Kate Kruimink was looking for something to focus on. It was all very well to have a newborn daughter to look after, but what she needed was something to stop her “going up the wall”. So she wrote a novel. “My daughter Edie was a poor sleeper, so I wrote with her in my arms.”
Now that novel, A Treacherous Country, has won this year’s $20,000 Vogel Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript by a writer under the age of 35. The prize has served as the launching pad for the careers of novelists such as Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, Danielle Wood, Gillian Mears, Andrew McGahan and Rohan Wilson. Last year was only the third occasion the Vogel has not been awarded.
Kruimink’s novel is set in 1840s Tasmania when Gabriel Fox arrives from Britain, having had to leave home in some distress. He is trying to find a woman, Maryanne Maginn, whose son is involved in the once-lucrative whaling trade.
Kruimink went back to a book she had started while studying at the University of Tasmania, thinking that might be the best way to distract herself, but found it too difficult to work on. Then something happened: “I found a side character and I found his voice and wondered what happened to him.” What happened was that Fox became the heart of her first novel, written in eight months, which is published on Tuesday.