The Burial

By Courtney Collins
Allen & Unwin


Courtney Collins

Judges' report


Based on the real-life story of bushranger and outlaw Jessie Hickman and set in the first decades of the 20th century, this exotic and earthy novel tracks Jessie’s escape first from her abusive husband and then from the men who come after her in pursuit. Circus rider, horse whisperer, cattle rustler, gang member, jailbird, mother and murderer, Jessie goes by several aliases and uses her bush skills in an increasingly desperate flight through the mountainous bushland of New South Wales. Pursued by lawless men bent on vengeance as well as by two more who harbour deep and complex feelings about her, Jessie is also haunted by her own most recent and most grisly crimes.

Part historical novel, part Australian Gothic, The Burial uses the story of the ‘lady bushranger’ to explore some of the dilemmas in the life of a rebellious woman living in a time and place where the choices for women were few, and some of those choices were violent or heartbreaking or both. Collins sustains the suspense and the emotional intensity of this tale from beginning to end. It’s a harrowing read and a wild ride.