28 August 2013
The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn takes top prize at New Zealand Post Book Awards
The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn – this year’s top book at the New Zealand Post Book Awards - is a novel the judges say is “as big as the
music at its heart”.
The book is an original and powerful work that tells the story of John Sutherland who is dying… and at the same time
creating a musical composition that will define his life. This is the first time a fiction entry has won the top book
award since 2009.
Gunn excelled herself with the “book of her career” to date according to the judges. Chief Judge John Campbell says: The Big Music is a wonderful literary achievement, in a year where finalists went the extra distance for their books.
“Gunn searches for and attempts big things, and fully achieves them. She has a bright future and I’m excited about what
lies ahead for her.”
Judge Guy Somerset said: “Gunn sets herself what for many would be impossible challenges and then meets every one of
them brilliantly – not least making bagpipe compositions sound so musically and intellectually stimulating that all of
us are firm converts.”
“The book completely captures readers with a mix of compelling themes and gripping human drama.”
The judges deliberated on more than 180 books this year and all were in clear agreement about each of the winners who
“showed a vibrant ability to transport their readers into a whole new world”.
The New Zealand Post Book Awards winners for 2013 are:
• New Zealand Post Book of the Year and Fiction winner The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn, published by Faber & Faber publishers.
What the judges said: “Gunn sets herself what for many would be impossible challenges and then meets every one of them brilliantly – not least
making bagpipe compositions sound so musically and intellectually stimulating that all of us are firm converts.”
• Poetry The Darling North by Anne Kennedy, published by Auckland University Press.
What the judges said: “This book is indeed a taonga, a treasure. It opens its heart to the Pacific and we judges all opened our hearts to it.
There’s erudition here, worn ever so lightly, sometimes in comic disguise. There’s the satisfaction of entering a
beautifully structured narrative, the experience of energy gathering as poem follows poem, and then the brilliance of
the finale, Hello Kitty Goodbye Piccadilly. We salute the ambition of this work.”
• Illustrated Non-fiction Pat Hanly by Gregory O’Brien and Gil Hanly, published by Ron Sang Publications.
What the judges said: “This extraordinary book epitomises what the winner of Illustrated Non-fiction should be. It is visually sumptuous and
vibrant with the artist's work leaping off of the page, has great production values, and its illustrative nature is
backed up by terrific writing. It is a book that excites and makes you want to possess it.”
• General Non-fiction Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World by Steve Braunias, published by Awa Press.
What the judges said: “Steve Braunias has a tremendous feel for character and language. There are passages that would be the envy of many a
novelist. The book captures a New Zealand seldom written about and does so with a sense of, by turns, compassion,
absurdity, occasionally anger, but mostly delight. That delight is completely contagious.”
• Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice
Shelter from the Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts, by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint, published by Craig Potton Publishing.
The Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice award is selected by New Zealand bookstores.
• People’s Choice
Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand, by Jarrod Gilbert, published by Auckland University Press.
Awards previously announced:
• Māori Language Award Winner Ngā Waituhi O Rēhua by Katarina Te Heikōkō Mataira, published by Huia Publishing.
• NZSA Best First Book Poetry Graft by Helen Heath, published by Victoria University Press.
• NZSA Best First Book Fiction I Got His Blood On Me by Lawrence Patchett, published by Victoria University Press.
• NZSA Best First Book Non-fiction Moa: The Life and Death of New Zealand’s Legendary Bird by Quinn Berentson, published by Craig Potton Publishing.
About the awards:
The New Zealand Post Book Awards recognise the best books published annually in New Zealand.
This year, the judges deliberated on as many as 180 books to find the best books across four categories: Poetry,
Fiction, Non-Fiction and Illustrated Non-fiction. Booksellers voted on the book they most enjoyed selling while the
general public chose the winner of the People’s Choice Award from among the 20 finalists.