Waiting by Philip Salom

Shortlist year: 2017

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Puncher & Wattmann

'Waiting' is a story of two odd couples.

Big is hefty cross-dresser and Little is little. Both are long used to the routines of boarding house life in the inner suburbs of Melbourne but Little, with the prospect of an inheritance, is beginning to indulge in the great Australian dream. Little's cousin Angus is a solitary man who designs lake-scapes for city councils, and strangely constructed fireproof houses. Angus meets Jasmin, an academic who races in ideas as much as her runners.

About the author

 Philip Salom

Philip Salom

Philip Salom is a contemporary Australian poet. He has published fourteen books - twelve collections of poetry and two novels.

Major awards (apart from the two Commonwealth Poetry Book Prizes in London) include the Western Australian Premiers Prize (twice for Poetry and once for Fiction) and the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize (in 1996 and again in 2000). He has received several major Australian Council Fellowships.

In 2003 Philip Salom was recognised with the Christopher Brennan Award - a prize given for lifetime achievement in poetry, recognising a poet who produces work "of sustained quality and distinction". 

Judges’ comments

Philip Salom’s Waiting is a reflective and subtly powerful novel that focuses on the lives of four very different characters: Big and Little, Angus and Jasmin. Big and Little are central to this novel, and their relationship and the issues they face are the focus of the world that Salom presents with a sharp eye for detail and the nuances of personal connections.

They are idiosyncratic and troubled, difficult and loving. They have found each other and a way of life that suits their needs and their sense of self. Angus and Jasmin are different in both their inspiration and aspiration, but they find in each other a sense of what they need to move through their lives. The conceit of “waiting” hangs over all the characters, who are in turn waiting for familial, financial and personal resolutions.

The novel vibrates with the language of the street and the speaking voices of the many characters is brilliantly captured by Salom, whose poetry background is apparent. The suburban rooming house which is central to the novel reverberates with wit and intensity and the cast of characters that live and die in this boarding house is achingly authentic. Their impoverished circumstances, daily struggles with health and mental capacity are all handled with sensitivity and a unique voice.

Waiting is a beautiful telling of the lives of ordinary people.