And now the Booker: Grenville's accolades keep coming

26 September 2006

Kate Grenville's already multi-award-winning novel The Secret River has been short-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the UK's pre-eminent literary award.

Novelist Kate Grenville, on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize. Photo: Tracey Schramm
Novelist Kate Grenville, on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize. Photo: Tracey Schramm

"I was delighted to be long-listed and was absolutely astonished and thrilled to be short-listed and still can't quite believe it," saidGrenvillefrom her room in the University's Woolley Building where, an honorary associate in the English Department as well as University graduate, she penned the powerful historical novel which has already won seven literary awards.

Based on the story of Grenville's convict-turned-settler ancestor, The Secret River explores the roots of conflict between Australia's indigenous peoples and the early white settlers who took over their land. It puts the Aboriginal people back into the picture while showing that the violence usually arose from complete misunderstanding on both sides.

"The reception in Australia has amazed me because I thought there was something of a backlash against wanting to investigate the darker parts of our history, but on the contrary, there is this huge hunger to know about those stories," said Grenville whose stream of accolades for the book so far includes winning two NSW Premier Awards and both the regional and overall Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

"The fact that it has met with such good reception overseas means that its underlying themes of belonging and identity and territorial rights are concerns all over the world as populations become more mobile."

The Australian paperback edition, published this year
The Australian paperback edition, published this year

English language editions of the novel have been released in the UK, Canada and the US since initial publication last year, there are translations into various languages - including German, Dutch, Danish, Polish Bulgarian and Hebrew - and already several people are interested in the film rights.

"We have quite a few suitors and are just trying to decide who is best to go with. It's a nice position to be in," said Grenville, two of whose novels have previously been made into films - Lilian's Story and Dreamhouse (as Traps) - with The Idea of Perfection in the pipeline.

Grenville's shortlisting for the Booker comes hot on the heels of publication of Searching for the Secret River which traces her research and the convoluted writing process behind this imaginative, convincing work of fiction and stands as a memoir of "the process of rethinking what it means to be an Australian".

The shortlisting has already lost her the bet of a bottle of Bollinger to a friend with whom she has another bet that she won't win.

"I suspect we'll drink it together in any case, so it doesn't really matter," she said. "I'm sure I won't win, but to be shortlisted for the Booker is something that one puts on one's CV. It's incredibly exciting."

The winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize will beannounced ata dinner in London on 10 October.

On top of the two NSW Premier's Awards and two Commonwealth Writers' Prizes, to date, The Secret River has also won The Australian Booksellers' Award, The Australian Book Industry Award for Fiction and The Fellowship of Australian Writers Prize for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, the Queensland Literary Awards and the Kibble Award.

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