The shortlist for the 2014 Stella Prize has just been announced, containing a great mix of exciting new talents and familiar faces.
Named after one of Australia’s most important female authors, Stella Maria Miles Franklin, The Stella Prize celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature. The prize is worth $50,000, with both fiction and nonfiction books eligible for entry.
Don’t miss your chance to grab a copy of these fantastic books and judge them for yourself with the help of Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore.
by Hannah Kent
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.
Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’ spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul. As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’ ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she?
Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985. As a teenager she travelled to Iceland on a Rotary Exchange, where she first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir. Hannah is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University. In 2011 she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Burial Rites is her first novel.
Grab a copy of Burial Rites here
by Anna Krien
‘The Pies beat the Saints and the city of Melbourne was still cloaked in black and white crepe paper when the rumour of a pack rape by celebrating footballers began to surface. By morning, the head of the sexual crimes squad confirmed to journalists that they were preparing to question two Collingwood players … And so, as police were confiscating bed sheets from a townhouse in Dorcas Street, South Melbourne, the trial by media began.’
In the tradition of Helen Garner’s The First Stone comes another closely observed, controversial book about sex, consent and power. At the centre of it is Anna Krien’s account of the rape trial of a footballer.
Krien offers a balanced and fearless look at the dark side of footy culture – the world of Sam Newman, Ricky Nixon, Matty Johns, the Cronulla Sharks and more. What does a young footballer do to cut loose? At night, some play what they think of as pranks, or games. Night games involving women. These games sometimes involve consensual sex, but sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they fall into a grey area.
About the Author
Anna Krien is the author of Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania’s Forests and Us and Them: On the Importance of Animals (Quarterly Essay 45).
Grab a copy of Night Games here
by Fiona McFarlane
One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem.
Which of them can Ruth trust? And as memories of her childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency, can she even trust herself?
The Night Guest is mesmerising novel about love, dependence, and the fear that the things you know best can become the things you’re least certain about. It introduces a writer who comes to us fully formed, working wonders with language, renewing our faith in the power of fiction to tap the mysterious workings of our minds, and keeping us spellbound
Fiona McFarlane was born in Sydney, and has degrees in English from Sydney University and Cambridge University, and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Michener Fellow.
Her work has been published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Southerly, the Best Australian Stories and the New Yorker, and she has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Phillips Exeter Academy and the Australia Council for the Arts. The Night Guest, her debut novel, has sold into fifteen territories around the world. She lives in Sydney.
Grab a copy of The Night Guest here
by Kristina Olsson
Kristina Olsson’s mother lost her infant son, Peter, when he was snatched from her arms as she boarded a train in the hot summer of 1950. Yvonne was young and frightened, trying to escape a brutal marriage, but despite the violence and cruelty she’d endured, she was not prepared for this final blow, this breathtaking punishment. Yvonne would not see her son again for nearly forty years.
Kristina was the first child of her mother’s subsequent, much gentler marriage and, like her siblings, grew up unaware of the reasons behind her mother’s sorrow, though Peter’s absence resounded through the family, marking each one. Yvonne dreamt of her son by day and by night, while Peter grew up a thousand miles and a lifetime away, dreaming of his missing mother.
Boy, Lost tells how their lives proceeded from that shattering moment, the grief and shame that stalked them, what they lost and what they salvaged. But it is also the story of a family, the cascade of grief and guilt through generations, and the endurance of memory and faith
Kristina was born in 1956 and raised in Brisbane of Swedish and Australian heritage. She studied journalism at the University of Queensland and went on to write for The Australian, The Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail, the Sydney Sunday Telegraph and Griffith Review.
She has also worked as an advisor to government and as a teacher of creative writing and journalism
at tertiary and community level. She supervises and mentors several post-graduate writing students and also works as a manuscript assessor and editor.
University of Queensland Press published her first novel, In One Skin, in 2001. This was followed by Kilroy Was Here (Random) in 2005 and The China Garden in 2009. Boy, Lost, a family memoir, was published by UQP in March 2013.
Kristina has two adult children, as well as three grandchildren. She lives in Brisbane.
Grab a copy of Boy, Lost here
by Alexis Wright
The new novel by Alexis Wright, whose previous novel Carpentaria won the Miles Franklin Award and four other major prizes including the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award. The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city. The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.
About the Author
Alexis Wright (born 25 November 1950) is an Indigenous Australian writer best known for winning the Miles Franklin Award for her 2006 novel Carpentaria.
Grab a copy of The Swan Book here
by Clare Wright
The Eureka Stockade. The story is one of Australia’s foundation legends, but until now it has been told as though only half the participants were there.
What if the hot-tempered, free-wheeling gold miners we learnt about in school were actually husbands and fathers, brothers and sons? And what if there were women and children inside the Eureka Stockade, defending their rights while defending themselves against a barrage of bullets?
As Clare Wright reveals, there were thousands of women on the goldfields and many of them were active in pivotal roles. The stories of how they arrived there, why they came and how they sustained themselves make for fascinating reading in their own right. But it is in the rebellion itself that the unbiddable women of Ballarat come into their own.
Groundbreaking, absorbing, crucially important—The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka is the uncut story of the day the Australian people found their voice.
Clare Wright is an historian who has worked as a political speechwriter, university lecturer, historical consultant and radio and television broadcaster. Her first book, Beyond the Ladies Lounge: Australia’s Female Publicans, garnered both critical and popular acclaim. She researched, wrote and presented the ABC television documentary Utopia Girls and is currently writing a four-part series to commemorate the centenary of WWI for ABC1. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and three children.
