The China Garden by Kristina Olsson has won the 2010 Barbara Jefferis Award ($35,000) for ‘the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society’.
UQP notes: When her mother dies, Laura returns to her coastal hometown. At the reading of the will, Laura discovers that her mother had a child that she adopted out. She also bequeathed a painting to someone who is a stranger to Laura. These revelations completely shift Laura’s understanding of her mother. Her life becomes entangled with the lives of Cress, an older and respected member of the community, Kieran, Cress’ intellectually disabled grandson, and Abby, a teenaged girl who has become friends with Kieran.
The judges said: ‘The title refers to Angela’s garden and its broken pieces of china. This evocative image suggests that beauty can be created from what is broken and apparently irretrievable, but also the danger and sharpness of buried secrets. … Without feeling the need to resolve every absence or mystery, Olsson gently suggests that it is always possible to make new things out of the past, however fractured or painful.’
The other finalists were: The Lost Life, Steven Carroll, Swimming, Enza Gandolfo, The World Beneath Cate Kennedy and Headlong, Susan Varga.