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Small Press Network announces 2019 Most Underrated Book Shortlist

Small Press Network announces 2019 Most Underrated Book Shortlist

The Small Press Network has unveiled the shortlist for the 2019 Most Underrated Book Award (MUBA). The MUBA (sponsored by the Australian Booksellers Association) aims to uncover and celebrate the hidden gems of Australian Publishing. 

Last year's winner was Living In Hope by Frank Byrne with Frances Coughlan and Gerard Waterford. The MUBA highlights that it is small presses that take risks and produce challenging yet rewarding books. You can check out the three shortlisted titles - and comments from the 2019 judging panel of Melissa Crenenburgh, Jane Rawson and Jackie Tang - below. The winner will be announced on 21 November. 

Brontide by Sue McPherson

Brontide by Sue McPherson (Magabala Books)

"Young adult books have the latitude to delight in experiments with form that are often denied to those in the adult market. Sue McPherson has taken full advantage of this, and truly played with structure in her novel Brontide, a small marvel with a big heart. Despite its brevity, these pages hold a deceptively ambitious structure, told via interviews with four high school boys in a small Queensland town. These four voices ring out with irreverence, humour, pain and longing—their thoughts are presented unvarnished, resulting in big moments that are in turn hilarious, confronting and even heartbreaking. Utterly unpretentious, this is a hidden gem that would particularly appeal to reluctant teen—or even adult—readers who still want complex and nuanced storytelling. The book is not without flaws, but the reader is quickly swept up in a compelling narrative and few will leave dry-eyed."

Antidote to a Curse by James Cristina (Transit Lounge)Antidote to a Curse by James Cristina

Transit Lounge publishes some of Australia’s most daring, inventive novels and Antidote to a Curse is no exception. Blending the Bosnian war, an impending AIDS diagnosis, life in 1990s inner Melbourne, giant aviaries and talking cats, Antidote is more like a Soviet-era Eastern European experimental novel than what you’d normally expect from staid, realist Australia. That being said, there is a nod to the traditions of realism in the richly wrought depiction of inner-Melbourne circa 1980 that pays homage to the Greek quarter and some iconic haunts. It’s hard to find any sense of stability—or often, to know what it is you are reading—as Cristina’s narrative shifts and changes under you, but that queasy, feverish feeling of moving ground is what makes this story so rewarding. An exciting new voice and a quietly ambitious book that resurrects the philosophical spectres of desire and trauma, displacement and longing—the curse and...the Antidote.

Read our Q&A with James Cristina

Songwoman by Ilka TampkeSongwoman by Ilka Tampke (Text Publishing)

A wonderfully escapist epic, bound to draw in lovers of historical fiction and fantasy—with an engaging narrative and a relatable hero. Ilka Tampke has mastered the tone and cadence of artful world-building and her setting—Britain during Roman occupation—feels well-drawn, without being overburdened with historical minutiae. The gripping plot follows the struggle for Anglo-Saxon independence in the face of a technologically advanced imperialist force, inevitably raising questions about the cyclical nature of oppression and those who levy it. Songwoman’s marginalised hero, Ailia, takes on the sadly still-all-too-relevant issues of cultural identity, racism and gender inequity, all set against a gripping plot rich in politicking, bloody battles and—of course—romance. A riveting read, with a good dose of historical fancy.