Shortlist year: 2008

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Penguin Random House

This is a story that can only be told in a whisper . . .

In the remote outback of Western Australia during the Second World War, English anthropologist Nicholas Keene and his wife, Stella, raise a lonely child, Perdita. Her upbringing is far from ordinary: in a shack in the wilderness, with a distant father burying himself in books and an unstable mother whose knowledge of Shakespeare forms the backbone of the girl's limited education.

Emotionally adrift, Perdita becomes friends with a deaf and mute boy, Billy, and an Aboriginal girl, Mary. Perdita and Mary come to call one another sister and to share a very special bond. They are content with life in this remote corner of the globe, until a terrible event lays waste to their lives.

Through this exquisite story of Perdita's troubled childhood, Gail Jones explores the values of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice with a brilliance that has already earned her numerous accolades for her previous novels, Dreams of Speaking and Sixty Lights.

About the author

Gail Jones

Gail Jones is the author of two short-story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams of Speaking, Sorry and Five Bells.

Three times shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, her prizes include the WA Premier's Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, the Steele Rudd Award, the Age Book of the Year Award, the Adelaide Festival Award for Fiction and the ASAL Gold Medal.

She has also been shortlisted for international awards, including the IMPAC and the Prix Femina.

Her fiction has been translated into nine languages.

Judges’ comments

Set in outback Western Australia during the Second World War, Gail Jones's Sorry (Vintage) explores the strange, intense, deadly conformation of 'a ruined family'.

 Perdita, whose name indicates that this is the story of a lost child, is forced to deal with loneliness, the obsessions of others and the false consolations of withdrawal from the world. Yet some around her are 'given to the marvel of things'; there is some prospect of reconciliation between individuals and races in this unusual, disturbing, highly-wrought fiction.