Congratulations to all of the Stella Prize shortlisted authors. The Stella Prize is presented for the best work of fiction or nonfiction by an Australian woman published in the previous calendar year.With $50,000 prize money on the line, there is a lot to be excited about. We won’t have long to wait to find out the winner – the announcement will be made on April 9th. And of course Blue Mountains Library has copies of all the shortlisted titles, waiting to be reserved.
Little Gods by Jenny Ackland
The setting is the Mallee, wide flat scrubland in north-western Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life. She knows that adults aren’t very good at keeping secrets and makes it her mission to uncover as many as she can. When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died, a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family, Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change, it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.
The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo
In 1970s Melbourne, 22-year-old Italian migrant Antonello is newly married and working as a rigger on the West Gate Bridge, a gleaming monument to a modern city. When the bridge collapses one October morning, killing 35 of his workmates, his world crashes down on him. In 2009, Jo and her best friend, Ashleigh, are on the verge of finishing high school and flush with the possibilities for their future. But one terrible mistake sets Jo’s life on a radically different course. Drawing on true events of Australia’s worst industrial accident — a tragedy that still scars the city — The Bridge examines class, guilt, and moral culpability. Yet it shows that even the most harrowing of situations can give way to forgiveness and redemption. Ultimately, it is a testament to survival and the resilience of the human spirit.
Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau
Monk lives in Chinatown with her washed-up painter father. When Santa Coy, possible boyfriend, potential accomplice, enters their lives, an intoxicating hunger consumes their home. So begins a heady descent into art, casino resorts, drugs, vacant swimming pools, religion, pixelated tutorial videos, and senseless violence.
The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie
When her elderly mother is hospitalised unexpectedly, Vicki travels to her parents’ isolated ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to help her father. She has been estranged from her parents for many years (the reasons for which rapidly become clear) and is horrified by what she discovers on her arrival. Her mother has always been mentally unstable, but for years camouflaged her delusions and unpredictability. Over the decades she has managed to shut herself and her husband away from the outside world. Vicki’s father, who has been systematically starved and kept virtually a prisoner in his own home, begins to realise what has happened to him and embarks upon plans of his own to combat his wife. Vicki quickly realises how dangerous, and potentially life-threatening, her mother’s behaviour is. She fears for her father’s life and her own safety if her mother returns home. The power play between her parents takes a dramatic turn and leaves Vicki embroiled in situations that are ludicrous, heart-breaking, and frightening. All this makes for an intensely gripping, yet black-humoured family drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko
Wise-cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things – her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup, so she takes a Harley and heads south to Durrongo. Kerry’s plan is to spend twenty-four hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers, though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters battle to stop the development of their beloved river. And the unexpected arrival on the scene of a good-looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds more trouble – but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name.
Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin
This boundary-shifting fusion of thinking, storytelling, and meditation takes as its starting point five axioms: ‘Give Me a Child Before the Age of 7 and I’ll Give You the (Wo)Man’ ; ‘History Repeats Itself.’ ; ‘Those Who Forget the Past are Condemned to Repeat It’ ; ‘You Can’t Enter The Same River Twice’ ; ‘Time Heals All Wounds’. These beliefs or intuitions about the role the past plays in our present are often evoked as if they are timeless and self-evident truths. It is precisely because they are neither, yet still we are persuaded by them, that they tell us a great deal about the forces that shape our culture and the way we live. The past shapes the present they teach us this in schools and universities. But the past cannot be visited like an ageing relative; the past doesn’t live in little zoo enclosures. Half the time, the past is nothing less than the beating heart of the present. So, how to speak of the searing, unpindownable power that the past ours, our family’s, our culture’s wields now?