2009 winners by category.


The Boat by Nam Le

Judging panel comments

Nam Le's collection of fiction, The Boat, which comprises short and long stories, artfully arrayed, is one of the most impressive debuts of recent years.

The range of subjects and settings astonishes, as does the assurance and control with which the author immerses us in the stories that he makes from them.

While the span of the fiction is cosmopolitan, each story is intensely attuned to the local circumstances that deform and enable the lives of these varied characters, animated as they are by love and despair.

As shown especially in the final and title story, Nam Le combines almost reckless artistic boldness with highly disciplined craft.


Two books share the 2009 Non-fiction award:

House of Exile: The Life and Times of Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger-Mann

Judging panel comments

An exemplar of the new 'group biography', Juers follows Heinrich, brother of one of the greatest twentieth century writers, to the US where he finds troubled refuge in Los Angeles.

This book is remarkable for both its research and its prose.

Juers has devoted years to the former and the skills of a novelist to the latter, seeing the horrors of the 1930s, in particular the desperate diaspora of Jews seeking to escape the malignancy of Nazism, through the experiences of one distinguished family.

Drawing the Global Colour Line

Judging panel comments

The White Australia Policy did not exist in isolation. It was called into being because around the world racial attitudes were changing and being dangerously politicised.

Kindled in the bigotries of the nineteenth century, the issue of race would become the most dominant and disastrous fracture line in the twentieth and shows little sign of fading in the twenty-first.

In their masterful overview of the prejudices of the wider world Lake and Reynolds help us see White Australia more clearly.

This book on history has urgent relevance.