Will’s friendship to both Charley and Billy Mumbler. The tragedy underlying Australia’s colonisation begins early in the book with the slaughter of Aboriginal people, continues with the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families, and concludes with the unfair treatment of Aboriginal people by police, bartenders and the violent fight instigated by members of the general community. Astley’s depiction of these events forms a biting satire upon the treatment of Aboriginal people and shows that while many things have improved over time, many of the underlying racist attitudes have not, and damage from the past reverberates through the generations and into the future.
“You Gave Me Hyacinths” by Janette Turner Hospital is set in a small North Queensland town whose economy revolves around canefields and the sugar industry. In addition to this broad setting, there are individual scenes set in a classroom, the town itself, the canefields, the beach and the narrator’s home. The progression between each of these settings, and the way in which they are depicted, plays a key role in establishing the story’s theme of the difficulties that an outsider faces in establishing a connection with a troubled adolescent.
Shortly after gaining office, Campbell Newman scrapped the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in a move that has been widely reported and condemned. The paltry savings of $244,000 is a drop in the ocean of the state’s budget and seemed more like an idealogical stance than a high priority savings measure.
However, the literary community in Brisbane were quick to mobilise. They have established a successful pozible campaign, gained agreement from the UQ Press to continue publishing the winners of the Manuscript and David Unaipon awards, and the Courier Mail has stepped in to sponsor the People’s Choice Award. In the fiction category, the nominees are: