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Get to know the SPN Book of the Year shortlist

The winner of the 2021 Small Press Network (SPN) Book of the Year Award will be announced on 26 November during the annual SPN Independent Publishing Conference. Each Monday, in the lead-up to the conference, Books+Publishing (B+P) will republish our review of each of the shortlisted books so you can get to know them better.

The Tiniest House of Time (Sreedhevi Iyer, Wild Dingo Press)

The SPN judging panel said in their judges report: ‘A unique book in the world of Australian small press publishing, The Tiniest House of Time takes readers beyond domestic borders and Western history. Moving between the Tamil genocide in colonial Burma to the 90s political tensions of Malaysia’s Reformasi movement and present-day Kuala Lumpur, this book explores how we continue to see history repeat itself even in its most heartbreaking forms. Reflecting on the long-term consequences of these eras, readers can see how dangerous our lack of knowledge about certain periods of history can be. If we don’t know it happened, how can we make sure we don’t repeat it?’

Karen Wyld wrote in her review for B+P:

The Tiniest House of Time is the well-researched debut novel by Sreedhevi Iyer, an Indian-Malaysian-Australian author. Matriarch Susheela Sastri is dying. Her granddaughter, Sandhya, born on the same date as her, travels from Australia to Malaysia to be with her. There, Sandhya comes to terms with what she’s been avoiding, while Susheela, slipping in and out of consciousness, is transported back to memories of her younger years in Burma/Myanmar. Surrounded by extended family, Sandhya and Susheela reconnect with each other. The plot moves between four different eras, within two nations undergoing significant social and political change. As an Indian child growing up in 1930s Burma, Susheela witnesses upheaval when the Burmese reject British interference and turn on Indian workers and Muslim citizens. Later, during Japanese occupation in WWII, Susheela joins the Hindu exodus into India. In the 1990s, Sandhya comes of age in Malaysia and becomes involved in political rallies. Like her grandmother, Sandhya is aware of ongoing conflict between Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. Back in the present, Susheela and Sandhya recommit to combatting prejudice in their own ways. While some may find the plot difficult to keep track of, The Tiniest House of Time will appeal to readers interested in family sagas, Indian diaspora, and Myanmar and Malaysian sociopolitical histories.

Taking Down Evelyn Tait (Poppy Nwosu, Wakefield Press)

The SPN judges said: ‘A fun, lively and fast-paced coming of age novel that explores the different dynamics and fallout from a newly joint family, Taking Down Evelyn Tate is YA fiction at its finest. Showcasing realistic character growth that still allows the main character to maintain their chaotic self, this fresh, funny read doesn’t hold back from tackling more difficult topics like changing friendship dynamics, messy family relationships, and substance abuse. The characters are relatable and the angst (and love) is heartfelt with the sort of friendship we love to see in YA. An equally magnetic and chaotic read.’

In her review for B+P, Annie Waters wrote:

Lottie is 16 and loves black metal, collecting curious words and making trouble, so her transformation into a goody two-shoes surprises herself as much as anyone else. But Lottie is playing the long game: to beat her nemesis at her own tricks. As she learns the meaning of the word ‘sonder’, Lottie begins to grow up and out of her teenage myopia to realise that everyone else’s lives do not revolve around her and the decisions she makes have real impact on other people. Warm, funny and wise, Taking Down Evelyn Tait examines disjointed family dynamics, complicated friendships, awkward teen romance and honouring your true self. This follow-up to Nwosu’s Making Friends With Alice Dyson, which was shortlisted for the Readings YA Prize and the Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award, will win just as many hearts as its predecessor, and hits many of the same notes. The dockside suburb of Port Adelaide sings as its working-class roots bump up against gentrification, as teens sprawl across benches and hoon around its darkened streets. Some smouldering looks and steamy kisses stop short of giving the book anything more than a PG rating, opening it up to a broad readership of those aged 13 and older. Taking Down Evelyn Tait is a joyous and accessible read for fans of To All the Boys I Loved Before and 10 Things I Hate About You.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of this series on Monday, 15 November.



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