The Last Days of Ava Langdon cover

Shortlist year: 2017

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: University of Queensland Press


Ava Langdon is often not herself. Having fled her early life in New Zealand and endured the loss of her children, she now lives as a recluse in the Blue Mountains. Regarded by locals as a colourful eccentric, she dresses in men’s clothes and fearlessly pursues her artistic path.

All that matters to Ava is her writing. Words offer beauty and a sense of possibility when so much has been lost. But can they offer her redemption in her last days?

Poetic, poignant, and at times bitingly funny, this novel takes us into the mind of a true maverick.

About the author

Mark O’Flynn

Mark O’Flynn

Mark O’Flynn’s fiction and poetry have been widely published in Australian journals as well as overseas. His novels include Grassdogs and The Forgotten World, and he has published five collections of poems, most recently The Soup’s Song. He has also published the comic memoir False Start and a collection of short fiction, White Light. He lives in the Blue Mountains.

Judges’ comments

The Last Days of Ava Langdon is a novel notable for its elegant craftsmanship and its masterful blend of humour and pathos.

Based on the life of the eccentric novelist Eve Langley, it is a deeply appealing character study of an elderly woman, once a moderately successful writer, who lives alone in a tumbledown shack in the Blue Mountains, obsessively writing strange novels that no one wants to publish. Ava Landon is a marvellously quixotic creation. She wanders the streets of Katoomba, wearing a pith helmet and wielding a machete. Insisting that her name is Oscar Wilde, she is a defiant character who persists despite the world’s indifference and conducts herself with equanimity in the face of her impoverished circumstances and social isolation.

O’Flynn places us inside Ava’s mind, allowing us to understand her peculiar literary sensibility and the way it shapes her every perception. In doing so, he not only allows us to empathise with her but to understand that her madness and her dedication to writing are inseparable, integral to her personality.

Set over the course of a day and a night, The Last Days of Ava Langdon is a work of remarkable formal concentration. Composed with a poet’s ear and feel for the weight of words, its prose is rich and vivid and never less than beautifully rendered.