In this strange, confrontational, revelatory novel that holds a mirror up to contemporary New Zealand culture, Pip Adam gets beneath the skin of her characters in ways that make you blink, double-take, and ultimately reassess your sense of the capabilities of fiction. It’s so vivid in imagery and imagination that it lingers in the mind, and a transition late in the novel is both wholly unexpected and utterly satisfying.
ACORN FOUNDATION FICTION PRIZE
The New Animals
This complex, insightful and superbly written novel about the slippery bond between language and reality is an imaginative response to the five months Janet Frame spent in Ibiza in 1956. Its inventive grasp of the island and the characters is phenomenal, and the narrative voice remarkably adroit. Patrick Evans has had a decades-long interest in Frame as a modernist writer, and the Frameish notion that language can make things appear and suddenly disappear makes Salt Picnic a powerful conclusion to his Frame trilogy.
A simple premise goes a long way in Sodden Downstream, a linear narrative developed with wonderful tonal control. The empathy with which Brannavan Gnanalingam creates his characters—from the heroine Sakt to the assorted misfits and samaritans she meets on her epic journey—is balanced throughout by a clear, sustained note of anger. The novel reveals New Zealand lives we seldom see in literary fiction and offers a perspective from the economic and social margins that feels enormously timely.
A savagely funny and daring debut, this novel shimmers with feverish, fatalistic intensity. Baby is a strange and strangely moving love story built on obsession, narcissism and damage. Annaleese Jochems writes with uncanny insight and skill as well as with a raw and urgent power: her characters take the reader on an unpredictable ride in which it’s unclear who’s in control until the very end.
Tony Beyer’s Anchor Stone is a considerable achievement. The poems reach out to the reader directly, and articulate a humanist vision. There is consistently a fine clarity in Beyer’s use of language, in particular of imagery and tonal colour. He responds to the relationship between the natural world and ourselves and excels at making the local, immediate world around us turn to and into deeper moments of experience
These are the poems of a first-rate poet at work, using her knowledge, long experience—this is Elizabeth Smither’s eighteenth collection of poetry—and practice of the craft of poetry to great advantage. As a whole Night Horse is a stimulating, thoughtful and pleasurable read, and it is distinctive for the way in which Smither consistently makes poems that get ‘lifted into the light’.
With a highly tuned lyric voice, Briar Wood demonstrates how poetry can ‘make intimate everything that it touches’, enabling the reader to engage at an emotional and feeling level. A fine image maker, Wood time and again composes poems that express how the truth of the imagination can be discovered and enacted in a language rich with lyricism and cultural reference.
Sue Wootton takes an ordinary, familiar experience and/or object and imaginatively transforms it into something other, deeper in thought and larger in meaning. In a number of poems she shows a clear awareness of and concern for our relationship to the natural world [in crisis/crises]. She brings us the light and the dark of human experience, often divided of itself, seeking balance and reconciliation.
ILLUSTRATED NON-FICTION AWARD
Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds
Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds presents an evocative picture of young Māori travelling to England, their encounters with people, illness and industry there, and their return home. Tuai is empathetically written, deftly allowing the reader a window into this contested time of encounter, conversion and enterprise as people met, traded, interacted and travelled. The text and illustrations work in concert, presenting a rounded and rich experience for the reader, enhancing the breadth and depth of the research explored within.
Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History
The significance of tōtara to tāngata whenua sets the scene for Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History. Tōtara is engagingly written, and contains a great breadth of content, spanning taxonomy to cultural history. Philip Simpson covers the tree’s place within the wider podocarp whānau, its importance to Māori, then settlers, and the enduring place it holds within Aotearoa. The illustrations are varied, signalling the variety of communities that the book represents: sleek photography, handy infographics, and amateur photography. Like the tree itself, this book will be a long-lasting resource.
Gordon Walters: New Vision
This generously illustrated and beautifully designed book provides a close examination of the work of one of New Zealand’s major artists. Nine authors in eight chapters help us see Gordon Walters with the ‘new vision’ of the title. An artist engaged in international art explorations as well as drawing on his home environment, Walters’ abstraction explored ‘the tension between interconnected forms’. Readers will come to a new appreciation of the deep currents of the art world to which Walters was responding with dedication and great refinement.
The Face of Nature: An Environmental History of the Otago Peninsula
Through an in-depth case study of the Otago Peninsula, The Face of Nature charts human impact on the environment. From its occupation by Southern Māori from the late thirteenth century, a place rich in seabirds, seals, whales and fish successively became a hunting ground and then farmland. In this superb local history, Jonathan West pulls the reader into a much larger story about resource use and colonial capitalism. The beautifully produced illustrations serve to enhance the reader’s understanding of the impact of settlement.
ROYAL SOCIETY TE APĀRANGI AWARD FOR GENERAL NON-FICTION
Dancing with the King: The Rise and Fall of the King Country, 1864-1885
A riveting account of a key period in New Zealand history, during which an extraordinary and colourful cast of characters, including Tāwhiao, Rewi Maniapoto, Donald McLean and George Grey, negotiated the role of the Māori King and the British Queen. Michael Belgrave illustrates the evolving relationship between Māori and Pākehā, tribe and Crown, which continues to shape New Zealand into the new millennium.
Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds
This is Anne Salmond’s most ambitious book to date. This is New Zealand, a place where multiple worlds engage and collide. Beginning with an examination of the early period of encounters between Māori and European, 1769-1840, Salmond proceeds to investigate clashes and exchanges in key areas of contemporary life—waterways, land, the sea and people—and points to new ways of understanding interactions between people and the natural world.
Drawn Out: A Seriously Funny Memoir
An hilarious, heart-breaking and heart-warming book in which Tom Scott recounts his life with blistering wit. We are introduced to the people, places and events that have had an impact on his life, seen through a shrewd, acerbic and sometimes scathingly funny lens. Each chapter leaps about, but ultimately follows a logical progression as we come to know how the man, the journalist, the cartoonist and the writer has been formed by his uniquely New Zealand background.
Driving to Treblinka: A Long Search for a Lost Father
Powerful, poignant, and not infrequently profound, Driving to Treblinka sets out in pursuit of the truth about the life and death of the author’s father. Diana Wichtel traces his story back to Poland, and from the Jewish ghetto and a miraculous escape from execution at the Nazi death camp in Treblinka to a new life in Canada and another heart-wrenching separation from family. As uplifting as it is upsetting, Driving to Treblinka delivers an engrossing account of a life, and the indelible legacy of the Holocaust through the generations.