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Bad Art Mother

2023 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments

Set in bohemian Melbourne in the 1960s and 70s, Edwina Preston’s Bad Art Mother adroitly tackles the enduring demands of motherhood versus literary ambition for a talented yet unrecognised poet, Veda Gray. Using the childhood perspective of Veda’s only child, Owen, and her letters to her sister Tilda, Preston paints an unflinching but sympathetic account of Veda’s struggles not only to write but to receive mere scraps of plaudits. These flow effortlessly to the famous and wealthy male poet Mr Parish, whose own achievements have been aided by sublimating the artistic pursuits of his wife. 

The childless Parishes offer Veda a means to pursue her literary ambitions but, as Preston’s haunting novel reveals, the price is vast. In Bad Art Mother, Preston has fashioned a richly evocative and dazzlingly witty novel about the tension between love and art, ambition and failure, and the crushing guilt that motherhood bestows.