We’ve already written about some of the ways that the lives of winners change, but Christine probably hasn’t really had much opportunity to let any of that sink in just yet. Since the awards night, she’s had a whirlwind tour of bookshops and media organisations.
You can also listen to Christine on Radio National’s Books and Arts programme, discussing the award, along with the novel and her research into Japanese internees in Australia.
The reviews have also been flowing in, The Australian’s chief literary critic Geordie Williamson comparing it to both Richard Flanagan’s superb The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize winning The Remains of the Day, saying:
While Piper’s book rhymes with Flanagan’s account of human misery in the prison camps of the Thai-Burma railway, viewed from the perspective of an Australian surgeon, it is a very different work. Piper is less concerned with war as a subject, a dark force at loose in history, than she is with a single individual trapped in those interregnums of reason and virtue.
A more apt comparison would be with an earlier work by another Anglo-Japanese novelist: Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. For all the violence hedged round the narrative, something of Ishiguro’s gentle, understated melancholy infects After Darkness. Such poise is surprising in a debut, as is its scope and ambition. And in a contemporary culture in which the airing of innermost secrets is seen as a healthy obligation, such reticence and grace bears its own certain, salutary shock.
After Darkness is a compelling and finely written book. It reveals a little-known aspect of World War II history through a character who has not been able to reconcile societal expectations and personal experience. I truly think Christine Piper is an author to watch, and I won’t be surprised if in years to come her name is in the list of great Australian authors launched by the Vogel’s Award.
After Darkness is not a long novel, nor a complicated one but it shows a depth that speaks of a true understanding of subject matter. A lot of research has clearly gone into this project, but the author is also emotionally invested and strikes a neat balance between fact, exposition and action.
…Piper expands on themes of morality, loyalty, nationalism, mateship, displacement, family, love, duty, and spirituality in the face of a changing twentieth century. This is no small achievement, given that the book is barely 300 pages long!
If you want to grab yourself a signed copy, Christine has been out and about around Sydney and Melbourne bookshops signing away, or you could try and win one from the comfort of your own home via Goodreads:
Finally, for those who might want to follow in Christine’s footprints and enter the Vogel’s Award, read this article she wrote on her entry and how she thought she didn’t stand a chance of winning, and get your entry in – no matter what you think of it:
Despite my best intentions to deliver a polished second draft, in the weeks leading up to the deadline, I was feeling unwell and was unable to work on the manuscript as much as I’d hoped. I submitted it to The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award five minutes before midnight, utterly disappointed with what I’d done.
‘I’ve blown my one chance,’ I told my husband.
Christine Piper, 2014 winner of The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award