Books and Covers: Reflections on Some Recent Australian Novels

Elizabeth Webby


For the 2002 Miles Franklin Award, given to the best Australian novel of the year, my fellow judges and I ended up with a short list of five novels. Three happened to come from the same publishing house – Pan Macmillan Australia – and we could not help remarking that much more time and money had been spent on the production of two of the titles than on the third. These two, by leading writers Tim Winton and Richard Flanagan, were hardbacks with full colour dust jackets and superior paper stock. Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish (2001) also featured colour illustrations of the fish painted by Tasmanian convict artist W. B. Gould, the initial inspiration for the novel, at the beginning of each chapter, as well as changes in type colour to reflect the notion that Gould was writing his manuscript in whatever he could find to use as ink. The third book, Joan London’s Gilgamesh (2001), was a first novel, though by an author who had already published two prizewinning collections of short stories. It, however, was published in paperback, with a monochrome and far from eye-catching photographic cover that revealed little about the work’s content.

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