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Top 10 Contemporary Australian Fiction Authors

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by Flo Bridger (subscribe)
I'm a writer and consultant living in Brisbane who loves travel in Australia, Asia, the Pacific and elsewhere.
Published October 25th 2013
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This list is the kind of thing that always gets you in trouble. No-one ever agrees on who's the best author around, or who should be on the list of the top 5 or 10.

This is a list of literary fiction writers. Crime and science fiction writers (as well as other genres) have not been included. Don't be put off by the common misconception that literary fiction writers produce long, boring and obscure novels where nothing ever happens. Some are like that, but this list presents the best writers and their work which is both beautifully written and readable.

Awards are not everything, but they do a great deal for an author's reputation and book sales. These authors have won major literary prizes in Australia and internationally. Australia has produced writers to rival wordsmiths all over the world. These authors play a vital role in defining our unique Australian culture.

My picks of 10 top contemporary Australian fiction authors are:

Shirley Hazzard

book novel Australian awards
A selection of Shirley Hazzard's novels

Who, do I hear you say? Strangely enough Shirley Hazzard is not a household name in the country of her birth. And yet she is a great Australian writer.

Shirley Hazzard is not a prolific author, having produced four novels and two short story collections. Much of her life has been lived overseas, possibly explaining her lack of visibility in Australia. Her works are often set in Europe featuring Australian characters.

The Transit of Venus is generally considered her best work. It won the American National Book Critics Circle Award in 1980.

In 2004 she was awarded Australia's top literary prize the Miles Franklin Award and the US National Book Award for her novel The Great Fire.

Her other novels are The Bay of Noon and The Evening of the Holiday.

David Malouf

novel australia Brisbane Malouf
Some of David Malouf's award winning books

David Malouf was born and grew up in Brisbane. His novels Johnno and Harland's Half Acre reflect the Brisbane and south east Queensland of his early years.

His novel The Great World won the Miles Franklin Award in 1991.

Remembering Babylon was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

David Malouf's most recent novel is Ransom published in 2009. He has also published prize winning collections of short stories and poetry.

His place as a writer on the world stage was acknowledged with his shortlisting for the Man Booker International Prize for his lifetime contribution to literature in 2011.

He is touted as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. An Australian has won the Nobel in this category only once in 1973 when Patrick White received the honour.

Tim Winton
novel award Australia Winton
Tim Winton's most popular and latest novels

Hailing from Western Australia, Tim Winton is one of Australia's best known and loved writers. His fiction draws on his love of the landscape, beach and ocean.

In 1981 he won the Vogel/Australian Literary Award with An Open Swimmer for an unpublished manuscript for writers under 35.

He has won the Miles Franklin Award four times with his novels Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and Breath.

Cloudstreet has been voted Australia's favourite novel in a number of surveys. The Riders was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1995.

Tim Winton also writes short stories and children's books.
His latest novel Eyrie was published in October 2013.

Alex Miller

novel award Australia Miller
An Alex Miller award winner and his latest novel

Born in the United Kingdom but calling Australia home since the age of 16 Alex Miller writes with a fascination for his adopted country and its landscapes.

He won the Miles Franklin Award with his novel The Ancestor Game in 1993. Journey to the Stone Country also received this accolade in 2003 and is considered by some commentators as one of the best novels addressing aboriginal issues written by a white man.

Alex Miller's other novels include Conditions of Faith, Lovesong, Landscape of Farewell and Autumn Laing.

Coal Creek published in 2013 is his latest novel.

Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville was born in Sydney. She won the Vogel/Australian Award with Lilian's Story in 1985. This novel has been made into a movie and films are planned of two of her other books.

Her novel The Idea of Perfection was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction for women writers in 2000.

The Secret River was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Man Booker Prize in 2006. It won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. This is the first volume of a trilogy set during early European settlement of New South Wales. The later volumes are The Lieutenant and Sarah Thornhill.

Kate Grenville is also the author of several books on writing.

Peter Carey

novel award Australia Carey
Peter Carey has written many award winning novels

Peter Carey was born in Victoria and has lived in New York for many years. His first literary success was in 1974 with the short story collection The Fat Man in History.

He has twice won the Booker Prize for Oscar and Lucinda in 1988 and The True History of the Kelly Gang in 2001. Peter Carey is a three times winner of the Miles Franklin Award with Bliss, Oscar and Lucinda and Jack Maggs.

His other novels include Illywhacker, Parrot and Olivier in America and Thief. His most recent novel is The Chemistry of Tears published in 2012.

Peter Carey has been considered a possible future Australian winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks was born and raised in Sydney. She worked for many years as an international journalist and now lives in the United States.

In 2006 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel March, a sequel to Louisa May Alcott's classic American novel Little Women set in the Civil War.

Her non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence have also won her critical acclaim.

Geraldine Brooks has also written the novels Year of Wonders and The People of the Book. Her journalistic skills are evident in her research for her fiction works.

Her most recent novel Caleb's Crossing was published in 2011.

Murray Bail

novel award Australia Bail
Murray Bail's best known and latest novels

Murray Bail is originally from Adelaide and now lives in Sydney.

He is best known for his novel Eucalyptus featuring these iconic Australian trees and their role in the fates of a father and his daughter. It won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Miles Franklin Award in 1999.

For Homesickness he won the Age Book of the Year and the National Book Council Award in 1980.

He has published short fiction in The Drover's Wife and Other Stories and Camouflage.

The Pages and Holden's Performance are his other novels along with his most recent The Voyage published in 2012. He has also written non-fiction works and edited an anthology of short fiction.

Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally was born in Sydney.

His best known work is Schindler's Ark which won the Booker Prize in 1982. It was adapted for film as Schindler's List directed by Steven Speilberg which won the Oscar for Best Picture.

His early novels Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers for the Paraclete won the Miles Franklin Award in 1967 and 1968. Thomas Keneally has also written short stories and plays.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is another well known early work made into a movie.

His latest novel is The Daughters of Mars published in 2013.

Helen Garner

Helen Garner was born in Geelong, Victoria.

Her first novel Monkey Grip was critically acclaimed as a portrayal of alternative living in Melbourne, winning the National Book Council Award for Australian Literature in 1975.

She has also published short stories in Postcards from Surfers and My Hard Heart: Selected Fiction. Helen Garner also writes non-fiction.

Her other works include The Children's Bach, Cosmo Cosmolino and The First Stone.

In 2008 The Spare Room told from the point of view of a woman caring for a friend dying of cancer was Helen Garner's first novel in 15 years. It won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award and other accolades.

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