“The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka sheds a bright new light on a dark old Australian story. A rare combination of true scholarship with a warmly engaging narrative voice, along with a wealth of detail about individual characters and daily life on the goldfields, makes this book compulsively readable.”
One day at the Cairns Railway Station in the summer of 1950, a little boy is snatched from his terrified mother’s arms and spirited away by his enraged father. On the Ballarat goldfields in 1854, the many women who have been written out of the history of the Eureka Stockade are busy storekeeping, performing, mining, marrying and giving birth. In northern Australia, a hundred years into the future, the landscape and its people are devastated by climate change, and what’s left of Aboriginal Australia is still feeling the effects of the Intervention. In Iceland in 1828, a woman is waiting to be executed for the murder of her lover, while in 2012, a Melbourne footballer is standing trial for rape. In the 1960s two very different Australian writers leave the country, living out reclusive lives and dying lonely deaths in England. And in the present day, in her isolated house on the coast of New South Wales, an elderly woman wakes in the dead of night to hear a tiger prowling around the living room.
That’s just a sample of the wide range of stories, both fact and fiction, included in the 2014 Stella Prize longlist. There are five novels and a collection of short stories, plus biography, history, memoir, and several books that defy easy classification. Most of the fiction, in its different ways, ventures beyond the restrictions of what Patrick White called ‘dun-coloured realism’ into the realms of the quirky, the surreal, the dystopian or the Gothic. Most of the nonfiction titles focus on a particular person but range far beyond that in their implications and themes: in telling one story, they speak for many. The judges were impressed and excited by the depth of talent in this year’s entries, and every title on the longlist easily meets the formal criteria for the Stella Prize: excellent, engaging and original.