The shortlist for the 2015 Stella Prize has just been announced, and what an exciting list of Australian authors it is!
Named after one of Australia’s most important female authors, Stella Maria Miles Franklin, The Stella Prize celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature, awarded last year to Clare Wright for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.
Don’t miss the chance to grab a copy of these fantastic books and judge them for yourself with the help of Booktopia.
Executive Director of the Stella Prize, Aviva Tuffield, says:
‘We are thrilled with the strength and diversity of the 2015 Stella Prize shortlist. These six remarkable books explore themes of identity, family, displacement and belonging, with distinctly Australian resonances. Two of the books are debut works, which speaks to the talent of Australian women writers, even those just beginning their careers as authors. We are immensely grateful for the determination and rigour of our judging panel, who selected these six excellent, original and engaging books.’
THE 2015 STELLA PRIZE SHORTLIST: JUDGES’ REPORT
The Golden Age
by Joan London
The time is the early 1950s, the place Perth. The Gold family, survivors and refugees from wartime Europe, have been blasted by the fates once more: their only child, Frank, has been caught up in the polio epidemic and is now recovering in a halfway house for convalescent children, a converted pub called The Golden Age.
Through the Gold family and their various acquaintances, London explores the social and emotional implications of her story with quiet power and precision, using the tale of one family at one moment in the social history of Australia to illustrate more abstract and general themes. It’s a story of exile, transition, and resilience; it shows the power of vocation and the fragility of love. And in its account of how it feels to belong to a displaced, marginalised and vulnerable race recently threatened with genocide, it has some delicate reverberations for the oldest Australians as well
as for the newest.
About the Author
Joan London is the author of two prize-winning collections of stories, Sister Ships, which won the Age Book of the Year in 1986, and Letter to Constantine, which won the Steele Rudd Award in 1994 and the West Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. These stories have been published in one volume as The New Dark Age. Her first novel, Gilgamesh, was published in 2001, won the Age Book of the Year for Fiction in 2002 and was longlisted for the Orange Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, The Good Parents, was published in April 2008 and won the 2009 Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the NSW Premier’s Literary awards. Joan London’s books have all been published internationally to critical acclaim. The Golden Age (2014) is her third novel.
Grab a copy of The Golden Age here
by Emily Bitto
Lily is an only child, and when she befriends the exotic Eva – daughter of artists and ‘old money’ – at school, it’s the beginning of the kind of love affair that solitary
children often have with large exuberant families. But this is bohemian Melbourne in the 1930s, and in many ways it’s not a good place for any child to be. As the girls
grow up their world gets darker and more complex, eventually imploding into scandal.
While it’s partly inspired by the real-life 1930s artists’ colony at Heide in Melbourne, this novel’s characters and plot are wholly fictional and the result is a satisfyingly cohesive vision and story. With its reflective tone, rhythmic style, and vivid scenes, Bitto’s novel illuminates the history of a particular time, place and way of living, but it also draws out the more abstract themes, common to all times and places, of friendship, memory, ambition, and family life.
About the Author
Emily Bitto lives in Melbourne. She has a Masters in literary studies and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne, where she is also a sessional teacher and supervisor in the creative writing program. Her writing has appeared in various publications, including Meanjin, Heat, Harvest, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Literary Review. The manuscript of her debut novel, The Strays, was shortlisted for the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.
Grab a copy of The Strays here
by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a performance poet, acutely aware of the accents, idioms and cadences of the spoken word, and her gift with voices – their origins, their meanings, their struggles and triumphs with alien English – is at the heart of this collection of stories. All ten stories deal with displacement in some form, and some of that displacement has been violent: there are stories of racial conflict in Brixton, of asylum seekers in flight from the Tamil Tigers, of psychological and physical violence between a naïve white-Australian wife in a strange land and her twice-displaced African husband.
