Just a month ago, Mannix won the 2016 Australian Literature Society’s Gold Medal for Literature, the first time it had been won by a biography in its eighty-eight-year history. And now it has also taken out the State Library of NSW National Biography Award. The National Biography Award is awarded annually to a published work of biography or autobiography that promotes public interest in these genres.
In an article for the Text blog earlier this month, Brenda wrote of the particular challenges in researching and writing about the life of Mannix: ‘Clerical lives are too often reverential. They celebrate; they don’t admit imperfection. It’s a closed world, and a woman biographer trying to enter it might be called courageous in the Yes Minister sense. Looking through the hefty official biography of Mannix, I found this terrifying sentence: “The archbishop, as always, was right.”’
Clearly she found a way into this fascinating character, and has written a book the Australian described as ‘calmly magisterial’; the Age said that ‘Brenda Niall’s Mannix is the most wise, shrewd and elegant biography yet produced of this complex and beguiling man. Niall’s irresistible prose strengthens the candour of this fine book.’
In other great news this week, Clare Wright was awarded the Society of Women Writers’ Alice Award. The Alice Award is presented to an Australian woman who has made a distinguished, long-term contribution to Australian literature. The award is presented biennially and chosen in consultation with all state branches of the Society.
Clare Wright is a historian who has worked as a political speechwriter, university lecturer, historical consultant, and radio and television broadcaster. Her first book, Beyond the Ladies Lounge: Australia’s Female Publicans, garnered both critical and popular acclaim. Her groundbreaking second book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, won the 2014 Stella Prize. It was also turned into an abridged edition for teenage readers, We Are the Rebels: The Women and Men Who Made Eureka.
Congratulations to both Brenda and Clare!