Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten (Scribe) has won the 2012 Kathleen Mitchell Award.
The biennial award for young Australian authors was established in 1996 through the will of Kathleen Adele Mitchell and is now worth $15,000. It is intended to ‘act as an incentive to improve young writers’ literary skills, as well as encourage them to maintain their passion and dedication to the advancement of Australian literature’. Previous winners of the award include Nam Le (2010), Randa Abdel-Fattah (2008) and Markus Zusak (2006).
The judges of this year’s award—Camilla Nelson, lecturer in communications at the University of Notre Dame; Gill Graton, project officer for learning services at the State Library of NSW; and Marilla North, author and lecturer in Australian cultural and literary history—described Joosten’s debut novel as a ‘psychological thriller that is an exploration of obsession, captivity and the cumulative guilts of the past’.
The judges also highly commended Cargo by Jessica Au (Picador), saying the ‘rites of passage novel powerfully demonstrates the impact of place as a shaping force in young lives’.
Joosten said winning the award ‘means so much’ as ‘it can be difficult for a young or debut writer to get any purchase in the literary scene and awards such as this one really help with finding an audience’. ‘Also, I find that writing long fiction takes a long time—which is exactly what this award will afford me as I work on my next novel,’ she said.
As previously reported by Bookseller+Publisher, Joosten was among the winners of the 2012 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists awards, which were recently announced at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.