At our recent Readings Prize Shortlist Showdown event, six writers gave a speech in defence of the book they believed most deserves to win the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. Readings Events Manager Chris Gordon spoke in praise of Annah Faulkner’s novel Last Day in the Dynamite Factory.
Here is why Annah Faulkner’s Last Day in the Dynamite Factory should win the 2015 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction.
Dynamite Factory tells a story that is relevant to many of us. It’s about Australian domestic life. The main protagonist, Chris, is a middle-aged, middle-class man who feels like the parameters of his life have changed, and therefore he must change too. Chris, despite having experienced some heartbreak, is largely an everyman; his ‘wake up call’ is not an earth-shattering event. There is no furiousness or extreme sadness in his approach to change. This story resonates as a portrayal of where we, as a society of comfortable people, are located, and of what we have become. Our problems are not about life and death, but instead about lost dreams and hopes. This is a story about repercussions. It shows how it is possible to change the course of your life, even after the midway point has been passed.
Last Day in the Dynamite Factory is a story about family, and what that means. There are portrayals of three generations of men searching for meaning. It is vital for us to be able to regard and reflect on both past and future generation. Faulkner has created the perfect sounding board for this to occur, and her insight is neither overly emotional nor judgmental.
Although Faulkner has been writing for many years, she has only begun to receive critical literary acclaim late in life. Her writing is simple. To write a story without complicating the scenes with long obtuse passages takes a certain precision, a sleight of hand that has worked long and hard on creating a universal tale with a minimum of fuss. I look forward to her next work, to see where her imagination takes us next.
Last Day in the Dynamite Factory is a skilful interpretation of a man changing direction. It is a story about living well, letting go, and remaining conscious. It is a familiar story, but that familiarity makes its carefully crafted narrative all the more significant and impressive.