ANNA Funder’s Miles Franklin winner All That I Am was the local novel of the year and deservedly so. It’s a gripping story of anti-Hitler activists in Germany and Europe in the lead-up to World War II, and what happened to those who survived to end up living in faraway places such as Sydney. Sophisticated, pageturning holiday reading. Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows, the Miles Franklin runner-up, is a deeply moving story of three motherless brothers trying to survive life, and their angry father, on Tasmania’s remote coast. Read it at Christmas and be reminded why children are to be cherished. OK, so Cold Light is not the warmest title, but the third and final book in Frank Moorhouse’s League of Nations series is a masterpiece. It’s set mainly in Canberra, but I’m assured they do have summer there, too. Majok Tulba’s astonishing novel of child soldiering, Beneath the Darkening Sky, is confronting and necessary. It has been such a standout couple of years for Australian fiction that I have to mention a few more: Alex Miller’s Autumn Laing, Kate Grenville’s Sarah Thornhill, Charlotte Wood’s Animal People, Gillian Mears’s Foal’s Bread, Christopher Koch’s Lost Voices, Mark Dapin’s Spirit House, Malcolm Knox’s The Life (what’s more summer than a surfing novel?), Janette Turner Hospital’s formidable Forecast: Turbulence, Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel, Toni Jordan’s Nine Days, Paul Carter’s Vogel winner Eleven Seasons and, if you’d like to discover a promising new writer, Edwina Shaw’s Thrill Seekers. And as mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the annual Bryce Courtenay novel: his 21st and final book is Jack of Diamonds and concludes with a heartfelt afterword by the author.