Grab a copy of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka here
Stella Prize Longlist
Letter to George Clooney
by Debra Adelaide
Debra Adelaide’s new collection of short stories intricately maps both the sublime and the mundane landscape of ordinary lives, with her trademark dark wit and luminous intelligence.
In Glory in the Flower, distinguished but disillusioned British poet, Bill, crosses the world on the promise of a prestigious literary festival only to find himself roughing it with an unlikely group of amateur poets, with surprising results. One man’s attempt to negotiate the Australian taxation system reads like a noir thriller in The Pirate Map, and the minefield of internet dating in Chance artfully balances the absurd and dark side of the human psyche. Harder Than Your Husband follows a serious-minded administrator as he attempts to navigate the induction of a new, and rather perplexing, employee. And the final eclipsing story, Letter to George Clooney, opens a door into a world of terror and deprivation: searing in its devastating restraint, it demonstrates why Adelaide is one of the finest Australian writers of her generation.
Debra Adelaide is the author of several novels, including The Household Guide to Dying (2008), which was sold around the world, Serpent Dust (1998) and The Hotel Albatross (1995). She is also the editor of several themed collections of fiction and memoirs, including Acts of Dog (2003) and the bestselling Motherlove series (1996-1998). As well as a creative writer she has also been a freelance researcher, editor, book reviewer and literary award judge, and is now associate professor at the University of Technology, Sydney where she teaches creative writing.
Grab a copy of Letter to George Clooney here
by Gabrielle Carey
Two literary lives defined by storytelling and secrets.
As her mother Joan lies dying, Gabrielle Carey writes a letter to Joan’s childhood friend, the reclusive novelist Randolph Stow. This letter sets in motion a literary pilgrimage that reveals long-buried family secrets. Like her mother, Stow had grown up in Western Australia. After early literary success and a Miles Franklin Award win in 1958 for his novel To the Islands, he left for England and a life of self-imposed exile.
Living most of her life on the east coast, Gabrielle was also estranged from her family’s west Australian roots, but never questioned why. A devoted fan of Stow’s writing, she becomes fascinated by his connection with her mother, but before she can meet him he dies. With only a few pieces of correspondence to guide her, Gabrielle embarks on a journey from the red-dirt landscape of Western Australia to the English seaside town of Harwich to understand her family’s past and Stow’s place in it. Moving Among Strangers is a celebration of one of Australia’s most enigmatic and visionary writers.
Gabrielle Carey lives in Sydney, writes books occasionally, and may or may not be related to Peter Carey.
Grab a copy of Moving Among Strangers here
by Melissa Lucashenko
When Jo Breen uses her divorce settlement to buy a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a blossoming connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter Ellen, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours, and a looming Native Title war among the local Bundjalung families. When Jo stumbles into love on one side of the Native Title divide she quickly learns that living on country is only part of the recipe for the Good Life.
Told with humour and a sharp satirical eye, Mullumbimby is a modern novel set against an ancient land.
About the Author
Melissa Lucashenko is an Australian writer of mixed European and Murri (Aboriginal) heritage. She was born in Brisbane in 1967, and attended public primary and secondary schools there. Melissa received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University, graduating in 1990. She lives between Brisbane and the Bundjalung nation.
Grab a copy of Mullumbimby here
The Misogyny Factor
by Anne Summers
In 2012, Anne Summers gave two landmark speeches about women in Australia, attracting more than 120,000 visits to her website. Within weeks of their delivery Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s own speech about misogyny and sexism went viral and was celebrated around the world. Summers makes the case that Australia, the land of the fair go, still hasn’t figured out how to make equality between men and women work. She shows how uncomfortable we are with the idea of women with political and financial power, let alone the reality. Summers dismisses the idea that we should celebrate progress for women as opposed to outright success. She shows what success will look like.
Anne Summers PhD AO (born 12 March 1945) is a writer and columnist, is best known as a leading feminist, editor and publisher. She was formerly Australia’s First Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Status of Women. Her long-term partner is Chip Rolley, the 2010 Creative Director of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Grab a copy of The Misogyny Factor here
by Helen Trinca
At the age of fifteen Madeleine saw herself as a painter and pianist, but Ms Medway peered down at Madeleine during her entrance interview in 1957 and announced: ‘You know dear, I think you might write.’
Madeleine would write. But not for some time. The Women in Black, a sparkling gem that belied the difficulties that had dogged her own life, was published when Madeleine St John was in her fifties. Her third novel, The Essence of the Thing, was shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize, and she continued to write until her death in 2006.
Helen Trinca has captured the troubled life of Madeleine St John in this moving account of a remarkable writer. After the death of her mother when Madeleine was just twelve, she struggled to find her place in the world. Estranging herself from her family, and from Australia, she lived for a time in the US before moving to London where Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Barry Humphries and Clive James were making their mark. In 1993, when The Women in Black was published, it became clear what a marvellous writer Madeleine St John was.
Helen Trinca has co-written two previous books: Waterfront: The Battle that Changed Australia and Better than Sex: How a Whole Generation Got Hooked on Work. She has held senior reporting and editing roles in Australian journalism, including a stint as the Australian’s London correspondent, and is currently Managing Editor of the Australian.
Grab a copy of Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John here
by Evie Wyld
Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods?
Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.
It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.
Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.
Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop London. Her first novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show’s Best New British Novelists. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Grab a copy of All the Birds, Singing here
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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