Thursday, 23 April 2020

Women's Prize Shortlist

The 2020 Women's Prize shortlist has been announced!

On 3 March 2020, when the longlist for this year's Women's Prize was announced with 16 nominees,  I boldly predicted that the shortlist would feature Enright, Mantel, O'Brien, O'Farrell and Patchett. Well, I was only half right! Anne Enright, Ann Patchett and Edna O'Brien fell off the list along the way.

The 2020 shortlist is as follows:

  • Dominicana by Angie Cruz
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
  • A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
  • The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  • Weather by Jenny Offill

The two big hitters are the Booker Prize winning authors Evarasto and Mantel and I would be delighted if either won. However, I have a secret hope that Maggie O'Farrell sneaks through. She is a gifted writer and her Hamnet deserves to be widely read and praised.

The winner will be revealed on 3 June 2020. Happy reading!

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Stella Prize 2020

The winner of the Stella Prize was announced this week with Jess Hill awarded the prize for her investigative non-fiction See What You Made Me Do.

Journalist Jess Hill turns the spotlight on the perpetrators of domestic violence seeking to understand why men are abusive and what systems enable them.

The judges described the book as follows:
'See What You Made Me Do' looks at the issue from multiple perspectives, including those largely male perpatrators and asks the government to rethinnk and reframe the measures which have so far failed Australian women. It is a sensitive read, which - whilst confronting - is compelling and hopeful. 

Jess Hill received the award and its $50,000 prize money at a virtual award ceremony which was live streamed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the present quarantine requirements and social isolation is putting more pressure on families and there is heightened risk of domestic abuse, this award will hopefully increase attention on this important issue.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Moments That Matter

I first heard of Mandy Ord's book When One Person Dies the Whole World is Over when it was longlisted for the 2020 Stella Prize. I was intrigued by the idea of a year-long diary in the form of a four-panel comic book so picked it up at my local library.

Each day Ord captures snapshots of life - walking her dog Lou, dining out with her partner Jodhi, working at one of her various jobs, watching RuPaul or The Walking Dead while lying on the sofa. In doing so she reveals the little moments so often taken for granted - sunsets, afternoon naps, a favourite song on the radio. She also shares the frustration of traffic jams, the challenge of grumpy customers and the daily grind of many workplaces.

Relationships are essential and Ord lovingly depicts her visits with Grandma, her talks with her sister in Scotland, the trips to see her dad in Sydney, and nights out catching up with friends at various Melbourne cafes and restaurants.

Despite the seeming simplicity of the format, Ord has a lot of important things to say about the casualisation of labour, the necessity of those working in caring professions (one of her many jobs is as a disability support worker), and ageing. Her diary shows how she tries to balance her many jobs and her work as an illustrator and teacher of comic artistry.

I loved Ord's monochrome illustrations - with the thought bubbles and side notes. In reading this book I felt I came to know the author personally and really care about what happened to her.

Reading this book during COVID-19, when the world seems so very small, is a timely reminder to seek out the beauty and joy in the everyday.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Ms Manners

Before the global pandemic I finished a number of books, but in the past month I have lost my reading-and-blogging mojo. Living constantly in the present, I almost forget what I was doing BC (Before COVID-19). In an effort to get my groove back, I thought I would try and get back to writing about the books I enjoyed before this mess, and find my way back to reading again.

I borrowed comedian Kitty Flanagan's 488 Rules for Life from the library as an escape from some of the more serious literature I was reading. Written as a response to Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life - Flanagan could not imagine there were so few rules to guide one's life by so set out to compile her own. In this delightfully witty book, Flanagan has listed an extensive array of rules for work, home, shopping, relationships, travel, caring for loved ones, eating and so on. In doing so she points out some simple truths like 'don't lie about your age' (R45), 'don't offer up cliches as advice' (R28) and 'cushions are not spiritual advisers' (R26).

Kitty Flanagan writes with a wry humour - poking fun at some sacred cows (sports, weddings and gender-reveal parties) - and making rules related to many of my own pet peeves.  Many of the ideas are ones that would make the world a nicer place if everyone followed them and acted politely. 

Flanagan left plenty of space at the back for the reader to add their own rules. Given the poor behaviour of many Australians during the onset of the pandemic, I would now add rules about only buying what you need (no hoarding toilet paper!), social distancing (get off Bondi Beach!) and washing hands (seriously, did people not do this BC?).