Although these are stories about inequalities of power in the intersections of class and race, Beneba Clarke also uses narrative voices and the effects of dialogue to show characters attempting to create and assert a coherent self through the power of speech. Her work is profoundly political, but it is also more than that.
About the Author
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent and the author of the poetry collections Gil Scott Heron Is On Parole (Picaro Press, 2009) and Nothing Here Needs Fixing (Picaro Press, forthcoming). As a spoken word performer, Maxine’s work has been delivered on stages and airways, and in festivals across the country. Her short fiction, essays and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, The Age, Big Issue, Cordite Poetry Review, Harvest, Voiceworks, Going Down Swinging, Unusual Work and Peril. Maxine lives in Melbourne, Victoria.
Grab a copy of Foreign Soil here
by Christine Kenneally
The sciences and the humanities are traditionally thought of as separate, or even as opposite, fields of study and endeavour, but Christine Kenneally moves on from this kind of thinking in her fascinating exploration of DNA and what it tells us about our individual, social, and anthropological pasts, bringing genetics and history together via the concepts of ancestry and inheritance. At every stage of this book, the data, the facts and the ideas are illustrated and enlivened by personal stories of individual lives and discoveries.
Kenneally uses the contemporary enthusiasm for genealogy and family history as an accessible entry point for the general reader, giving us a wonderful assortment of insights into the meaning and value of the past. To read this book is to be in the company of a dynamic, ardent mind, talking in a friendly authorial voice and never talking down.
About the Author
Christine Kenneally is Australian and received her Ph.D. in linguistics at Cambridge. She has written about language, science, and culture for publications such as the New Yorker, the New York Times, Scientific American, Discover, and Slate..
Grab a copy of Invisible History of the Human Race here
by Sofie Laguna
Jimmy Flick isn’t an ordinary child, and as his story progresses we quickly realise that he has some unspecified condition, probably somewhere on the autism spectrum. He can’t slow down, he can’t calm down, and he can’t respond appropriately in difficult or even dangerous situations, but his world view is unique and full of unexpected insights. His father, defeated by the difficulties of living with such a child, takes to drink and domestic violence. And then things get worse.
Sofie Laguna faultlessly maintains the storytelling voice of Jimmy, who is oblivious in some ways and hauntingly knowing and observant in others. There are many places in which such a story could tip over into sentimentality or melodrama, but Laguna’s authorial control and intelligence keep the story on track and the reader engaged and empathetic, and she manages both the humour and the darkness of this story with great sensitivity and control.
About the Author
Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer, but after deciding law was not for her, she trained as an actor. Sofie is now an author, actor and playwright. Her books for young people have been named Honour Books and Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards and have been shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Awards. She has been published in the US and the UK and in translation in Europe and Asia. Sofie’s first novel for adults, One Foot Wrong, was also published throughout Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom. Sofie has written the screenplay for the film of One Foot Wrong, scheduled for pre-production in 2014.
Grab a copy of The Eye of the Sheep here
by Ellen Van Neerven
This unusually structured collection of stories is divided into three sections, each named for some elemental quality in nature: Heat, Water, Light. They are environmental metaphors that serve as rich touchstones for the layered meanings of individual stories. ‘Heat’ is a sequence of closely interlinked family stories; ‘Water’, a futuristic novella, is kind of ecological speculative fiction and a very unusual love story; ‘Light’ is a collection of stand-alone stories, though certain themes and subjects recur here as they do throughout the book.
Van Neerven moves with ease between realism and fantasy, using elements of myth and mysticism in her storytelling. From one story to the next, the content is always rich and suggestive and the writing is always beautiful and clever. Each of these stories is told with passion and conviction; van Neerven writes with the confidence, maturity, and subtlety of someone twice her age, and with startling originality.
About the Author
Ellen van Neerven is a writer of Mununjali and Dutch heritage. She belongs to the Yugambeh people of the Gold Coast and Scenic Rim. She won the David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer in the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards for Heat and Light.
Grab a copy of Heat and Light here