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The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2008

No coverage to appear in print media before 14 March 2008

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2008
Organised by the Commonwealth Foundation with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation across all four regions.

South East Asia and South Pacific Region Winners Announced

Steven Carroll wins Best Book Award for The Time We Have
Karen Foxlee wins Best First Book Award for The Anatomy of Wings

An international judging panel has awarded the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award, South East Asia and South Pacific Region, to The Time We HavebySteven Carroll (Australia). The Best First Book Award was awarded to The Anatomy of Wings byKaren Foxlee (Australia).Each author wins £1,000 and goes into the next stage of the competition to find the overall Commonwealth Best Book and Best First Book, which are awarded £10,000 and £5,000 respectively.

The announcements of all eight regional winners took place on 13 March as part of Commonwealth Week – a festival of culture and celebration from the contemporary Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, awarded annually, aims to reward the best in Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their work to a wider audience.

The judging panel for the South East Asia and South Pacific region was chaired byDr Chris Prentice (New Zealand, Chair). She was joined by judges Dr Chitra Sankaran (Singapore) and Professor Dennis Haskell (Australia).

Dr Chris Prentice, Chair of Judges, comments:

“This year’s entries ranged from major authors, including winners of other distinguished prizes, to promising new writers. Many of the best works combined the sensory with the intellectual, with complex ideas explored through character and narrative. Landscape was a popular theme, while Aboriginal rights and the predicament of refugees were notable social issues. The number of adventurous, imaginative books made the judging of books from this region an enjoyable and exciting task.”

The announcement of the two winners took place at an awards ceremony at Customs House Library in Sydney. Upon winning his award, Steven Carroll commented:

“It’s a thrill and a privilege just to be shortlisted, given the calibre of the writers on the list, let alone counted amongst the regional winners of this international award”.

Karen Foxlee, who won Best First Book Award for The Anatomy of Wings, commented:

“ It was so wonderful to learn that I had won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize Best First Book Award in this region for The Anatomy of Wings. It’s certainly not something I ever expected so early in my writing career. When I was writing The Anatomy of Wings I was really plagued by self-doubt, would anyone ever want to read this – was it a story that would matter to other people? So to have the novel recognised in this manner is really wonderful and it means so much to me. It certainly gives me confidence to keep writing”.

In a unique aspect of the Prize, the two South East Asia and South Pacific regional winners will be invited to take part in a week-long programme of readings, community activities and other public events alongside the final pan-Commonwealth judging, in South Africa in May 2008. They join other regional winners from Africa, Canada and the Caribbean and Europe and South Asia. The week's programme will culminate in the announcement of the overall Best Book and Best First Book winners in a special ceremony as part of the 2008 Franschhoek Literary Festival, in the Cape Winelands District, on Sunday 18 May. The final programme is being run in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa, and the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

The Winners

The Time We Haveby Steven Carroll
One summer morning in 1970, Peter van Rijn, proprietor of the television and wireless shop, pronounces his Melbourne suburb one hundred years old. That same morning, Rita is awakened by a dream of her husband's snores, yet it is years since Vic moved north. Their son, Michael, has left for the city, and is entering the awkward terrain of first love. As the suburb prepares to celebrate progress, Michael's friend Mulligan is commissioned to paint a mural of the area's history. But what vision of the past will his painting reveal? Meanwhile, Rita's sometime friend Mrs Webster confronts the mystery of her husband's death. And Michael discovers that innocence can only be sustained for so long.

The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee
In a mining town full of secrets, Jennifer Day is coming to terms with the loss of her older sister Beth. Beth committed suicide and Jennifer is trying to make sense of her sister’s death by piecing together the final months of her life.
All the while Jennifer has to watch her already ‘unusual’ family fall apart. Her nanna, who thinks Beth was touched by God, is banned from visiting. Her parents blame Beth’s friends – and each other – for her death. Karen Foxlee’s youthful narrator brilliantly writes about the adult world. It is ten-year-old Jennifer’s innocence that makes her ultimately wise.

