Moments ago the Stella Prize shortlist for 2016 was announced.
Each year, we watch as more of our readers engage with the books that are longlisted and shortlisted for, and eventually win the Stella Prize. The depth and quality of the lists each year highlight the extraordinary talent of Australia’s female writers, and the 2016 shortlist is no exception.
The Stella Prize judges have assembled a stunning shortlist from over 170 entries, and the list includes books from a variety of authors at different stages of their writing lives.
From short story collections to a book of essays, and of course numerous novels, we think there’s something in this shortlist for everyone to enjoy.
In alphabetical order of surname, the 2016 Stella Prize shortlist is:
Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight
is about growing up; about discovering sex; and about coming of age. Full of glorious angst, embarrassment and small achievements. Hot afternoons on school ovals, the terrifying promise of losing your virginity, sneaking booze from your mother's pantry, the painful sophistication and squalor of your first share house, cancer, losing a parent.
Tegan Bennett Daylight's powerful collection captures the dangerous, tilting terrain of becoming adult. Over these ten stories, we find acute portrayals of loss and risk, of sexual longing and wreckage, blunders and betrayals. Threaded through the collection is the experience of troubled, destructive Tasha, whose life unravels in unexpected ways, and who we come to love for her defiance, her wit and her vulnerability.
Stunningly written, and shot through with humour and menace, Six Bedrooms
is a mesmerising collection of moments from adolescence through adulthood, a mix of all the potent ingredients that make up a life.
Hope Farm by Peggy Frew
'They were inescapable, the tensions of the adult world - the fraught and febrile aura that surrounded Ishtar and those in her orbit, that whined and creaked like a wire pulled too tight.'
It is the winter of 1985. Hope Farm sticks out of the ragged landscape like a decaying tooth, its weatherboard walls sagging into the undergrowth. Silver's mother, Ishtar, has fallen for the charismatic Miller, and the three of them have moved to the rural hippie commune to make a new start.
At Hope, Silver finds unexpected friendship and, at last, a place to call home. But it is also here that, at just thirteen, she is thrust into an unrelenting adult world - and the walls begin to come tumbling down, with deadly consequences.
is the masterful second novel from award-winning author Peggy Frew, and is a devastatingly beautiful story about the broken bonds of childhood, and the enduring cost of holding back the truth.
A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories by Elizabeth Harrower
"Harrower can pierce your heart."Michael Dirda, the "Washington Post"
"Utterly hypnotic."Eimear McBride, author of "A Girl is a Half-formed Thing"
"Like a treasure from an unearthed time capsule. . . . Harrower's fearsome objectivity and her bristling, beautiful prose come from modernist masters like Katherine Mansfield and Elizabeth Bowen." "The Wall Street Journal"
Internationally acclaimed for her five brilliant novels, Elizabeth Harrower also wrote a number of extraordinary short stories. Some have been previously published, but others are released here for the first time.
A Few Days in the Country
is a stellar collection, which underlines Harrower's standing as one of the great post-war Australian writers.
The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau
Told from the perspective of six, interconnected characters, The World Without Us
is a tale of love in all its forms, a mystery and an elegy for a denatured landscape. It is about the ways we become lost to ourselves, and the transformative joys of being found.
After a fire destroys her family's commune home, Evangeline is forced to start afresh in the north coast rainforest town with her child, and partner, Stefan Muller. Years later, while tending the bees on their farm, Stefan discovers a car wreck, and not far off, human remains. While the locals speculate on who has gone missing from the transient hinterland town, Stefan's daughters Tess and Meg, have a more urgent mystery. Where does their mother go each day, pushing an empty pram and returning wet, muddy and disheveled?
Jim Parker, a Sydney teacher escaping his own troubles arrives in their clannish community. One morning he stumbles upon Evangeline, naked by a river with a hammer and some rope. Their charged encounter propels Evangeline's past into the present and sparks a change in all their lives.
Meanwhile ten year old Tess, mute since the loss of her youngest sister, attempts to escape. Will getting lost help her discover where she belongs? As the rainy season descends, and each of the family are separated by flood, they realise nothing is what it seems.
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage - a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.
Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue -- but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.
The Natural Way of Things
is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.
With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid's Tale
and Lord of the Flies
, The Natural Way of Things
is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood's position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.
Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright
Small Acts of Disappearance
describes the author's affliction with an eating disorder which begins in university, and escalates into life-threatening anorexia over the next ten years. Fiona Wright is a highly regarded poet and critic, and her account of her illness is informed by a keen sense of its contradictions and deceptions, and by an awareness of the empowering effects of hunger, which is unsparing in its consideration of the author's motives and actions.
The essays offer perspectives on the eating disorder at different stages in Wright's life: at university, where she finds herself in a radically different social world to the one she grew up in, in Sri Lanka as a fledgling journalist, in Germany as a young writer, in her hospital treatments back in Sydney. They combine travel writing, memoir and literary discussions of how writers like Christina Stead, Carmel Bird, Tim Winton, John Berryman and Louise Glück deal with anorexia and addiction; together with accounts of family life, the observation of detail and the humour which is so compelling in Wright's poetry.