Stella Prize 2016 Winner Announced

WoodNaturalJust a short post for those of you who read my Stella Prize longlist and shortlist posts and haven’t heard the news – which would primarily be you readers from lands other than mine! The winner was not a surprise, as you may know if you read my response to BookerTalk’s question on my shortlist post. It’s Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things.

Wood’s book has been garnering such positive reviews, I knew I should have read it before the announcement, but instead I read three others (Tegan Bennett Daylight’s Six bedrooms, Elizabeth Harrower’s A few days in the country and other stories, and Fiona Wright’s Small acts of disappearance.) I will definitely be reading Wood soon, since it is up for other awards this year too.

Charlotte Wood’s acceptance speech is available online at the Stella Prize site. Here are a couple of excerpts:

I know that the measure of a book’s quality, and the measure of one’s worth as an artist, can never be decided by awards. Nor can it be defined by sales, nor even the response of our beloved readers. If there is a measure – and I’m not sure there is – it can only be time.

Partly true. I discovered recently that Elizabeth Harrower missed out on the Miles Franklin Award for her wonderful The watch tower (my review) in 1966 to Peter Mathers’ pretty much forgotten Trap. (Of course, someone could revive it too as Text Publishing has Harrower’s books making me eat my words).  “Worth” though is not only about longevity. That’s one measure, sure. But relevance to the time in which the work is written and relevance to the readers of that time is, I’d argue, surely a “worthy” (ha!) measure of “worth” too. And that’s probably what awards in particular measure. Whether Wood stands the test of time, only time knows, but that she has captured something critical about our times can’t be denied if the universal acclaim this book is receiving is to be trusted. The judges certainly see it that way: they described the book as “‘a novel of – and for – our times” and “‘a riveting and necessary act of critique.”

Wood goes on in her speech to list some reasons to write, which are worth reading, but I’ll conclude with her argument about the importance of art:

Art is a candle flame in the darkness: it urges us to imagine and inhabit lives other than our own, to be more thoughtful, to feel more deeply, to challenge what we think we already know. Art declares that we contain multitudes, that more than one thing can be true at once. And it gives us a breathing space – a space in which we can listen more than talk, where we can attentively question our own beliefs, a place to find stillness in a chaotic world. I hope that my novel has provided some of those things: provocation, yes, but also beauty and stillness.

Now, I’m off to do some of my own form of stillness – yoga. Catch you all later …

20 thoughts on “Stella Prize 2016 Winner Announced

      • I sort of like to read books after the dust settles a bit – unless I’m asked to review something, which isn’t happening much these days. Winning the Stella – or any prize – stirs the dust up but as said this book has piqued my interest for a while. And though I know this shouldn’t be a consideration, Charlotte Wood has given a lot to other writers in other ways, so the prize is likely doubly deserved.

        • That’s lovely to hear about Wood Sara, thanks for sharing that. It’s good for people to get that sort of credit publicly. It perhaps shouldn’t be a consideration but it’s always nice when an award winner is someone who gives back too.

  1. Helen Demidenko (Darville)’s 1995 MF was ‘for our times’ too. And, despite the fact I liked it (greatly!), I think there are elements of fashionability about this award too. Still, a polemic about detention and misogyny can’t be all bad!

    • Yes, there is an element about fashionability about the award, I agree, Bill. But even in longstanding awards there are elements of fashionability in the choices aren’t there? The point I think is not to over-inflate the “worth” of the awards but to see them as one part of the literary culture.

  2. Our leading actors could learn a lot from the acceptance speeches made by authors. The former’s attempts are often inane or overblown whereas Wood manages to say something thought provoking and memorable.

  3. I loved Wood’s acceptance speech and I love her prose—I’m just finding it difficult to get through this book. I’m waiting for something to spark, but it’s not. This is my second attempt and I’m determined to make it to the end! 🙂

  4. Oooh this is one of the books I asked you if you had months ago ’cause I wanted to read it! Can I borrow yours once you’re done (if you buy it)?

  5. I went and saw both Charlotte Wood and Peggy Frew at the Wheeler Centre on Thursday night. Both spoke very well about writing and their books. Alice Pung, one of the judges, was also there and spoke of how the Stella committee selected the winner. Five judges have to read 12 books, and the top three of each is then considered. The Natural Way of Things wasn’t my pick. I was impressed with Charlotte Wood’s speech about writing and Art, and how difficcult it is for writers when the Arts funding is continually slashed.

    • Thanks Meg. I remember your choice. I haven’t read them all but I wasn’t surprised I guess. From what I’ve read they were all worthy books. I’m on the Wheeler Centre mailing list so see all the events l can’t go to!

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