Each weekday between now and the announcement of the 2015 Stella Prize shortlist on March 12, we’ll be turning the Stella spotlight on a different longlisted author and their book. Today is day ten, and our featured book is…

Nest by Inga Simpson (Hachette)


What the Stella Prize judges said:

Now middle-aged, Jen lives alone in the rainforest landscape of her childhood, where the dark stories from that time still haunt her. Once a teacher, she’s now an artist who gives private lessons to a talented schoolboy who functions as a conduit, giving her news of the local community. So when he arrives one day disturbed by the disappearance of a fellow student, it’s the beginning of a long story that winds back into the past.

Inga Simpson is known for her nature writing, and this novel’s most unusual aspect is the frequency with which the plot takes a back seat to the minutiae of plant and bird life – the things that most concern Jen in her artist persona – about which Simpson writes in fine and gorgeous detail. The central metaphor of the nest is ever-present, but is neither simple nor overdone; she handles her subject matter lightly and obliquely, with subtlety and a real understanding of the psychology of loss and grief.

The blurb:

A gripping and thought-provoking novel about finding the lost child in all of us.

Once an artist and teacher, Jen now spends her time watching the birds around her house and tending her lush sub-tropical garden near the small town where she grew up. The only person she sees regularly is Henry, who comes after school for drawing lessons. When a girl in Henry’s class goes missing, Jen is pulled back into the depths of her own past. When she was Henry’s age she lost her father and her best friend Michael – both within a week. The whole town talked about it then, and now, nearly forty years later, they’re talking about it again. Everyone is waiting – for the girl to be found and the summer rain to arrive. At last, when the answers do come, like the wet, it is in a drenching, revitalising downpour…

About the author:

Simpson, Inga_author photo

Inga Simpson began her career as a professional writer for government before gaining a PhD in creative writing. In 2011, she took part in the Queensland Writer’s Centre Manuscript Development Program and as a result, Hachette published her first novel, the acclaimed Mr Wigg, in 2013.

What the critics said:

‘That Inga Simpson can sustain the reader with pages of observations of birdlife is a testament to her talent as a nature writer.’ – Dianne Dempsey, Sydney Morning Herald

‘[A] delightful and uplifting read.’ – Suzanne Steinbruckner, Readings

Further reading:

And finally…

Click below to see Inga read from Nest during the Stella longlist readings event at the Digital Writers’ Festival:

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