The 2020 Stella Prize Longlist

Every year my kids’ school has a vital information night on at the same time as the Stella Prize longlist announcement. So, while I would have preferred to be at the Melba Spiegeltent for the announcement, I was instead in a school hall, pretending to listen to VCE study tips and surreptitiously looking at Twitter as the longlist was revealed.

I’m home now and I’m ready to start reading.

To the list:

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood
There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
The Yield by Tara June Winch
Here Until August by Josephine Rowe
Lucky Ticket by Joey Bui
Paper Emperors by Sally Young
See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill
When One Person Dies the Whole World is Over by Mandy Ord
This Is How We Change the Ending by Vicki Wakefield
Song Spirals by Gay’Wu Group of Women
The House of Yousseff by Yumna Kassab
Diving Into Glass by Caro LLewellyn

My first impressions – it’s an extremely varied list – YA, short stories, traditional Aboriginal songspirals, a graphic novel. and one doorstopper (Young at 691 pages).

I predicted four, continuing my crappy record. I’ve read two (Wood an Parrett); have a few in the reading stack ready to go (Winch, Rowe, and Bui); and have placed a bunch of library reservations.

The shortlist will be announced in March and the winner in April.

27 responses

  1. I’ve never heard of most of them, but it’s not surprising since I don’t read YA or graphic novels and mostly not memoirs, either.
    It’s a good thing I’m not a judge, eh?

      • Well, that may be, and I’m the same, but I consider it a virtue. The proverb ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ comes to mind. People who read very widely across all genres probably have to do that for professional reasons, because they’re academics or booksellers or publishers, and that gives them a broader perspective than what we read, but that spread has to be at the expense of depth IMO.

    • Having reflected for a few days, I’m beginning to think that perhaps the list is a little too diverse in terms of genre. Yes, the criteria is Aus women writers but are they (the Stella Prize) at the point where they need to do what other prizes do, and have categories? The whole thing has left me feeling both underwhelmed (I’m not really busting to read the whole list) and overwhelmed (how can we ‘compare’ contemporary lit against a graphic novel against YA?

      • Yes, good point. Very good point.
        I can guess why they haven’t done this… it’s because they want the award to be comparable to the Miles Franklin in prestige and in monetary value, which might be diluted if they developed categories.
        But the risk is that if keen readers like us are feeling this way, the award will lose whatever impetus it has.

  2. I think predicting 1/3 of them is pretty good going! I’ve never managed better with the Wellcome Prize et al. I’m always particularly intrigued by lists that incorporate various genres; it must be so hard to pit such different books against each other. Diving into Glass appeals immediately for the illness theme, I’d already heard about the Parrett, and I’ll look forward to your reviews of some others.

    • The Parrett is gorgeous and well worth a read. I have Diving Into Glass and will start it within the next week. I reckon we like the same kinds of memoirs, so stay tuned!

  3. It’s a pretty mixed bag… lots of new names / titles here too. Admittedly not all appeal but I guess that’s to be expected given all the different genres / subject matter here. And like others have pointed out, god help the judges trying to rank such a diverse range of books!

    • As I said to Lisa, I’m wondering if it’s not too diverse in terms of genre. Hard to ‘compare’ contemporary lit against a graphic novel against YA against non-fiction… perhaps they simply say to the judges, “Which one is still speaking to you?”

  4. I’ve read three! I loved There Was Still Love and The Weekend but not Diving Into Glass so much. Too much of the things I don’t like about memoirs in that one. I’m a little surprised it’s there when I think about other books that could have been.

    • Diving Into Glass is about the only one that I’m really looking forward to (but I love memoir). That said, I think there were other Aus memoirs in 2019 that could have/ should have made the list, particularly Night Fishing by Vicki Hastrich.

      • Since you do like memoirs and read plenty of them, I’m keen to know what you think after reading it in terms of its comparison to other memoirs. I’m not a good judge, although I will say, Imperfect by Lee Koffman and Your Own Kind Of Girl by Clare Bowditch were both (in my opinion) so much more interesting and engrossing. I still have Night Fishing on my tbr. I actually requested that, despite my memoir thing, so I’ll read it soonish for my 2020 non fiction challenge.

      • I have both the Koffman and the Bowditch on my tbr list. In some senses, it’s difficult to review memoirs – who am I to judge another person’s story?! However, I usually manage to find some way around that ad focus on the part of their story that I could identify with, or that resonates, or that has me thinking long after I close the book.

        I’m reading the Rowe collection first (I started Lucky Ticket and abandoned it…) and then I’ll read Diving Into Glass.

      • I like it most when the memoir does what it says it intends to. Some of this could ne the fault of blurb writers and marketers too, but if it says it’s about one thing but then just digresses and gets stuck on something else, that’s about the time it loses me.

    • I’ve decided this year that it’s impossible to know what the judges will choose – too many genres to have a good feel for what is representative of the ‘best’ of the year.

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