“Brilliant and balanced” portrait of enigmatic Gillian Mears wins nation’s richest biography prize

State Library of NSW

Bernadette Brennan’s “brilliant and balanced” portrait of the complicated life of Australian literary figure Gillian Mears has won this year’s $25,000 National Biography Award, Australia’s richest prize for biographical and memoir writing, the State Library of NSW announced TODAY [10 August 2022].

Leaping into Waterfalls: The Enigmatic Gillian Mears by Bernadette Brennan (Allen & Unwin) explores the rich, tumultuous life and premature death (in 2016, aged 52) of the remarkable short story writer and novelist — her rural childhood, her prodigious love life, her writing process, her difficulties with friends and publishers, her soaring talent, and her descent into illness.
The judges praised Brennan’s “graceful writing and sensitive approach to an enigmatic and often contradictory personality.”
“Brennan has produced a nuanced and compelling narrative of an inimitable character and original writer, whose ruthless commitment to her work is both startling and darkly entertaining,” said Senior Judge, Suzanne Falkiner.
This year the $5,000 Michael Crouch Award for a Debut Work was presented to Amani Haydar for The Mother Wound (Pan Macmillan Australia), a searing and significant memoir that unravels the devastating topic of murder within her own family.
“Haydar narrates the traumatic events of her life with steadiness and strength, employing the techniques of flashback and suspense to deliver a riveting, complex story. The author never once falters or hits a false note.”
The National Biography Award is supported by the State Library of NSW Foundation.
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