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Stella Prize 2015 Shortlist

March 13, 2015

I rarely write longlist, shortlist and winner posts, but for the Stella Prize I don’t mind making an exception. Last month, I posted on the longlist, and yesterday, the shortlist was announced.

  • Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign Soil (Hachette): short story collection that I really must read, a debut book
  • Emily Bitto’s The Strays (Affirm Press): another debut book, this a novel that’s been garnering excellent reviews, and I’m keen to read this.
  • Christine Kenneally’s The Invisible History of the Human Race (Black Inc): the only non-fiction in the list, about her research into DNA and humanity’s origins.
  • Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep (Allen & Unwin): second adult novel by an award-winning playwright and writer for children, about an individual young boy who may be, though it’s apparently not stated, on the autism spectrum.
  • Joan London’s The Golden Age (Random House): the only shortlisted book by a well-established novelist. I love her writing so need to read this. All these “must reads” make me wonder what I have been reading!
  • Ellen van Neerven’s Heat and Light (UQP): another debut book, and an intriguing collection of short, long and interrelated stories. I reviewed it last month.

It’s great seeing so many smaller publishers in the mix. Reminds us again that we should not overlook them when we are seeking quality books! This Stella Prize link will give you all the gen on the shortlist, including excerpts.

I was disappointed not to see Helen Garner’s The house of grief shortlisted, but not having read all the books, I’m in no position to pass judgement.

PS Apologies to those who saw it for the early incomplete posting of this post. I’m on the road and, against my better judgement, stupidly tried to use WordPress’s app. I like most things about WordPress, but detest the iPad app, so I tediously finished this in the browser on the iPad. Not a fun thing to do.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2015 10:54 am

    I hadn’t realised that the Sofie Laguna was there or that it was YA. I know of her as a YA author, but sadly she is on the longlist of authors I still have never read. Sounds like an excellent short list.

    • March 13, 2015 3:46 pm

      I believe it’s YA, Louise … I haven’t read her either, but that’s not surprising I suppose!

      • ian darling permalink
        March 13, 2015 8:52 pm

        Is the Stella the equivalent of the Booker over here? I see the list is announced just as you slip into Autumn/Winter with readers having a bit more time to read. A bit surprised at the omission of Helen Garner.

        • March 13, 2015 10:12 pm

          The Stella Prize, Ian, is a new women writers prize, a bit like the Orange/Baileys prize. This is only its third year. It was established in 2012 by some women in response to data like the VIDA stats and the low representation of women in Australia’s main literary awards.

  2. Meg permalink
    March 15, 2015 3:57 pm

    It is a great list, I am still to read Heat and Light and The Invisible History of the Human Race. The Eye of the Sheep is a moving read and a good one.

    • March 15, 2015 5:00 pm

      Thanks Meg … let me know what you think if/when you read Heat and light. I’ll try to read more though my schedule is so tight with books I must or have promised to read.

  3. March 15, 2015 5:12 pm

    I think that The Eye of the Sheep is Sofie Laguna’s 2nd venture into adult fiction. I had a copy of it, but I just could not face yet another book by a child narrator with a learning disability in a dysfunctional family.
    Having said that One Foot Wrong, despite its very dark theme indeed, turned out to be an interesting book for discussion focussed around the reliability of the (psychologically disturbed) (child) narrator (in a dysfunctional family) when my book group read it. And Laguna does write very well. It’s her choice of subject matter that puts me off.
    (Her children’s picture books are lovely. My favourite is Too Loud Lily, which is about a hippo who doesn’t fit into the dance group – until along comes the right kind of teacher who finds the right kind of role for her.)

    • March 15, 2015 5:16 pm

      Thanks Lisa. I’m out of touch with writers for young people, though I knew her name. I’ll try to remember Too loud Lily, when I next go looking for a picture book. I’ve been falling back on old faithfuls recently, which is good, but it’s good to support more recent books too.

      I don’t think I’ve read a lot of books with a “child narrator with a learning disability in a dysfunctional family” – you’ve probably read more in the children’s literature area – so that wouldn’t put me off. It’s just time!

  4. March 15, 2015 5:42 pm

    Oops, I didn’t express myself clearly. It’s not her children’s books that fit this pattern, it’s these two adult ones. (I can’t speak for The Eye of the Sheep but I wouldn’t call One Foot Wrong YA).

    • March 15, 2015 5:59 pm

      Thanks Lisa … I think you’re right about both. I think I’d jumped to conclusions on the basis of her previous works and the age of the protagonists that these were young adult to adult cross-over novels, but I’ve changed my description now to describe The eye of the sheep as adult.

  5. March 16, 2015 11:37 pm

    I find the Stella list a very exciting one, and a good challenge to the predictable fare that turns up on most other prize lists. It feels that they’re really going for the quality of the writing, rather than basing their shortlist on reputation. They take a punt on debut writers, small press books, non-fiction & short stories. Of the shortlist I’ve read The Strays which I adored, and The Golden Age which I also enjoyed very much, but I think is the most conservative book on the list.

    • March 16, 2015 11:43 pm

      Thanks Annabel. I agree that it’s an exciting prize. We are seeing some more debut writers appear recently in Miles Franklin I think, but I agree with you regarding the mix of debut/small press/short stories and non-fiction alongside more expected fare. I must read The strays, and I do like London. I also want to read Maxine Beneba Clarke’s book.

  6. Meg permalink
    April 23, 2015 7:00 am

    Hi Sue, I went to the Wheeler Centre last night for the celebration of the prize. The winner Emily Britto, (this was her 13th interview for the day), and Sophie Laguda a finalist, were both there. They discussed their writing and novels with two of the judges, Carolyn Baum and Melissa Lucashenko. The judges wouldn’t divulge too much information on how they decide the winner, only saying what happens in the room stays in the room. They have to read so many books, adid say they looked for originality and something unique. It makes it easier tfor me to understand why some good books just don’t make the shortlist. It was an interesting and informative evening with four delightful women.

    • April 23, 2015 2:26 pm

      Thanks so much Meg for remembering to come back and tell us. And glad the judges clarified some things for you. I bet every judging panel develops its own rules of thumb once books have got past the formal eligibility rules!

      BTW it sounds like some of the Prime Minister’s Literary Prize Panels I’ve been to – hearing authors and critics talk to each other is a privilege isn’t it.

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