The 2013 Most Underrated Book Award (MUBA) was recently announced by The Small Press Network. (SPN).
The award highlights books released by small and independent Australian publishers which for have slipped under the mainstream’s radar. The judges of this year’s prize included book reviewer/writer (and veteran AWW participant), Stephanie Campisi; bookseller/poet, Ben Walter; and writer Estelle Tang.
The four books on the shortlist – all published in 2012 – are:
- Fish-Hair Woman, Dr Merlinda Bobis (Spinifex Press)
- Staunch, Ginger Briggs (Affirm Press)
- Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, Annabel Smith (Fremantle Press) and
- The Hum of Concrete, Anna Solding (MidnightSun Publishing).
According to the SPN site, all “show excellence in their genre and demonstrate quality of writing, editorial integrity, and production. They have been overlooked for other prizes and have not generated the sales they deserve for any number of reasons other than the great quality of the products”.
While these books may have slipped by unnoticed by mainstream media, they haven’t gone unnoticed by AWW participants. Of the four novels, only Staunch has yet to be reviewed for the challenge.
- Fish-Hair Woman, which was also a finalist in the 2013 Davitt Awards, Best crime and mystery books by Australian women, has been reviewed by Whispering Gums, who calls it “part war story, murder mystery, political thriller, romance, and historical epic”. Other reviewers of the novel are Writereaderly and Me, You and Books. Dr Bobis, who is interviewed here, recently featured as part of the AWW spotlight on Australian women writers of diverse heritage here.
- According to Helen McKenna, Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith is “the story of a family fractured by divorce, distanced by immigration and deceived by secrets”; it’s also a story of love. This novel has attracted the most reviews for the AWW challenge, including ones by The Incredible Rambling Elimy, Louise Allen, Le Koala Lit (in French), and Antoinetta of Afternoon Reads blog.
- The Hum of Concrete by Anna Solding was shortlisted for the 2010 Adelaide Festival Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript. It was reviewed for the AWW challenge by This Charming Mum who calls it a “novel constellation” – “a series of smaller stories, strung together in the micro-cosmos of Malmö, Sweden… though in many ways it could be set anywhere, dealing as it does with the big themes of human experience: love, birth and death.”
- Staunch by Ginger Briggs, the true story of a boy raised as a ward of the state and his friendship with his carer, is the only book on the MUBA short list which hasn’t been reviewed for the challenge. It was a Pick of the Week in the Age which said of it: “Staunch is real-life grunge, and it leaves the literary stuff for dead. There’s no glamour, no cool, just the piercing sadness of social truth.”
So, who’s going to be the first to read and review Staunch for the AWW challenge – or add to our growing number of reviews of these other under-recognised books?
The winner of the Most Underrated Book Award will be announced at a presentation at the Wheeler Centre on 15 November.
This post is the result of a combined effort by Elizabeth Lhuede and freelance book reviewer, journalist, writer and editor Paula Grunseit. Paula blogs over at Wordsville and can be found on Twitter @PaulaGrunseit