Posted by kluster on August 24, 2010
Last September we ventured down to Allen & Unwin’s Sydney headquarters for the announcement of the 2009 Australian Vogel Literary Award. Much to our surprise, two burgeoning writers were declared joint winners of the illustrious prize – Lisa Lang for her Utopian Man manuscript and Kristel Thornell for Night Street. Yes, literature is still alive and kicking (hard) in Australia.
A few weeks ago we spied a copy of Lang’s winning manuscript – converted as it was to novel form – atop a pile of books awaiting eyes. We unhesitatingly selected it for visual consumption post haste, interested as we were to find out what exactly it was about this particular offering that set it apart from the 200 other entries received for last year’s award.
Utopian Man, set in 19th Century Melbourne, fictionalises the life story of Melbourne entrepreneur, Edward Cole and the successes and failures that surrounded the world-renowned Coles Book Arcade. It’s a deftly written, humanistic tale of grand ideas and courageous vision. Lang is no stranger to Cole’s ambitions, having previously penned the non-fiction work E W Cole: Chasing the Rainbow (2007), and in this her newest offering she skilfully interweaves this terrific true story with presumedly fictional accounts of life behind the Coles family’s closed front doors. The resulting novel is deserving of the prestigious award bestowed on Lang late last year.
Utopia Man is published by Allen & Unwin.