We are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 Stella Prize is Vicki Laveau-Harvie for her gripping memoir, The Erratics.
The prize was awarded Tuesday 9 April at Arts Centre Melbourne. Vicki receives $50,000, sponsored this year by National Australia Bank.
“Set against the bitter cold of a Canadian winter, Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s The Erratics mines the psychological damage wrought on a nuclear family by a monstrous personality. Despite the dark subject matter, this book has a smile at its core, and Laveau-Harvie shows constant wit when depicting some harrowing times. The narrator somehow manages to see all viewpoints, and we are rewarded with an evocative and expansive view of a family that has more than its fair share of dysfunction. The writing throughout is of a consistently high standard and we were constantly delighted by this surprise of a book.”
Reading for the Stella Prize means reading most of the books by Australian women published in 2018 – it’s a sample of the zeitgeist, a look at what is informing our thinking right now, and it has been an honour. The overall quality of submissions this year was outstanding. In looking to award a work of literature that is excellent, original and engaging, we found many genuine contenders for the prize this year and narrowing down to twelve has been a considerable challenge – a testament to the health of women’s writing today.
It feels like a big year for fiction, and our longlist reflects this. As well as some strong debuts, it was reassuring to see so many books from writers whose work we have admired for some time. Family relations and the persistence of the past in the present continue to inspire writers, and several books were concerned with the aftermath of trauma, especially sexual violence. Realism continues to dominate Australian fiction, with a few standout departures into other modes.
We wished for more representations of otherness and diversity from publishers: narratives from outside Australia, from and featuring women of colour, LGBTQIA stories, Indigenous stories, more subversion, more difference.
Notwithstanding this, we found a great deal to admire, and rediscovered the joy of reading anew every time we found a surprise.
Ultimately, we chose books that strove for something big and fulfilled their own ambitions. We fell in love with some curious and funny narratives, some dark and intellectual stories, some lyrical and poetic observations, some youthful wisdom, and the audacious frivolity of age. This longlist has humour but is never frivolous – all the books are of a high calibre, showing first-rate critical thinking capabilities, and tremendous imagination. We were educated and entertained by writers of all ages, and each of the writers here managed to delight us. These are all artists concerned with the most important questions of our age and how to live now, and it has been a pleasure to be in their company.