The winners were chosen from shortlists announced in February 2008:

Region Shortlist for Best Book Award

Best Book Award
Steven Carroll The Time We Have Taken Australia HarperCollins
Sonya Hartnett The Ghost’s Child Australia Penguin Australia
Sarah Hopkins The Crimes of Billy Fish Australia ABC Books
Mireille Juchau Burning In Australia Giramondo
Michelle De Kretser The Lost Dog Australia Allen & Unwin
Alex Miller Landscape of Farewell Australia Allen & Unwin

Best First Book Award
Steven Conte The Zookeeper’s War Australia HarperCollins
Karen Foxlee The Anatomy of Wings Australia UQP
Carol Lefevre Nights in the Asylum Australia Picador
Marcella Polain The Edge of the World Australia Fremantle Press
Stephen Scourfield Other Country Australia Allen & Unwin

The results from the Africa, Canada and the Caribbean, and Europe and South Asiaregions can be viewed at

Previous Overall Winners: 2007-2001

Best book Best first book

2007 Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip D.Y. Bechard, Vandal Love

2006Kate Grenville, The Secret River Mark McWatt, Suspended Sentences: Fictions of Atonement

2005Andrea Levy, SmallIsland Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus

2004Caryl Phillips, A Distant Shore Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

2003Austin Clarke, The Polished Hoe Sarah Hall, Haweswater

2002Richard Flanagan, Manu Herbstein, Ama, A
Gould’s Book of Fish Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade

2001Peter Carey, True History Zadie Smith, White Teeth
of the Kelly Gang

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, an increasingly valued and sought-after award for fiction, is presented annually by the Commonwealth Foundation. It aims to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their works to a global audience. The Prize is now in its 22nd year. Itis organised and funded by the Commonwealth Foundation with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation across all four regions.

Notes to Editors

1. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, established in 1987, is sponsored and administered by the Commonwealth Foundation with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation. The Commonwealth Foundation is an intergovernmental body working to help civil society organisations promote democracy, development and cultural understanding in Commonwealth countries.

2. The Macquarie Group Foundationis one of Australia’s leading philanthropic foundations, contributing A$12.6 million to more than 500 community organisations in the year to 31 March 2007. It is the philanthropic arm of Macquarie Group Limited, which provides investment banking, commercial banking and selected retail financial services throughout the world.

3. Every year, prizes are given for the Best Book and Best First Book, valued at
£1,000, in each of the four Commonwealth Regions: Africa, Canada and the
Caribbean, Europe and South Asia, South East Asia and the South Pacific. From these regions, the overall winner for the Best Book and Best First Book prizes are chosen. The 2008 judges are:

Professor Arthur Gakwandi (Uganda) – Chairperson
Dr. Olutoyin Bimpe Jegede (Nigeria)
Maureen Isaacson (South Africa)

Canadaand the Caribbean
Dr. Michael Bucknor (Jamaica) – Chairperson
Dr Antonia MacDonald-Smythe (Grenada)
D. Y. Béchard (Canada)

Europe and South Asia
Professor Makarand Paranjape (India) – Chairperson
Professor Neloufer de Mel (Sri Lanka)
Donna Daley-Clarke (UK)

South East Asiaand South Pacific
Dr. Christine Prentice (New Zealand) – Chairperson
Professor Dennis Haskell (Australia)
Professor Chitra Sankaran (Singapore)

4. The Franschhoek Literary Festival runs from 16th to 18th May 2008. This year’s line-up of writers, discussions, poetry, literary breakfasts, plays and interviews includes Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Richard Ford, celebrated poet Gabeba Baderoon, Mbeki biographer Mark Gevisser, crime writers Deon Meyer and Margie Orford, academic businesswoman Dr Mamphela Ramphele and many more. For further information about the
Franschhoek Literary Festivalvisit or email Sheenagh Tyler at

5. The Head of the Commonwealth, HM Queen Elizabeth II, has in the past graciously invited the Best Book Winner for an audience in London.

6. The £10,000 Best Book Prize 2007 was awarded to New Zealand writer Lloyd Jones for Mister Pip. The Best First Book Prize 2007 of £5,000 went to Canadian writer D. Y. Béchard for Vandal Love.


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