Congrats to Robbie Arnott for winning the Age Book of the Year Award with his novel The Rain Heron. This is Arnott’s second novel (following the widely-acclaimed Flames (2018) which was short-listed for several major Australian awards).
Reviewing The Rain Heron for the Sydney Morning Herald, Vanessa Francesca described it as ‘a fierce and interesting fable for the current moment’.
An eco-fable, both magical and realist, the novel tells of a woman living alone, somewhere not specifically identified, trying to protect the fabled bird that has powers both wonderful and destructive. It’s a story of survivors looking for peace but finding violence in nature and society. They’re tested by the rain heron, which exacts a price from those who covet it.
‘What I was really trying to do was create a mythical creature that embodies both the beauty and the savagery of nature,’ Arnott said in a recent interview.
Vanessa Francesca said that while most fiction defined the natural world in relation to the needs of its human inhabitants, ‘Arnott reverses the relationship, so that human beings serve primarily as witnesses of beauty, of wonder, and of tragedy’.
The Age Book of the Year Award was resurrected (to much cheering) this year after a nine-year hiatus; only the fiction category was brought back, but there are expectations that non-fiction will return next year. Its return is the result of a new partnership between The Age and the Melbourne Writers’ Festival; the award was presented at the opening night of MWF on 3 September.
The Rain Heron is available in the UK, published by Atlantic Books.Here’s a link to a podcast produced by Readings Bookshop, shortly after the book’s publication, in which Robbie Arnott speaks with Readings’ Marie Matteson.