The Hands – An Australian Pastoral, published by Wakefield Press, is set on an isolated cattle station where tragedy strikes a fourth-generation farming family already struggling with the drought, secrets from the past and fears for the future.
It is the second time Orr has been longlisted for the prestigious prize. The previous occasion was in 2011 with Time’s Long Ruin, a “retelling” of the disappearance of the Beaumont children.
The 2016 list also includes Melbourne author Lucy Treloar’s debut novel Salt Creek, which tells the story of a pioneering family farming family who move to the Coorong, traditional home of the Ngarrindjeri, in the 1850s.
“This year a dominant theme of these novels is the impact of grief and loss – complex families, unstable relationships, accidents, European war crimes, suicide – and how the experience of these issues deeply determine the narrative and direction of lives,” Richard Neville, spokesperson for the Miles Franklin judging panel, said of the shortlisted books.
“These powerful stories, underpinned by distinct physical environments and each with a unique register and tone, range from the colonial past into the near-future. All possess a quality of writing that indicates Australian literature is strong and thriving.”
The other books on the longlist are: Ghost River, by Tony Birch; Coming Rain, Stephen Daisley; Hope Farm, Peggy Frew; Leap, Myfanwy Jones; The World Without Us, Mireille Juchau; Black Rock White City, AS Patric; The Natural Way of Things, Charlotte Wood.