The 2019 Premier’s Literary Prizes winners were announced on 5 December 2019
Tasmania Book Prize
For the best book with Tasmanian content in any genre. This $25 000 award recognises the influence Tasmania has had on content or perspective and is sponsored by the Tasmanian Government.
Winner: Bridget Crack by Rachel Leary published by Allen & Unwin
Bridget Crack evokes, and then steps aside from, the romance of gothic Tasmania. In this remarkable novel of convicts and bushrangers, the central character is a young woman who struggles to take control of her life, but again and again is thwarted. History is not on Bridget’s side, and neither is the vividly realised landscape through which she travels as a runaway convict and as a member of a bushranging gang. In sparse prose, avoiding melodrama and sentimentality, the novel re-imagines Tasmania’s early years of European settlement. Through the character of Bridget Crack, history is absorbed into narrative with an insider’s understanding of lived experience. And while the history rings true, offering Tasmanians new insights into the convict period, there is also a contemporary feel to the narrative’s exploration of what it means to be a woman trapped by circumstances which curtail her freedom and threaten her life.
Margaret Scott Prize
For the best book by a Tasmanian writer. This $5 000 award is sponsored by the University of Tasmania.
Winner: Flames by Robbie Arnott published by Text Publishing
The Tasmania of Flames, a knowable place of lizards and mines and white-chopped seas, turns utterly strange when two days after a mother is cremated, she returns with skin carpeted by moss and ferns. Robbie Arnott lures readers into a familiar landscape infused with strange powers, where weird things happen. Here the natural world is more than metaphor. It exerts agency, has its own viewpoints, exists for its own purposes. And yet people matter too in this smart and witty novel, surprising readers with moments of real emotional intensity.
University of Tasmania Prize
This prize is awarded to the best new unpublished literary work by an emerging Tasmanian writer. This $5 000 award is sponsored by the University of Tasmania.
Winner: The Signal Line by Brendan Colley
The winning entry for the University of Tasmania Prize is entirely original and quirky fiction that generates a genre of its own. Set in Tasmania and roaming globally (and cosmically!), this is well structured writing that features a suspenseful plot, memorable characters and a fresh comic style. The author skilfully blends pathos, delight, and personal redemption.
Tasmanian Young Writer’s Fellowship
This prize is awarded to young emerging writers aged 30 years and under. This $5 000 award is supported by private philanthropists.
Winner: Sam George-Allen
Sam George-Allen, the winner of the Tasmanian Young Writer’s Prize, presented strongly crafted writing with a clear sense of purpose. In a clear-eyed way, she addresses issues that are increasingly difficult to communicate without being didactic. Her work blends challenging presentation of the complexity and fluidity of gender dynamics between individuals with an acute sense of the larger political framing of power.