In a huge night for the Victoria University Press imprint, Catherine Chidgey has won New Zealand's biggest writing award, the $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, for her novel The Wish Child.
17 May 2017
All Hail the 2017 Ockhams Champs
Saith the fiction judiciary (Bronwyn Wylie Gibb, Peter Wells, Jill Rawnsley and Canadian writer Madeleine Thien): “The Wish Child exposes and celebrates the power of words – so dangerous they must be cut out or shredded, so magical they can be wondered at and conjured with – Chidgey also exposes the fragility and strength of humanity... Compelling and memorable, you’ll be caught by surprise by its plumbing of depths and sudden moments of grace, beauty and light.”
The Wish Child, published by Victoria University Press, is Chidgey’s fourth novel, and comes 13 years after her last work, The Transformation, was published to critical acclaim. Chidgey’s previous novel Golden Deeds was chosen as a Book of the Year by Time Out (London), a Best Book by the LA Times Book Review and a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times. Her debut novel, In a Fishbone Church,won a Commonwealth Writers Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific).
"Compelling and memorable, you’ll be caught by surprise by its plumbing of depths and sudden moments of grace, beauty and light...”
Paris-based Andrew Johnston wins poetry
Andrew Johnston took out the Poetry category with his extraordinary collection Fits & Starts published by Victoria University Press. It was described by the category’s judges’ convenor, Harry Ricketts, as a slow-burning tour de force.
“The judges’ admiration for Andrew Johnston’s remarkable collection grew with each rereading, as its rich intellectual and emotional layers continued to reveal themselves ... Using a minimalist couplet-form, the collection is at once philosophical and political, witty and moving, risky and grounded, while maintaining a marvellously varied singing line.
“To reward Fits & Starts with the overall poetry prize is to reward New Zealand poetry at its most impressive and its most promising.”
Ashleigh Young is General Non-Fiction virago
The Wellington-based writer won for her collection of personal essays Can You Tolerate This? The category’s judges’ convenor, Susanna Andrew, says Young’s work sets a high bar for style and originality in a form that has very little precedent in this country. “Always an acute observer, it is in Young’s commitment to writing as an art that the true miracle occurs; she tells us her story and somehow we get our own.”
Young catapulted to international recognition earlier this year when she won the Yale University US$165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize for the collection.
Barbara Brookes wins Illustrated Non-Fiction
Barbara's meticulously documented work A History of New Zealand Women published by Bridget Williams Books wowed the category’s judges’ convenor, Linda Tyler, who says Brookes’ work combines deep research, an immensely readable narrative, superbly well-integrated images and is distinguished by close attention to both Māori and Pakehā women.
“Putting women at the centre of our history, this sweeping survey shows exactly when, how and why gender mattered. General changes in each period are combined effortlessly with the particular, local stories of individual women, many not well-known. A wider sense of women’s experiences is beautifully conveyed by the many well-captioned artworks, photographs, texts and objects.”
Four authors won four Best First Book Awards at the Ockhams:
📚 The Judith Binney Best First Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction: Ngarino Ellis for A Whakapapa of Tradition: 100 Years of Ngāti Porou Carving, 1830-1930, with new photography by Natalie Robertson (Auckland University Press).
📚 The Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry: Hera Lindsay Bird for Hera Lindsay Bird (Victoria University Press).
📚 The E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for General Non-Fiction: Adam Dudding for My Father’s Island: A Memoir (Victoria University Press).
📚 The Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction: Gina Cole for Black Ice Matter (Huia Publishers).