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Stella Prize 2021 Longlist announced

March 4, 2021

Unfortunately, because I’m on the road, I wasn’t able to “attend” the announcement earlier this evening, but at least I have been able to get my post out on the night, as it were.

As I say every year, I think, I don’t do well at having read the Stella Prize longlist at the time of its announcement. In 2017 I’d read none; in 2018, one, and in 2019, two! Last year, I was back to one! By the end of 2020, I’d read 3.5 which is worse than previous years.

Again, as I’ve said before, I do better at reading the winners, having read Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with birds (2013), Clare Wright’s The forgotten rebels of Eureka (2014), Emily Bitto’s The strays (2015), Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things (2016), Heather Rose’s The museum of modern love (2017), and Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s The erratics (2019). So far, I’ve missed 2018’s winner, Alexis Wright’s Tracker, and I’m only halfway through reading last year’s winner, Jess Hill’s See what you made me do. I will finish though, as it’s a significant book I believe.

The judges are again different to last year’s with only Zoya Patel (this year’s chair), continuing on the panel: memoirist and editor Zoya Patel (Chair); playwright, author and Blak & Bright First Nations Literary Festival Director Jane Harrison; 3RRR radio producer, presenter and literary critic Elizabeth McCarthy;  production editor of The Saturday Paper Ian See; and Deputy Programme Director at Edinburgh Book Festival Tamara Zimet. As always, attention has been paid to diversity on the panel.

The longlist

Book cover
  • Rebecca Giggs’ Fathoms: The world in the whale (non-fiction)
  • SL Lim’s Revenge (fiction) (Lisa’s review)
  • Laura Jean McKay’s The animals in that country (fiction)
  • Louise Milligan’s Witness (non-fiction)
  • Cath Moore’s Metal fish, falling snow (fiction)
  • Intan Paramaditha’s The wandering (fiction)
  • Mirandi Riwoe’s Stone sky gold mountain (fiction) (on TBR; Kate’s mini-review)
  • Ellena Savage’s Blueberries (non-fiction/essays)
  • Nardi Simpson’s Song of the crocodile (fiction) (on TBR)
  • Elizabeth Tan’s Smart ovens for lonely people (short stories) (Bill’s review and on TBR)
  • Jessie Tu’s A lonely girl is a dangerous thing (fiction) (Kim’s review)
  • Evie Wyld’s The bass rock (fiction)

Well, I guessed five of these might be in the list – McKay, Riwoe, Simpson, Tan and Tu, but I also guessed some more non-fiction like Grace Karskens’ People of the river, and Jacqueline Kent’s Vida. However, as I haven’t read any of the longlist – and have not, in fact, heard of several of them – I’m not going to judge. I’ll just say, how interesting!

Oh, and for the record, I’ve read none – though I have a few on my pile!

The judges’ chair, Zoya Patel commented on the longlist:

The 2021 Stella Prize longlist demonstrates the breadth of expression present in Australian literature, and the importance of raising the profile of women and non-binary voices in celebrating this expansive talent. In reading these titles, we pondered what might be lost or overlooked should a prize such as the Stella not exist to specifically examine the output of Australian women and non-binary writers. […]

This year’s reading presented a diversity of talent and expression, with books exploring the people and animals through the lens of fiction and non-fiction, and with a common objective to reach into the heart of what it means to exist in the world today.

To read the judges on each of the longlisted books, do check out the Stella website.

Stella’s announcements are all later this year than in previous years – including this longlist which has usually been announced in February. So, the shortlist will be announced on March 25, and the winner on April 22.

Any comments?

43 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2021 21:20

    I don’t feel as enthusiastic about the list as I was hoping I’d be – seems to be lacking the kind of ‘relationship stories’/ character-driven novels that I tend to go for. And no memoir (although I guess Witness might fall into that category…).

    I’ll be starting my longlist reading with Fathoms, Revenge, Blueberries and Witness (I’ve read Riwoe and Wyld – thanks for the link!).

    I know there’s been lots of noise about the McKay but it doesn’t really appeal (I’ll read it if it’s on the shortlist). I won’t be reading the Tu on principle (her vile review of another book really flies in the face of the spirit of the Stella!). And the others I’ve reserved at the library.

    • March 4, 2021 23:45

      I feel the same as Kate. I’ve got Simpson and Riwoe on the TBR but I’ve got no interest in any of the rest of them.

      • March 5, 2021 10:03

        I’m interested in a few more than that Lisa, though those do interest me, but many I hadn’t heard of to be honest. I think at least 6 interest me … Riwoe, Simpson, Wyld, Tan, Savage, Lin and I think Tu.

        • March 5, 2021 12:22

          Well, the longlisting means that lots of people will read them, so I can content myself reading other books that appeal to me more!

        • March 5, 2021 17:16

          Good thinking!

      • March 6, 2021 16:15

        I’ve started the Giggs and I am LOVING it.

        • March 6, 2021 16:47

          *chuckle* You probably like whales.
          I like *the idea* of whales…

        • March 6, 2021 16:51

          Oh that’s great to hear Kate … but please don’t make me feel bad!

