Congratulations to Ambitions of Jane FranklinTasmanian biographer Alison Alexander who has won this year’s National Biography Award, with The Ambitions of Jane Franklin (Allen & Unwin).

I read this one quite a while ago but from memory it was an enjoyable and insightful read.  Jane Franklin definitely comes across less as the power behind the throne, and more as a woman whose many talents were necessarily stifled by the conventions of the day.

The other shortlisted books for the $25,000 National Biography Award 2014 were:

  • A Spy in the Archives, Sheila Fitzpatrick (Melbourne UniversityPublishing)
  • Exit Wounds: One Australian’s War on Terror, John Cantwell & GregBearup (Melbourne University Publishing)
  • Kitty’s War, Janet Butler (University of Queensland Press)
  • On Warne, Gideon Haigh (Penguin Australia)
  • Stillways: A Memoir, Steve Bisley (HarperCollins Publishers)

I do hope the judges’ comments are published in full.  That sort of feedback is so valuable, and not just to those on the shortlist.  From an article in the Hobart Mercury I’ve gleaned the following comments:

Judges described the work as an engrossing biography of Franklin, “indefatigable traveller and writer, formidable consort of Tasmanian governor and Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin.  Drawing on a huge body of hitherto unpublished research, as well as Franklin’s voluminous letters and journals, Alexander has written a full and astute biography of a highly intelligent, vital and strong-minded woman determined to transcend the limited expectations of her age and class,” said judging panel chair Jacqueline Kent.  “The book is impressively light on its feet, and Alexander guides the reader through Franklin’s story with a great deal of writerly skill.”

Sydney Morning Herald article about the win available here.