The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt shortlisted for 2014 Barbara Jefferis Award

Like Jane Rawson, for me there are some days and weeks when this authoring business feels like an awful lot of hard work, and I cry into my porridge in despair that anyone will ever read – let alone see merit in – a thing I write.

And then there are weeks like this.

So, I hope you’ll forgive some skiting and own-trumpet-blowing. There’ve been many good things in my writing week this week. Here’s the most recent of them.

Barbara Jefferis Award shortlist

The seven-book shortlist for the 2014 Barbara Jefferis Award was announced yesterday by the Australian Society of Authors, and The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt is on that list, along with Amy Espeseth’s Sufficient Grace, Jacinta Halloran’s Pilgrimage, Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts, Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest, Margaret Merrilees’ The First Week, and Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain. Laura Buzo’s Holier Than Thou was highly commended.

The 2014 Barbara Jefferis Award shortlisted titles (via @ASAuthors)
The 2014 Barbara Jefferis Award shortlisted titles (via @ASAuthors)

It’s such an honour to be on this shortlist. The Barbara Jefferis Award is for a novel that “depicts women and girls in a positive way or…empowers their status…in society”, and it honours Barbara Jefferis, feminist, and first woman President of the Australian Society of Authors. Feminism is and always has been fundamental to me: I’m a feminist, and I can’t imagine not writing from that place. In Lena Gaunt, I’ve created a character who doesn’t conform to traditional gender role, career, or behaviour. She’s not afraid of leading an unconventional life. She displays a strong sense of self, as a girl and as a woman. There’s a lot of solitude and grief in her life, but there’s a lot of beauty, creativity and dignity, too. The novel has a supporting cast of strong woman characters, as well.

Past winners of the Barbara Jefferis Award include Helen Garner (2009) for her terribly beautiful novel The Spare Room. I’m a huge fan of Garner’s work (see this piece I wrote for Annabel Smith’s blog).

This year’s judges are Margaret Barbalet, Georgia Blain and Dorothy Johnston. The winner will be announced in Sydney on 6 November 2014.


The Barbara Jefferis Award was won jointly by Sea Hearts (Margo Lanagan) and The Night Guest (Fiona McFarlane). Read more on the Australian Society of Authors website

Read article in the Sydney Morning Herald

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