Stella prize 2019: Gail Jones, Bri Lee and Chloe Hooper make ‘thrilling’ longlist | Books


“Women’s writing swaggers into the limelight again,” said the judging panel chair, Louise Swinn, in announcing the 12 longlisted books for this year’s Stella prize.

This year’s longlist includes Bri Lee’s debut work of non-fiction, Eggshell Skull; literary stalwart and acclaimed novelist Gail Jones’s “novel of ideas”, The Death of Noah Glass; Chloe Hooper’s investigation into Black Saturday, The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire; and Fiona Wright’s most recent collection of essays, The World Was Whole.

Now in its seventh year, the Stella prize recognises the contribution of women to Australian letters, with $50,000 on offer to the writer of the book judged most excellent, original and engaging.

Fiction and non-fiction books published in Australia in 2018 were eligible for this year’s prize. In addition to the winner receiving $50,000, all the longlisted authors will receive $1,000 in prize money.

Other novels in the longlist include Jenny Ackland’s “ripping, sprawling family drama”, Little Gods; Stephanie Bishop’s “audacious, splendidly accomplished novel” about a man suffering from mental illness, Man Out of Time; Belinda Castles’ “dexterous” exploration of tragedy, Bluebottle; Enza Gandolfo’s The Bridge, a novelisation of the 1970 West Gate bridge collapse; Jamie Marina Lau’s kaleidoscopic Pink Mountain on Locust Island; and Melissa Lucashenko’s “unvarnished portrait of generational trauma”, Too Much Lip.

Nonfiction titles also include Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s memoir, The Erratics; and Maria Tumarkin’s boundary-pushing essay collection, Axiomatic.

The selection of books “capture the spirit of the age”, said Swinn. “Among their many notable qualities is a readiness to take risks with form. Many of these books, while not always being thrillers, had the quality of a thriller, and along with a consistently high literary quality these books managed to grab and maintain a high level of interest from go to whoa.”

Swinn also expressed a desire from the judging panel for “more representations of otherness and diversity from publishers; narratives from outside Australia, from and featuring women of colour, LGBTQIA stories, Indigenous stories, more subversion, more difference”.

The judging panel this year included ABC Radio National’s Awaye presenter Daniel Browning, the dual Miles Franklin winner Michelle de Kretser, the Sydney writers’ festival youth programmer Amelia Lush, the investigative journalist Kate McClymont, and Swinn, a Stella prize founder and director of Sleepers Publishing.

The shortlist for the Stella prize will be released on 8 March, with the winner announced in Melbourne on 9 April.

The full longlist for the 2019 Stella prize

  • Little Gods by Jenny Ackland (Allen & Unwin)

  • Man Out of Time by Stephanie Bishop (Hachette Australia)

  • Bluebottle by Belinda Castles (Allen & Unwin)

  • The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo (Scribe)

  • The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire by Chloe Hooper (Penguin Random House)

  • The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones (Text)

  • Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau (Brow Books)

  • The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie (Finch)

  • Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee (Allen & Unwin)

  • Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko (UQP)

  • Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin (Brow Books)

  • The World Was Whole by Fiona Wright (Giramondo)

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