“The books on the 2016 Stella Prize shortlist are all exceptionally strong: finely composed and compassionate literary investigations of the fate of individuals interacting with the natural world and with social authority; with protection and self-protection in complicated environments; with the hard-won joy of living.”
– Brenda Walker, Chair of the 2016 judging panel
The 2016 Stella Prize shortlist is:
Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight (Random House)
The ten stories in this collection take the reader through the six bedrooms of teenagers. A cast of feckless, brilliant and believable characters experience first sexual encounters, illness, death and grief. All the stories in Six Bedrooms connect the reader with the world of adolescence, in a strong and urgent representation of the vulnerabilities and the loneliness of the young.
Tegan Bennett Daylight navigates her territory with great energy and skill. Her writing is fine-edged and precise, delivering an insider’s view of the minutiae of teenage lives. These stories elicit great concern for the young, and also for the state of parenthood. They are thoughtful, full of understanding about situations and motivations, and, almost painfully, believable.
About Tegan Bennett Daylight
Tegan Bennett Daylight is a teacher, critic and fiction writer. She is the author of several books for children and teenagers, and the novels Bombora, What Falls Away and Safety. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband and two children.
Hope Farm by Peggy Frew (Scribe)
Hope Farm concerns thirteen-year-old Silver, who has spent her life being moved from ashram to ashram and commune to commune by her mother Ishtar. In 1985 the latest move – at the urging of her mother’s new lover – is to Hope Farm, a run-down, weed-strewn property in rural Victoria, where the commune’s adults stubbornly cling to the faded promise of their ideals.
Peggy Frew displays an acute understanding of the powerlessness of a child: Silver is at the mercy of adults who are oblivious to the depth of her emotions and strength of her intellect. She also portrays the sometimes pathetic, sometimes funny, sometimes harmful actions of the book’s adults, without allowing them to become caricatures or villains. In spite of its darkness, Hope Farm is written in prose infused with love and wonder for the world.
About Peggy Frew
Peggy Frew’s debut novel, House of Sticks, won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her story ‘Home Visit’ won The Age short story competition in 2008. She has been published in New Australian Stories 2, Kill Your Darlings and Meanjin. Peggy is also a member of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Melbourne band Art of Fighting.
A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories by Elizabeth Harrower (Text Publishing)
Elizabeth Harrower’s short fiction, gathered for the first time in A Few Days in the Country, is as vibrant today as when it was first published some decades ago. She convincingly depicts a dark and often unacknowledged side of human behaviour: from a glamorous couple who might be termed psychopathic in contemporary times, to petty acts of vindictiveness perpetuated by characters with domestic authority, each story is a glimpse into the way power can work in individual lives. There are also tender tales about the anxieties of friendship and burgeoning adulthood.
This is a superlative collection, written with great clarity and precision and an understanding of the subterranean intensities of human interactions. It gathers together a constellation of stories from a variety of sources, and exhibits the unerring skill of one of Australia’s most significant writers.
About Elizabeth Harrower
Elizabeth Harrower is the author of the novels Down in the City, The Long Prospect, The Catherine Wheel, The Watch Tower and In Certain Circles, which was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction in 2015. A Few Days in the Country is her first collection of short stories.
Read an extract from A Few Days in the Country here
The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Set on the north coast of NSW in the aftermath of a young girl’s death from cancer, The World Without Us traces the varying effects of grief on the remaining members of her family while emphasising the wider world in which those lives are embedded: a world in which ecological breakdown operates both as metaphor and disturbing fact. Mireille Juchau uses anxieties about the fragility of the natural systems that sustain our lives as a referent for her story of love and loss.
The World Without Us is an acute portrait of individuals who persist in the aftermath of loss, recorded in prose that is witty and self-aware, and capable of making poetry from the most mundane aspects of the everyday. It is a book that reminds us that a single human loss can fall with terrible force on those who are left behind.
About Mireille Juchau
Mireille Juchau is a Sydney-based writer of novels, short fiction, essays, scripts and reviews. The World Without Us is her third novel, and won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction. She has a PhD in writing and literature and teaches at universities and in the community.
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin)
In The Natural Way of Things ten women are imprisoned on an isolated property, forced into hard labour in scorching heat while wearing rough uniforms and vision-impairing bonnets. They are given no reason for their incarceration, but they gradually determine that each has been involved in a public sex scandal, making them dangerous, embarrassing or inconvenient to men who have the power to punish them. As their food runs out and it becomes evident that their guards have also been abandoned by whatever power placed them there, the women are forced to look to each other for survival.
Exposing the threads of misogyny, cowardice and abuses of power embedded in contemporary society, this is a confronting, sometimes deeply painful novel to read. With an unflinching eye and audacious imagination, Charlotte Wood carries us from a nightmare of helplessness and despair to a fantasy of revenge and reckoning.
About Charlotte Wood
Charlotte Wood is the author of five novels and a book of non-fiction, and editor of The Writer’s Room Interviews magazine. Her last novel, Animal People, was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and her other books have been shortlisted for many prizes including the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.
Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright (Giramondo)
Small Acts of Disappearance is a collection of essays on anorexia, a disorder as disturbing as it is mysterious, even to its own sufferers. Documenting Fiona Wright’s experience from the beginning of her affliction, when she was a student, to her hospitalisation with a life-threateningly extreme version of the illness, the essays display a candour and an intelligence that describe the course of her illness with great precision and illuminate the sufferer’s motives and actions over time.
The narrative is crosshatched with other experiences and subjects: travel, autobiography, and literature – in particular writers who have used their art to anatomise the extremity of compulsion. The range of Wright’s research, from contemporary neurobiologists to old school modernists, and the quality of her insights make Small Acts of Disappearance a valuable book. Wright brings a sometimes melancholy, sometimes comic, well-informed honesty to an important subject.
About Fiona Wright
Fiona Wright’s poetry book, Knuckled, won the Dame Mary Gilmore Award for a first collection. Her poems and essays have been published in the Australian, Meanjin, Island, Overland, The Lifted Brow, Seizure and HEAT.
The 2016 Stella Prize will be awarded in Sydney on the evening of Tuesday 19 April.
For further information or media enquiries regarding the 2016 Stella Prize shortlist, click here.