“Emily Bitto’s debut novel The Strays is about families, art, isolation, class, childhood, friendship, and the power of the past. It’s both moving and sophisticated; both well-researched and original; both intellectually engaging and emotionally gripping. The Strays is like a gemstone: polished and multifaceted, reflecting illuminations back to the reader and holding rich colour in its depths.”
For the third year in a row, the longlist for the Stella Prize reveals the wealth of talent and skill across a broad spectrum of authors, genres and styles in Australian women’s writing. Of the twelve writers whose work appears on the longlist for 2015, almost half a century separates the youngest from the oldest. Some of these writers have just published their first books, while others are experienced veterans of the Australian literary scene. The list includes science writing, short stories, reportage, novels, memoir, and fiction for young adults. Some of the books focus on animals and the natural world, some on children, and some on the things that order our human lives, from the dramatic moral theatre of the law courts to the tiny complexities of DNA.
The exercise of power is a recurrent theme: the power of one race or class over another, of humans over animals, and, most of all, the power of adults over children. The vulnerability of children and the harm that can befall them is a particularly strong theme running through the list, and there’s a kind of symmetry in the fact that, this year, the longlist for a women’s prize should feature several books about boys and boyhood. This year’s list is best summed up in the words of one of the few female winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Chile’s Gabriela Mistral, who won the prize in 1945: ‘We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life.