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.
And 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 erratics, Kim (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.