Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Stella Prize Longlist 2018

The Stella Prize longlist has been announced! The annual literary award celebrating women writers of both fiction and non-fiction is named after Australian author Stella Miles Franklin. Past winners include:

  • Carrie Tiffany for Mateship with Birds (2013)
  • Claire Wright for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (2014)
  • Emily Bitto for The Strays (2015)
  • Charlotte Wood for The Natural Way of Things (2016)
  • Heather Rose for The Museum of Modern Love (2017)

  • I love the Stella Prize and generally find that the winning book ends up being my favourite read of the year and the book I most often recommend or give as gifts to friends and family.

    On 8 February 2018, the longlist for this year's Stella Prize was announced with 12 nominees from over 170 entries. Unsurprisingly, I have not read any of the books, and many of the authors are unknown to me. Part of the excitement of these prizes is finding new writers and new titles to read.

    The 2018 longlist is as follows:

    Shokoofeh Azar - The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree
    Writer Shokoofeh Azar was born in Iran and came to Australia as a refugee. Set in Iran in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, this novel tells the story of five family members who deal with the loss of a son and daughter. The novel draws on Persian folklore and lyrical magical realism and sounds like Azar is a unique and refreshing voice.

    Bernadette Brennan - A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work
    Readers of this blog will know how much I love Helen Garner's writing. Academic and researcher Brennan accessed Garner's journals and correspondence in preparing this study of the author and her work. It is neither a biography or a literary critique, but rather an exploration of the influences of Garner's work. Sounds like a book to add to the queue.

    Kate Cole-Adams - Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness
    Journalist Cole-Adams has written this  non-fiction account of what happens when people use anaesthesia. Most people having surgery are 'put under' but have no knowledge of what happens to their mind and consciousness while they are out. I am sure this is an interesting book for some people, but I don't think I will be reading it.

    Claire G Coleman - Terra Nullius
    Western Australia-based Coleman won the SLQ black&write! Fellowship for this manuscript. It is a novel about Australia's colonial history and the inevitable conflict between Natives and Settlers.  The judges describe the book as 'a novel for our times, one whose tone is as impassioned as its message is necessary.'

    Michelle de Krester - The Life to Come
    I have already heard so many great things about Michelle de Kretser's latest novel, that I am keen to track it down. Set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, the satirical story explores themes of intimacy, friendship and loneliness. De Krester won the Miles Franklin Award in 2013 for Questions of Travel.
    Beverley Farmer - This Water: Five Tales
    This is a collection of novellas focused on women and common concerns of love and loss. The judges praised Farmer's writing, stating 'Her euphonious prose fuses the fluency and gravitas of ancient storytelling traditions to the concentrated clarity of the greatest modern writers. She writes prose with the attentiveness of a poet, achieving much of her lyrical effect by means of a plainspoken vocabulary utilised with a perfectly attuned sense of rhythm.' Sounds fantastic!

    Paula Keogh - The Green Bell: A Memoir of Love, Madness and Poetry
    This memoir begins in a Canberra Hospital psychiatric ward in 1972.  Young Paula Keogh is being treated and meets Michael Dransfield a drug addicted poet, and they fall in love. Over the next year Paula begins to rebuild her life and Michael writes the poems later published as The Second Month of Spring. While they plan for the future together, will their love survive once they leave the hospital?

    Kristy Kneen - An Uncertain Grace
    Judges decribe this as 'a formally ingenious and often amusing novel that combines eroticism and science fiction with a playful spirit of intellectual inquisitiveness.' Made up of individual, loosely-tied, short stories this novel is set in the near future where technology alters our relationships with out own bodies and with those around us.

    Sofie Laguna - The Choke
    Laguna won the Miles Franklin Award in 2015 for her novel The Eye of the Sheep. The Choke centres on young Justine, abandoned by her parents and raised by her Pop in country Victoria. Neglected and left to make her way in the world, Justine has to navigate a world of violence. I reckon this novel is a real contender.

    Joyce Morgan - Martin Sharp: His Life and Times
    This is a biography of Australian artist Martin Sharp, best known as an illustrator for OZ magazine. Moving to London in the swinging sixties, Sharp lived with Eric Clapton, Germain Greer, Anthony Hayden-Guest and other creatives. Joyce Morgan has thoroughly researched her subject to create an account of a fascinating life.

    Mirandi Riwoe - The Fish Girl
    This novella was inspired by Somerset Maugham's story 'The Four Dutchman'. Riwoe's story is about an Indonesian girl who leaves her fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. The judges describe it as a 'subversive postcolonial work of fiction.'

    Alexis Wright - Tracker
    Tracker Tilmouth was an Aboriginal leader and entrepreneur who died in 2015 at 62 years of age. Part of the Stolen Generation, Tilmouth was raised on a mission on Croker Island, and went on to become a well regarded activist who established the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Council. Alexis Wright, the Miles Franklin Award winning novelist for Carpenteria,  knew Tracker and wrote this memoir.

    The Shortlist will be announced on 8 March - International Women's Day - with the winner revealed on 12 April 2018. Better get reading!