Fiction prize finalists announced

The finalists of the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards’ Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, clockwise from top left: Catherine Chidgey, Owen Marshall, Emma Neale and C.K. Stead. Images:

Four of the country's most respected novelists are in the running for New Zealand's richest fiction writing prize.

Novelists Catherine Chidgey, Owen Marshall, C.K. Stead and Emma Neale are the finalists for the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize as part of the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

The winner of the $50,000 prize, funded by of one of the Tauranga-based foundation's donors, will be unveiled during the Auckland Writers Festival at the Aotea Centre on May 16.

Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize judges' convenor Bronwyn Wylie-Gibb says all four finalists demonstrate compelling writing, surprising plots, sudden poignancies, sharp humour and beautifully observed characters.

“These are the books that we loved, that provoked, that excited us, and that we are still thinking about.”

For the first time in the history of the book awards, an international judge will assist in selecting the winner of the fiction category, with distinguished Canadian writer Madeleine Thien the first to assume this role.

Acorn Foundation general manager Nicky Wilkins says the donor set up the fund as a result of their passion for literature and to support the development of writers in New Zealand.

“Our generous donor passionately believes that great literature not only entertains but nourishes both the intellect and the imagination, and that these attributes are amply demonstrated in the best of New Zealand writing, but unfortunately have been poorly rewarded in the past.”

Nicky adds it's a privilege for Acorn to be a part of a national initiative which nurtures, supports and celebrates Kiwi writers.

“New Zealanders are avid readers, and have a huge appetite for good fiction. We have some exceptional writers in this country, but for some reason we don't recognise that [as] only five per cent of books read in New Zealand are by local authors.

“Thanks to the generosity of one of our donors this award helps to change that.”

The Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize now stands proudly alongside other top international literary awards including Australia's Miles Franklin award ($60,000) and the Man Booker prize (£50,000).

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, the Acorn Foundation, Book Tokens Ltd and the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi.

The awards ceremony will take place during the Auckland Writers Festival Aotea Centre on Tuesday May 16. Tickets go on sale via Ticketmaster on Friday, March 17.


Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize

  •   •  The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey

  •   •  Love as a Stranger by Owen Marshall

  •   •  Billy Bird by Emma Neale

  •   •  The Name on the Door is Not Mine by C.K. Stead


  •   •  Fale Aitu | Spirit House by Tusiata Avia

  •   •  Hera Lindsay Bird by Hera Lindsay Bird

  •   •  Fits & Starts by Andrew Johnston

  •   •  This Paper Boat by Gregory Kan

Illustrated Non-Fiction

  •   •  A History of New Zealand Women by Barbara Brookes

  •   •  New Zealand Wine: The Land, the Vines, the People by Warren Moran

  •   •  Ann Shelton: Dark Matter, edited by Zara Stanhope and managing editor Clare McIntosh

  •   •  Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933-1953 by Peter Simpson

Royal Society Te Apārangi Award For General Non-Fiction

  •   •  This Model World: Travels to the Edge of Contemporary Art by Anthony Byrt

  •   •  My Father's Island by Adam Dudding

  •   •  The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities, 1840-1920 by Ben Schrader

  •   •  Can You Tolerate This? By Ashleigh Young

For more information visit The New Zealand Book Awards Trust website at


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