I don’t do well at having read the Stella Prize longlist at the time of its announcement, and in fact last year I’m ashamed to admit that I’d read none. Terrible really for someone who’s supposed to be interested in Australian women’s writing, but there you go. My excuse is that I’m always behind in reading current books. Unfortunately, by the end of last year, I’d still only read three of the 12-strong 2017 longlist – but those I read were good’uns! If only there were more hours in the day – or, perhaps, fewer other things to do!
Anyhow, I can say that I have read (and liked) all the Stella Prize winners to date: Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with birds, Clare Wright’s The forgotten rebels of Eureka, Emily Bitto’s The strays, Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things, and last year’s winner, Heather Rose’s The museum of modern love.
The judges are again different to last year’s, which is good to see. It must surely keep the prize fresh to introduce new eyes, new perspectives, each year. (The chair, Fiona Stager, has been a judge a couple of times before, but some experience doesn’t go astray does it?) The 2018 judges are writer Julie Koh, critic James Ley, bookshop-owner Fiona Stager (the chair), writer and publisher Louise Swinn, and writer Ellen van Neerven (whom I’ve reviewed a few times here).
- The enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar (novel/Wild Dingo Press)
- A writing life: Helen Garner and her work, by Bernadette Brennan (literary portrait/Text Publishing) (my review)
- Anaesthesia: The gift of oblivion and the mystery of consciousness, by Kate Cole-Adams (science-based non-fiction/Text Publishing)
- Terra nullius, by Claire G Coleman (novel/Hachette Australia) (I’ll review in March)
- The life to come, by Michelle de Kretser (novel/Allen & Unwin) (on my TBR pile)
- This water: Five tales, by Beverley Farmer (short stories; novellas/Giramondo) (I love Beverley Farmer)
- The green bell: A memoir of love, madness and poetry, by Paula Keogh (memoir/Affirm Press)
- An uncertain grace, by Krissy Kneen (novel/Text Publishing)
- The choke, by Sofie Laguna (novel/Allen & Unwin) (on my TBR, and am very keen to read having attended a lively conversation with her last year)
- Martin Sharp: His life and times, by Joyce Morgan (biography/Allen & Unwin)
- The fish girl, by Miranda Riwoe (novella/Seizure)
- Tracker, by Alexis Wright (memoir/biography/Giramondo)
So, I’ve read and reviewed one, and will definitely read another, Terra nullius, by March. I have bought or been given a couple of others, and am keen to read a few more. On the other hand, there are a couple here that I hadn’t heard of at all – the books by Azar and Morgan.
The judges commented that the longlist
… challenges the reader to experience the pleasures of reading different forms of writing: speculative fiction, novella, memoir, biography, non-narrative nonfiction, history, short stories and work in translation.
I like this. Last year, I noted that there was significantly more non-fiction (more than half in fact), fewer short stories, and not much diversity. This year fiction represents just over half, and only a couple of the non-fiction are memoirs. Three of the non-fiction works are about writers and artists – Helen Garner, Michael Dransfield and Martin Sharp. This year’s list is significantly more diverse too, with indigenous writers Claire G Coleman and Alexis Wright, an Iranian born writer in Shokoofeh Azar, Riwoe’s book set in Indonesia, and our now well known Sri Lankan born writer Michelle de Kretser whose book is set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka. Of course, as always, there are books I would like to have seen here but, overall, it’s an interesting list and I hope to have read more of it by the end of this year than I did last.
Meanwhile, I’d love to know if you have any thoughts on the list.
The shortlist will be announced on March 8 (International Women’s Day, as has become tradition), and the winner in April.