Past winners include:
On 7 February 2017, the longlist for the 2017 Stella Prize was announced with 12 nominees from over 180 entries. This year there was a heavy emphasis on non-fiction, with a diverse range of topics. Brenda Walker, chair of the judging panel, described the books as follows:
Many of them address urgent national issues with particular relevance to women, at a time when women are fighting to be politically seen and heard, and to secure their positions in the public sphere.When the list was announced, I was surprised to see that I had only read one title and was familiar with a few more, but many were completely unknown to me. Part of the excitement of these prizes is finding new writers and new titles to read.
The 2017 longlist is as follows:
Julia Baird - Victoria: The Queen
Georgia Blain - Between a Wolf and a Dog
This novel takes place over the course of one day in Sydney. Esther is a family therapist who works to bring people together, while personally her own relationships are strained. The judges described the late Georgia Blain's final novel as "a triumph: finely structured, suspenseful and morally acute." I am not familiar with Blain's work but by all accounts she was a fine writer.
Maxine Beneba Clarke - The Hate Race
Catherine de Saint Phalle - Poum and Alexandre
I must admit, I have never heard of this book, nor its author. Catherine de Saint Phalle is a Melbourne based author and this is her first work of non-fiction. It is a memoir of her unmarried parents and their lives in Paris. The judges describe this as a "tender portrait of a lifelong partnership [that] deserves to be an instant classic of the biography genre."
Madeline Gleeson - Offshore
Lawyer and researcher Madeline Gleeson has written this important book about Australia's offshore refugee regime on Manus and Nauru. She explored the first three years of offshore processing, since it began in 2012 and what it is like behind the wire for the refugees and the staff in detention centres. The judges described this book as "a rigorous and comprehensive narrative on one of the central challenges of our times: the care for those who seek asylum in Australia when life in their own countries becomes untenable." Important indeed.
At the 2016 Sydney Writers Festival I heard Julia Leigh speak about this book. It was so heart-wrenching to listen as Leigh shared her story, but I cannot bring myself to read this book. Leigh is a novelist and at the age of 38 she started IVF in an effort to have the family she longed for. She started writing this book at the point when she decided to stop treatment, and as such it is a raw, emotional, and courageous tale of IVF and the cycles of joy and despair felt by so many women for whom IVF is unable to help.
Emily Maguire - An Isolated Incident
My review of Maguire's book is available on this blog.
Fiona McFarlane - The High Places
This collection of stories brings McFarlane back to the Stella Prize, as she was shortlisted in 2014 for her debut novel, The Night Guest. The judges call this collection "consistently brilliant, inventive and memorable... richly observed stories about complex people and situations, told by a gifted writer." I love short stories, especially Alice Munro and more recently the work of Tegan Bennett Daylight. I look forward to reading this.
Elspeth Muir - Wasted
Heather Rose - The Museum of Modern Love
This is the seventh novel of Tasmanian author Heather Rose. The judges describe this as "an ambitious novel that demonstrates the value of art as a catalyst for love, connection, and an apprehension of mystery." The novel ponders deep questions through characters attending a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Sounds interesting, and I totally I love the cover of this book. Update June 2017: read review here.
Cory Taylor - Dying: A Memoir
The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), I know that books about death can be inspiring and uplifting, but I think I will pass on this at this time.
Sonya Voumard - The Media and the Massacre
In 1996 Australia was shaken by the Port Arthur massacre in which a lone madman opened fire at a historic site in Tasmania, killing 35 and wounding dozens more. Twenty years on, Voumard has explored the way in which he media responded to the crime. Described as part memoir and part ethical investigation, this book looks at the journalist profession and their responsibilities. This book sounds fascinating to me and I have just reserved it at the library. Update February 2017: read review here.
The Shortlist will be announced on 8 March - International Women's Day - with the winner revealed on 18 April 2017. Better get reading!