Ready for a new read? Melbourne author Jennifer Down has won the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award for her second novel, Bodies of Light, which judges have chosen for its compassionate storytelling about abuse in institutionalised care.

“I’m still pinching myself,” said Down in a statement in response to the win, which awards her $60,000 – one of the richest literary prizes in the country next to the Stella Prize. “I was, and am, elated to be in the company of writers embracing stylistic, thematic and formal diversity, whose works explore such different slivers of ‘Australian life’.”

The Miles Franklin award was set up according to the will of Miles Franklin, author of the Aussie classic My Brilliant Career. This year’s judges – author and literary critic Dr Bernadette Brennan, literary scholar Dr Mridula Nath Chakraborty, book critic Dr James Ley, NSW Mitchell Librarian and Chair Richard Neville, and author and editor Dr Elfie Shiosaki – praised Bodies of Light for its “ethical precision” and “astonishing voice”.

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Bodies of Light invites readers to witness the all-too-often concealed, destructive forces of institutionalised care,” they said, in a statement. “With extraordinary skill and compassion, Down has written an important book which speaks to an urgent issue in contemporary Australian life.”

Bodies of Light is published by Text. It’s available in bookstores now.