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Sundowner of the Skies: The Story of Oscar Garden, the Forgotten Aviator

2020 - Shortlisted


Judges' comments

Oscar Garden was a pioneering pilot who embodied the daredevil spirit of the golden age of aviation when he successfully flew from London to Sydney in 1930 with only 39 hours of previous flying experience. This largely forgotten feat forms the centrepiece of Mary Garden’s powerful biography, which situates Oscar’s public exploits in his unhappy private life, and her own troubled memories of a distant father.

Beautifully written, Sundowner of the Skies is no hagiography. Garden eloquently evokes her father’s brief moment of barnstorming celebrity but frames it between his troubled childhood in Scotland and her own troubled childhood during Oscar’s long and resentful retirement in New Zealand. This cathartic family history is a profound exploration of inter-generational trauma and its effects on individuals, families and their shared memories.