The 2019 Most Underrated Sponsored by the Australian Booksellers Association

The Small Press Network is pleased to announce Songwoman by Ilka Tampke, published by Text Publishing, as the winner of the 2019 Most Underrated Book Award. 

Songwoman is Tampke’ second novel, a sequel to her debut, Skin (2015), but can be read as a standalone novel.

The MUBA 2019 judges praised the submitted books for their range of vibrant and contrasting voices and genres. The 2019 judging panel of Melissa Cranenburgh, Jane Rawson and Jackie Tang (convenor) highlighted the fact that it is often small presses who take risks and the results—evident in this year’s shortlist—are richly rewarding and worthwhile reads. Songwoman was described by the judges as ‘a riveting read, with a good dose of historical fancy,’ and was ‘a clear favourite’.

About Ilka Tampke:

Ilka Tampke teaches fiction at RMIT University. Her first novel, Skin, was published in eight countries and was nominated for the Voss Literary Prize and the Aurealis Awards in 2016. Ilka lives on five acres in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria.

From the judges:

A wonderfully escapist epic, bound to draw in lovers of historical fiction and fantasy—with an engaging narrative and a relatable hero. Ilka Tampke has mastered the tone and cadence of artful world-building and her setting—Britain during Roman occupation—feels well-drawn, without being overburdened with historical minutiae. The gripping plot follows the struggle for Anglo-Saxon independence in the face of a technologically advanced imperialist force, inevitably raising questions about the cyclical nature of oppression and those who levy it. Songwoman’s marginalised hero, Ailia, takes on the sadly still-all-too-relevant issues of cultural identity, racism and gender inequity, all set against a gripping plot rich in politicking, bloody battles and—of course—romance. A riveting read, with a good dose of historical fancy, Songwoman was a clear favourite.

From Penny Heuston, Senior Editor at Text Publishing:

It’s so wonderful to see Songwoman getting the attention it deserves. We at Text always knew what a BRILLIANT writer we have in Ilka Tampke. It’s incredibly gratifying to see her win for such a compelling story, featuring an unforgettable female protagonist.

About the Judges:

Melissa Cranenburgh is a writer, broadcaster, editor and educator who has spent more than a decade in senior editing roles. Jane Rawson has written two novels and her work has also been widely published. Jackie Tang is a freelance writer, editor and reiewer, and she now works as the online coordinator and prize manager for Readings.

Further information:

For media requests and more information on the Most Underrated Book Award, the Small Press Network and the Independent Publishing Conference, contact SPN general manager Tim Coronel: / 03 9094 7896 / 0418 696 786


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