        • March 6, 2021 19:19

          I won’t! (But I might gently nudge you in a Fathoms direction 😊)

        • March 6, 2021 19:20

          It sounds like a few like it so I’ll give it higher priority amongst those I currently don’t have!

        • March 7, 2021 19:06

          I loved Fathoms & delighted it made the longlist. My review is here

        • March 7, 2021 19:37

          It’s getting a lot of positive comments Brona! Thanks.

    • March 5, 2021 09:57

      Yes I wondered Kate whether that review might have turned Stella off here but in the end it should be about the work. There does seem to be less variety in form this year. I’d like to read the McKay!

      • March 7, 2021 19:08

        The McKay was actually very interesting. A clever idea, a bit slow in places, but the Thelma & Louise styled road trip with our protagonist & a dingo named Sue was fascinating! Brona’s review.

  2. March 4, 2021 22:22

    I could say: read Tracker! But I’d be wasting my breath wouldn’t I.

    • March 5, 2021 09:58

      Well no, not really Bill. It’s more a matter of time than inclination… I’m really rather intrigued by it.

  3. March 5, 2021 03:30

    Metal Fish, Falling Snow sounds interesting and I’m also interested in Witness. I love investigative journalism, so that would be my top choice, though a trek through the desert with one’s mother’s boyfriend has a compelling plot. Thanks for bringing these to my attention, Sue!

    • March 5, 2021 10:06

      I love that title too Melanie, and am intrigued by Witness. These two were new to me. Will be interesting to see what makes the shortlist.

    • Neil@kallaroo permalink
      April 22, 2021 23:14

      Metal Fish, Falling Snow turned up as a Libby reservation, so I read it over the last few days. Interesting (he says in a slow way, indicating he really hasn’t a clue what to say next).

      I’m happy to have read it, but I don’t see it as a prize winner.

      • April 23, 2021 00:16

        Books that fall somewhere in the middle are the worst because it doesn’t strike passion in the reader either way.

        • April 23, 2021 08:27

          True, Melanie. Which means they don’t get much discussion going do they?

        • April 24, 2021 00:28

          It’s just becomes a big hassle to write the review because there’s no passion in any direction, and I think the effect is that readers feel sort of lost on whether they should give the book a chance.

      • April 23, 2021 08:26

        Just as well it didn’t then Neil, eh? Good on you for reading though. The title is so intriguing.

  4. March 5, 2021 07:16

    Seems unusual that you haven’t read a single book on the longlist. But how exciting is that? Lots of good books to explore! No matter what the outcome, I think Smart ovens for lonely people should win best book title 🙂

    • March 5, 2021 10:08

      Haha Stefanie … I like your spin. It is interesting I’ve not read any but not a surprise given my last year. I love Tan’s title, I agree.

  5. March 5, 2021 08:05

    I’ve not heard of most of these which surprises me. Haven’t read even one. 🐧🌼

    • March 5, 2021 18:11

      I was surprised Pam by the number I didn’t know too, but I had heard of several, and want to read quite a few of those.

  6. March 5, 2021 19:50

    I really enjoyed The Bass Rock!

    • March 6, 2021 19:25

      I did like the book of hers I’ve read (All the birds singing), Davida, but haven’t got close to reading this one. However, you are not the only one who has said they liked it a lot! I’ll have to give it some more thought.

  7. March 6, 2021 09:03

    Not only haven’t I read any of these, there is only one author whose name is familiar – Evie Wyld. I shall rely on you and Lisa and Kim to pick out the best for me!

    • March 6, 2021 09:25

      You’d better rely more on the other two, Karen, but I will try to read a couple at least in the next two months.

      • March 6, 2021 16:49

        I’ll be aiming to read Song of the Crocodile during this year’s Indigenous LitWeek in July.

        • March 6, 2021 16:52

          Yes, that might be me too Lisa. I’ll see how I go with when I can fit it in!

  8. Meg permalink
    March 6, 2021 17:08

    Hi Sue, it is a diversified list. I am glad Fathoms made the list, It is a wonderful and informative read. I haven’t read all the books listed, but would be happy to see Smart Ovens for Lonely People win.

    • March 6, 2021 19:17

      I hadn’t heard of Fathoms Meg, but I’ve been a bit out of it, I must say. I hope to get more across what’s happening this year! I do have Tan on my pile so would love to try to read it – hopefully it will make the shortlist, giving me a bit more time!

  9. March 6, 2021 18:28

    Wrote my review, said my piece, I think Laura Jean McKay’s ‘The Animals in That Country’ will be the winner on sheer originality.

    • March 6, 2021 19:18

      It does sound good Thoughts (oops sorry I missed up two comments and had you as Theresa!) I gave it to my daughter last Easter, but with all going on this last year I’ve kept forgetting to ask her whether she’s read and liked it.

  10. March 7, 2021 19:12

    I really enjoyed Stone Sky Gold Mountain – really engaging historical fiction. Blueberries was too much angst for me when I tried it last year. Only got a couple of chapters in. Also found Crocodiles too wordy, but I could have just been having a bad day. Keen to try Smart Ovens though.

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