The literary world is very excited this morning because The Stella Prize longlist has been announced! Please excuse our booknerd ways, we just can’t help ourselves!
For those of you who don’t know, the Stella Prize is a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing. The $50,000 Stella Prize is presented to the best work of literature – fiction or nonfiction – published by an Australian woman each year.
The prize is named after one of Australia’s iconic female authors, Stella Maria Sarah ‘Miles’ Franklin, and was awarded for the first time in 2013.
“The complete list of books entered for this year’s Stella Prize, showcasing as it does much of Australian women’s writing for 2017, reflects the sheer volume of high-quality books that are being published in Australia. What a cornucopia of literary riches!” say the Judges. “As judges we were impressed with the strength of submissions from so many fine writers. The value of the book as artefact was evident in the attention publishers and designers invest to make books attractive to read and to hold in our hands. Noticeable was the calibre of books from small publishers as is reflected in our longlist.”
Read the Judges’ full comments here.
The Stella Prize Shortlist will be announced on Thursday 8th March, 2018. But for now – sit back, relax and let us run you through the amazing authors who made the 2018 Stella Prize Longlist.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is an extraordinarily powerful and evocative literary novel set in Iran in the period immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Using the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling, Azar draws the reader deep into the heart of a family caught in the maelstrom of post-revolutionary chaos and brutality that sweeps across an ancient land and its people.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is really an embodiment of Iranian life in constant oscillation, struggle and play between four opposing poles: life and death; politics and religion. The sorrow residing in the depths of our joy is the product of a life between these four poles.
A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work
By Bernadette Brennan
The first full-length study of Helen Garner’s work, and a lively literary portrait that maps Garner’s writing against the different stages of her life.
Helen Garner is one of Australia’s most important, and some would say, most admired living writers. That admiration is inspired by a sense that she is honest, authentic and fearless in the pursuit of her craft. But Garner also courts controversy, not least because she refuses to be constrained by the rules of literary form. She appears to write so much of herself into her non-fiction, and many of her own experiences inform her fiction.
But who is the ‘I’ in Helen Garner’s work?
Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness
By Kate Cole-Adams
A hundred and seventy years ago many people would have chosen to die rather than undergo the ordeal of surgery. Today, even major operations are routine. Anaesthesia has made them possible.
But how much do we really know about what happens when we go under? Can we hear what’s going on around us? Is pain still pain if we are not awake to feel it, or don’t remember it afterwards? How does the unconscious mind deal with the body’s experience of being cut open and ransacked? And what happens to those rare patients who wake up under the knife?
In the near future Australia is about to experience colonisation once more. What have we learned from our past?
‘Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.’
The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, reeducation is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.
Set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is a mesmerising novel about the stories we tell and don’t tell ourselves as individuals, as societies and as nations. It feels at once firmly classic and exhilaratingly contemporary.
Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Driven by riveting stories and unforgettable characters, here is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people.
Read a review by Booktopia’s Ben Hunter here.
This Water is a collection of five tales, three of them novella length, each a fragmentary love story with a nameless woman at the centre, and a mythic dimension (Greek or Celtic, folklore or fable) rooted in the power of nature. Water and stone, ice and fire, light and darkness play an important role in all the stories, as do other motifs, closely related to women’s experience, blood, birth, possession and release, marriage and singularity.
One tale, set on the south coast of Victoria, is animated by the legend of the Great Silkie, following Sylvia Plath and Joan Baez; another finds its rebellious princess in Lake Annaghmakerrig in Ireland; a third has Clytemnestra as its central figure, mourning the daughter sacrificed by her husband Agamemnon so that he can go to war with Troy.
It’s 1972 in Canberra. Michael Dransfield is being treated for a drug addiction; Paula Keogh is delusional and grief-stricken. They meet in a psychiatric unit of the Canberra Hospital and instantly fall in love.
Paula recovers a self that she thought was lost; Michael, a radical poet, is caught up in a rush of creative energy and writes poems that become The Second Month of Spring. Together, they plan for ‘a wedding, marriage, kids – the whole trip’. But outside the hospital walls, madness, grief and drugs challenge their luminous dream. Can their love survive?
The Green Bell is a lyrical and profoundly moving story about love and madness. It explores the ways that extreme experience can change us: expose our terrors and open us to ecstasy for the sake of a truer life, a reconciliation with who we are. Ultimately, the memoir reveals itself to be a hymn to life. A requiem for lost friends. A coming of age story that takes a lifetime.
Some time in the near future, university lecturer Caspar receives a gift from a former student called Liv: a memory stick containing a virtual narrative. Hooked up to a virtual reality bodysuit, he becomes immersed in the experience of their past sexual relationship. But this time it is her experience. What was for him an erotic interlude, resonant with the thrill of seduction, was very different for her – and when he has lived it, he will understand how.
Later… a convicted paedophile recruited to Liv’s experiment in collective consciousness discovers a way to escape from his own desolation.
A synthetic boy, designed by Liv’s team to ‘love’ men who desire adolescents, begins to question the terms of his existence.
“Martin wore tight pants that were striped red, white and blue, like a Union Jack, and an embroidered Afghan vest. In front of his face he carried, like a lollipop, a smile on a stick. As he went, he bowed to passers-by. Even on King’s Road, he stood out.’
Martin Sharp’s art was as singular as his style. He blurred the boundaries of high art and low with images of Dylan, Hendrix and naked flower children that defined an era. Along the way the irreverent Australian was charged with obscenity and collaborated with Eric Clapton as he drew rock stars and reprobates into his world.
In this richly told and beautifully written biography, Joyce Morgan captures the loneliness of a privileged childhood, the heady days of the underground magazine Oz as well as the exuberant creativity of Swinging London and beyond.
A collective memoir of one of Aboriginal Australia’s most charismatic leaders and an epic portrait of a period in the life of a country, reminiscent in its scale and intimacy of the work of Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Svetlana Alexievich.
Miles Franklin Award-winning novelist Alexis Wright returns to non-fiction in her new book, Tracker, a collective memoir of the charismatic Aboriginal leader, political thinker, and entrepreneur who died in Darwin in 2015. Taken from his family as a child and brought up in a mission on Croker Island, Tracker Tilmouth returned home to transform the world of Aboriginal politics. He worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council.
Sparked by the description of a ‘Malay trollope’ in W. Somerset Maugham’s story, The Four Dutchmen, Mirandi Riwoe’s novella, The Fish Girl tells of an Indonesian girl whose life is changed irrevocably when she moves from a small fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. There she finds both hardship and tenderness as her traditional past and colonial present collide.
Told with an exquisitely restrained voice and coloured with lush description, this moving book will stay with you long after the last page.
Abandoned by her mother and only occasionally visited by her secretive father, Justine is raised by her pop, a man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop’s chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow it seems they might touch – a place of staggering natural beauty. But the river can’t protect Justine from danger. Her father is a criminal, and the world he exposes her to can be lethal.
Justine is overlooked and underestimated, a shy and often silent observer of her chaotic world. She learns that she has to make sense of it on her own. She has to find ways to survive so much neglect. She must hang on to friendship when it comes, she must hide when she has to, and ultimately she must fight back.
Read a review by Booktopia’s Ben Hunter here.
Get 20% off when you buy the 2018 Stella Prize Longlist bundle here.