Extinctions Cover

Shortlist year: 2017

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: UWA Publishing


Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, expert on concrete and modernist design, has quarantined himself from life by moving to a retirement village. Surrounded and obstructed by the debris of his life, 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. 

About the author

 Josephine Wilson

Josephine Wilson

Josephine Wilson's second novel, Extinctions, won the 2017 Miles Franklin and the Colin Roderick Awards after winning UWA Publishing's inaugural Dorothy Hewett Award in manuscript form. Josephine is a Perth-based writer whose career began in the area of performance. Her early works included The Geography of Haunted Places, with Erin Hefferon, and Customs. Her first novel, Cusp, was published by UWA Publishing in 2005. Josephine has taught at Murdoch University, the University of Western Australia, and Curtin University.

Judges’ comments

Extinctions is a contemporary story of family disintegration and regeneration, rich with ideas and philosophical musing.

Professor Frederick Lothian, a former engineer, lives reclusively in a retirement village surrounded by memories of his late wife, Martha, and their family. Their life is represented by his treasured collection of Modernist furniture and countless possessions he can't let go. His adult children are absent, Callum disabled in an accident and Caroline researching an exhibition of extinct creatures while obsessed by her adoption and Indigenous origins. Frederick seems frozen in his self-centred history until a warm, bossy neighbour, Jan, breaks down his reserve.

Josephine Wilson moves fluidly between past and present, the minutiae of domestic life and the abstractions of academic thought, keeping control of an ensemble of interesting flawed characters. The elegant realist narrative explores ideas of family, inheritance and grief, as well as design and construction, enhanced by the physical and metaphorical significance of eggs, bridges, chairs and so on. There is both poetry and wit in the writing. Wilson’s cool intelligence and psychological insight raise an engaging story to a highly original level of literary achievement.