Miles Franklin 2021 Award Winner

Genre: Fiction

Erica Marsden’s son, an artist, has been imprisoned for homicidal negligence. In a state of grief, Erica cuts off all ties to family and friends, and retreats to a quiet hamlet on the south-east coast near the prison where he is serving his sentence. There, in a rundown shack, she obsesses over creating a labyrinth by the ocean. To build it – to find a way out of her quandary – Erica will need the help of strangers. And that will require her to trust, and to reckon with her past. The Labyrinth is a hypnotic story of guilt and denial, of the fraught relationship between parents and children, that is also a meditation on how art can both be ruthlessly destructive and restore sanity. It shows Amanda Lohrey to be at the peak of her powers.

‘A deeply meditative book…[Amanda Lohrey’s] writing here is beautifully layered, rich in imagery and meaning, without ever being laboured…The Labyrinth offers a pull towards the unknown and a comfort in solitude. It is a sharply tuned novel, a sprawling narrative that resists rigid expectations, instead allowing those who inhabit the pages to surrender themselves to the mode of “reversible destiny” that it is constructed around.’ —Guardian

‘Fluid, dream-like…Lohrey’s novel is beautifully written and compellingly personal.’ —Otago Daily Times 

‘My novel of the year, full stop…A story told without a syllable of excess sentiment or false feeling, yet which sails full square into the mystic.’ — Geordie Williamson, Australian

‘Lohrey brings all her skill to this compelling and contemplative novel, which will linger in your mind long after you read the final page.’ —Claire Nichols, ABC RN

‘This is a beautiful, understated story of a woman reconciling her guilt following her troubled son’s incarceration in a high security prison. After moving nearby to a rundown shack by the beach, Erica gradually begins to let down her guard amongst the small community she finds herself surrounded by. A potent dream inspires a preoccupation with building a labyrinth and she employs the advice and expertise of those around her to realise this project. Lohrey’s writing is eloquent and thoughtful, The Labyrinth was a joy to read. – Ramona, MACLEAN’S