The Best Australian Novel Of 2014 Was Written By An Englishwoman About An Aussie In England

A British-born, educated and based author, Evie Wyld, won Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the $60,000 Miles Franklin Award, last night.

All the Birds, Singing, Wyld’s second novel, tells the story of an expat Australian farmer, Jake, a woman living on a remote English island on her own, both escaping from, yet reliving a haunted past in Australia. She grapples with the fact that her sheep are being killed on the island.

Wyld, 34, was named one of the 20 best British authors under the age of 40, had already won Britain’s top literary prize, the Costa Book Award, for the book. Last week she also won the Encore Award, an English award for best second novel.

The Miles Franklin goes to a novel that reflects “Australian life in any of its phases”. The award was established by the author of My Brilliant Career.

Wyld’s win seems to reflect a growing tolerance by the judges for overseas content 20 years after Frank Moorhouse’s Grand Days, which had its Australian protagonist in Europe, was ruled ineligible.

The other five short-listed authors for the 2014 Miles Franklin were four-time winner Tim Winton for Eyrie, Richard Flanagan for The Narrow Road to the Deep North – the favourite, another former winner Alexis Wright for The Swan Book, Fiona McFarlane for her debut, The Night Guest, and Cory Taylor for My Beautiful Enemy.

Judging panel member Richard Neville said Wyld’s novel was “visceral and powerfully measured in tone” and the writing “spare, yet pitch perfect”.

“All the Birds, Singing draws the reader into its rhythm and mystery, through wonderfully and beautifully crafted prose, whose deceptive sparseness combines powerfully with an ingenious structure to create a compelling narrative of alienation, decline and finally, perhaps, some form of redemption,” Mr Neville said.

“Flight from violence and abuse run through the core of the novel, yet never defeat its central character.”

Evie Wyld grew up on the NSW north coast, near Yamba, where her grandparents ran a sugar cane farm, then moved back to England for university. She holds dual citizenship.

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