Stella Prize 2019 Longlist

I don’t do well at having read the Stella Prize longlist at the time of its announcement. In 2017 I’d read none, and last year I improved on that by having read one of the 12-strong longlist. By the end of the year, though, I had read five, which is good for me, given in 2017, I’d only read three. How will I go this year?

I do have a BIG fail though, which is that until now I had read all the winners – 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 Heather Rose’s The museum of modern love – but I have yet to read 2018’s winner, Alexis Wright’s Tracker.

The judges are again different to last year’s – with the exception of the chair, Louise Swinn, who also judged last year – which is good to see.  The 2019 judges are writer, journalist and broadcaster Daniel Browning; writer Michelle de Kretser (whom I’ve reviewed a couple of times here); bookseller Amelia Lush; Walkley Award-winning journalist Kate McClymont (who is in that Media Hall of Fame I wrote about a couple of weeks ago); and writer and publisher Louise Swinn (the chair). Once again attention has been paid to diversity on the panel.

Here is the longlist:

  • Jenny Ackland’s Little gods (novel/Allen & Unwin) (my review)
  • Stephanie Bishop’s Man out of time (novel/Hachette)
  • Belinda Castle’s Bluebottle (novel/Allen & Unwin) (Theresa Smith Writes review)
  • Enza Gandolfo’s The bridge (novel/Scribe) (Lisa’s review)
  • Chloe Hooper’s The arsonist (non-fiction/Penguin Random House) (Lisa’s review)
  • Gail Jones’ The death of Noah Glass (novel/Text)
  • Jamie Marina Lau’s Purple Mountain on Locust Island (novel/Brow Books) (Amanda’s guest post here)
  • Vicki Laveau-Harris’ The erratics (memoir/Finch Publishing)
  • Bri Lee’s Eggshell skull (memoir/Allen & Unwin) (Kate’s – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – review)
  • Melissa Lucashenko’s Too much lip (novel/UQP)(on my TBR, and coming up soon) (Lisa’s review)
  • Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic (essays/Brow Books) (my review)
  • Fiona Wright’s The world was whole (essays/Giramondo) (on my TBR – I loved her Small acts of disappearance

So, I’ve read and reviewed just two – creeping up my one each year! – and have a guest post for a third on my blog. I have two more on my TBR right now, and a couple more I am very keen to read, including Chloe Hooper’s The arsonist. I have been out tonight, and  so had tried to get a head start by partially drafting this before I went out with my “guesses” inserted – I had only 5 right!

The judges commented on the longlist that:

Reading for the Stella Prize … [is] a sample of the zeitgeist, a look at what is informing our thinking right now …

It feels like a big year for fiction, and our longlist reflects this. As well as some strong debuts, it was reassuring to see so many books from writers whose work we have admired for some time. Family relations and the persistence of the past in the present continue to inspire writers, and several books were concerned with the aftermath of trauma, especially sexual violence. Realism continues to dominate Australian fiction, with a few standout departures into other modes.

We wished for more representations of otherness and diversity from publishers: narratives from outside Australia, from and featuring women of colour, LGBTQIA stories, Indigenous stories, more subversion, more difference.


Ultimately, we chose books that strove for something big and fulfilled their own ambitions. … These are all artists concerned with the most important questions of our age and how to live now, and it has been a pleasure to be in their company.

I like their comment about a wish for more diversity – but I would expect nothing less from them. As always there are surprises, but that’s to be expected. It would be a sad world if we all came up with the same 12 eh?

Anyhow, 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.

15 thoughts on “Stella Prize 2019 Longlist

  1. I’d really like to read some of these books before 09 April!
    I’m not sure how many I can get via Kindle….
    Thanks for the longlist and review links.

  2. Thanks for the link!

    I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this year’s list – I don’t anticipate what will make the shortlist, I usually just start reading whatever I can get my hands on first (which happens to be Man Out of Time).

    • A pleasure Kate… No I usually just read what I have but I have such a backlog of review copies and reading for two groups before then that I’ll be lucky to read more than one more.

  3. I usually haven’t heard of many of the books on the Stella Prize lists, and this year is no exception. But, I do like to follow along to see how it all pans out, and often end up adding a few to my list along the way!

  4. I just finished the arsonist. Very timely what with anniversay of Black Friday. Haven’t read Eggshell Skull but heard the author’s talk when she visited here. Haven’t read any of the others.

  5. I’ve read two – Little Gods (which a number of bloggers inspired me to read, including you) and The Bridge, both of which I enjoyed. I have Fiona Wright’s new book on reserve from the library as I so enjoyed her first. I normally haven’t read any and it’s unusual that I actually know of most of the books on the list. I wonder whether I am becoming more aware or whether this year’s list is more mainstream…

  6. Only one of these is familiar to me, although more than one author’s name. The gap which seems most pressing to me in this moment is Gail Jones’ writing. And that’s partly because I know our library does have a small selection of her work and, yet, I still haven’t gotten around to reading any of it (not even one *sigh*). Still, dutifully and enthusiastically, I add them all to my dedicated GoodReads shelf. Now I just need to actually read some of them.

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