Stella Prize 2019 Winner announced

The Stella Prize winner was announced tonight while I was at yoga so I had to wait, impatiently – oops, no, it was yoga, so I was very calm thanks to my wonderful neighbour and teacher – until I got home, to discover the winner. I only managed to read three of the six, which is one more than I had read by last year’s announcement, but I do have a fourth on my TBR.

Before I announce the winner, which most of you will have heard by now anyhow, here is a quick recap:

  • the longlist was announced on 7 February: check out my subsequent Monday musings post for an interesting conversation about the judges’ comments; and
  • the shortlist was announced, as is tradition, on International Women’s Day: Jenny Ackland’s Little gods; Enza Gandolfo’s The bridge; Jamie Marina Lau’s Purple Mountain on Locust Island; Vicki Laveau-Harris’ The erratics; Melissa Lucashenko’s Too much lip; Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic.

Vicki Laveau-Harvie, The erraticsAnd the winner, from around 170 books submitted, is a memoir, Vicki Laveau-Harris’ The erratics, a book that intrigues me, although I have to admit I wasn’t expecting it to win – but there you go, you never can tell. It is the third non-fiction book to win the award in seven years, nicely confirming Stella’s aim to be broad in the forms it encompasses. The other two were Alexis Wright’s collective biography, Tracker (2017), and Clare Wright’s history The forgotten rebels of Eureka (2014, my review).

The winner receives $50,000, and each shortlisted author receives $3000, as well as a three-week writing retreat on the Victorian coast, making it a generous prize.

Now, while I haven’t read The erraticsKim (Reading Matters) has, and found it “compulsive” reading. Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest) has too, and was less enamoured, but she explains her reactions in detail. These reviews are worth reading. Kim also has a postcript explaining book’s publishing trials.

Anyhow, here is an excerpt from what Louise Swinn, this year’s Judging Panel Chair, said at the announcement:

The six shortlisted titles all have something to say about the way we live today, two in the form of nonfiction and four novels. These books are very outward-looking and unafraid. They deal with complex and complicated issues. They can be unsettling.

The winning book elegantly tramples all over the Stella requirements: it is excellent, engaging and original in spades. It is moving and funny, and as powerful in what it leaves out as it is in what it includes. It is also a first book, and I hope it’s the first of many. It is my considerable pleasure to announce that the winner of the 2019 Stella Prize is Vicki Laveau-Harvie for her memoir, The Erratics.

She also made an interesting comment about the Stella Prize itself:

In this seventh year of the Stella Prize, the high quality of the general submissions could, for anyone not paying attention, make you wonder why we have this prize at all. But the Stella has never been about an actual lack of talent — it is about perception and how this has affected the amount of space women’s writing has been allowed to take up.

It will be interesting to see this year’s Stella Count, because that’s where we can see what progress (if any) is being made.

If you have any comments on the winner, I’d love to hear them.

23 thoughts on “Stella Prize 2019 Winner announced

    • Yes, that’s a shame N@ncy, but apparently it’s with a different, bigger and international publisher now so availability might improve. I love that you want to read this prize.

  1. Hi Sue, Erratics wasn’t my choice and after finishing The Bridge last night with tears, in the end it was my winner.. A couple of weeks ago I went to the State Library and heard both authors Jenny Ackland and Jamie Marina Lau and a Stella Judge (sorry can’t remember her name), discuss their books and the Stella Prize. It must have been very difficult for the judges as there were many different writing styles and content in the Short List.

    • Thanks Meg. Yes, such a tough choice. That event would have been great. I was planning to sneak in The bridge after my current read, but now I’m thinking The erratics because her family situation does intrigue me, and it sound like the writing is good.

  2. Pingback: Stories from 16 countries shortlisted for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

  3. I don’t get to read much non fiction unless it informs my own work. So I will look forward to reading The Erratics. Thanks for the drum roll and announcement Sue.

  4. Great round up Sue, many thanks. Let me know when your yoga class is scheduled and I’ll try to arrange next year’s ceremony around that… 😉 Although if I do, you’ll have to actually come along on the night!
    In all seriousness, I’d love to know your thoughts about The Erratics. I thought it was a brilliant diamond of a book – beautiful, hard and sharp. And quite darkly funny, which I loved. Vicki Leveau-Harvie is also an absolute gem and a lovely woman.

    • Thanks Michelle. Oh yes, you should organise the awards around my yoga and fly me down for them!! Haha.

      I’m going to try to read The erratics as soon as I’ve finished my current book (unless time runs out and I have to get on to my reading group book!)

  5. I think that it is a very good thing that both fiction and non – fiction qualifies. The Eratics sounds fascinating. I can understand why it had garnered a lot of interest lately evan before winning.

  6. I loved this memoir. Vicki Laveau-Harvie tells the story of her parents with warmth, dark humour and compelling, can’t-put-it-down prose. Her parents are dysfunctional & her mother a villain – you could not make up these stories. Laveau-Harvie is honest about how this has affected her, but sees the comic side and is a wonderfully warm, engaging story-teller. A unique story but the family issues will resonate widely. Highly recommended. I’m thrilled it won the Stella Prize.

  7. I “ inhaled” The Erratics over two days this Easter Weekend — just could not put it down. So many poignant parallels for me — growing up in Canada ( although I am able to recall a much happier childhood and sense of country) ; feeling the distance as my sister takes more physical responsibility ( but not emotional responsibility) for my elderly mother; and the black shadow of an undiagnosed mental illness in the family that wrecks havoc. That havoc is disastrous for my mother too so I completely related to the protective feelings these sisters had for their father. Vicki Laveau-Harvie is a skilled writer and I could feel her desire to be detached and protective of herself, yet family nearly always draw you in. Yes battered and bruised we try our best.
    I loved loved loved her ending with the story of Napi, the Blackfoot Trickster, as other First Nations bands also have their mythical versions of the Trickster — Vicki’s sense of place is still strong I reckon.
    Thrilled this book won the Stella prize.

    • Oh thanks very much for this cultusgirl. I can understand why the book made such an impact on you. Coincidentally, I finished it today, but have more mixed reactions to it. She’s a great writer, however. I agree with you that the end was great – and I appreciate your filling me in on its place in the culture. I have a busy time at present but will try to get my review up by the middle of the week.

  8. Over the course of a long and luscious browse in a particularly lovely branch library last week, I plucked off so many Text Classics editions and handfuls of already beloved Aussie authors (Jolley, Grenville, Anderson, etc.) to paw over. So I was reminded how much I really want to fill some of the gaps that lists like the Stella List seem to accentuate so wildly (in addition to the endless good recommendations from the likes of you and Lisa and Brona and and and…). Even though I can complain endlessly about rights-issues which keep the more recent nominees at arm’s length, that’s no excuse when it comes to the classic writers and nominees from the prize’s early days (some of which are more readily available here, if not all). But how to fit all the good reading into my stacks. Slowly, but steadily, I suppose. Meanwhile, thanks for the ongoing encouragement and reminders of all the good reading down under.

    • Thanks Buried. the rights issues are frustrating – for Aussie authors too. I think blogs have really highlighted this haven’t they?

      As for fitting them in – unfortunately we can’t blame that on anyone else!

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