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 eleven, and our featured book is…

Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven (UQP)

What the Stella Prize judges said:

This unusually structured collection of stories is divided into three, each named for some elemental quality in nature: Heat, Water, Light. They are environmental metaphors that serve as rich touchstones for the layered meanings of individual stories. ‘Heat’ is a sequence of closely interlinked family stories; ‘Water’, a futuristic novella, is kind of ecological speculative fiction and a very unusual love story; ‘Light’ is a collection of stand-alone stories, though certain themes and subjects recur here as they do throughout the book.

Van Neerven moves with ease between realism and fantasy, using elements of myth and mysticism in her storytelling. From one story to the next, the content is always rich and suggestive and the writing is always beautiful and clever. Each of these stories is told with passion and conviction; van Neerven writes with the confidence, maturity, and subtlety of someone twice her age, and with startling originality.

The blurb:

In this award-winning work of fiction, Ellen van Neerven takes her readers on a journey that is mythical, mystical and still achingly real.

Over three parts, she takes traditional storytelling and gives it a unique, contemporary twist. In ‘Heat’, we meet several generations of the Kresinger family and the legacy left by the mysterious Pearl. In ‘Water’, a futuristic world is imagined and the fate of a people threatened. In ‘Light’, familial ties are challenged and characters are caught between a desire for freedom and a sense of belonging.

Heat and Light presents an intriguing collection while heralding the arrival of an exciting new talent in Australian writing.

About the author:

van Neerven, Ellen_author photo
Born in Brisbane in 1990 to Aboriginal and Dutch parents, Ellen van Neerven is a Yugambeh woman with traditional ties to the country between the Logan and Tweed rivers. She won the David Unaipon Award  in the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards for Heat and Light.  She lives in Brisbane.

What the critics said:

‘[van Neerven] writes with the confidence, maturity and subtlety of someone twice her age, and with startling originality.’ – Kerryn Goldsworth, Sydney Morning Herald

‘Many writers attempt to convey the sense of foreboding that exists ‘out there’, beyond the big cities and seaboards of the country. Some fail. Few succeed to the extent that exists between the pages ofHeat and Light. The maturity displayed by van Neerven is evident immediately.’ – Tony Birch, Readings

‘[van Neerven] establishes herself here as a writer of imagination and intelligence, not afraid to mix fantastic visions with the heat of desire or the need to belong. This is a compelling and revelatory collection.’ – Linda Funnell, Newtown Review of Books

‘[T]he writing is at once sharp, edgy and personal, direct and powerful in its honesty and intimacy … This is a very fine debut from a talented writer.’ – David Gaunt, Books+Publishing

Further reading:

And finally…

Click below to see Ellen read from Heat and Light during the Stella longlist readings event at the Digital Writers’ Festival:

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Book of the dayEllen van NeervenHeat and Light