The Stella Prize will be announced today, April 9th! The Guardian notes the shortlist of books that make up the shortlist of the most experimental of works in terms of structure, language, and form. These six books took chances, and contain many layers of complexity in their storytelling, so, to make your life easier, I’ve put together this list of all the titles, to make it easy to purchase them, once you’ve read their synopses. The Guardian provided the 2019 Stella Book Prize longlist here if you want to check it out.
Little Gods by Jenny Ackland
A rare, original and stunning novel about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free.
The setting is the Mallee – wide, flat scrubland in northwestern Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the Gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned 12. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life. She knows that adults aren’t very good at keeping secrets and makes it her mission to uncover as many as she can. When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died – a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family – Olive becomes convinced it was murder.
Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change, it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.
Little Gods is a novel about the mess of family, about vengeance and innocence lost. It explores resilience and girlhood and questions how families live with all of their complexities and contradictions. Resonating with echoes of great Australian novels like Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet and Jasper Jones, Little Gods is told with similar idiosyncrasy, insight and style.
2. The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo
A dark and funny new novel from the multi-award-winning author of Mullumbimby. Wise-cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things – her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup, so she heads south on a stolen Harley. Kerry plans to spend twenty-four hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers, though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters fight to stop the development of their beloved river. And the unexpected arrival on the scene of a good-looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds more trouble – but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name. Gritty and darkly hilarious, Too Much Lip offers redemption and forgiveness where none seems possible.
3. Pink Mountain on Locus Island by Jaime Marina Lau
Monk lives in Chinatown with her washed-up painter father. When Santa Coy—possible boyfriend, potential accomplice—enters their lives, an intoxicating hunger consumes their home. So begins a heady descent into art, casino resorts, drugs, vacant swimming pools, religion, pixelated tutorial videos, and senseless violence.
In bursts of fizzing, staccato and claustrophobic prose, this modern Australian take on the classic hard-boiled novel bounces you between pulverised English, elastic Cantonese and the new dialect of a digitised world.
Tip over into a subterranean noir of the most electronic generation.
4. The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie
When her elderly mother is hospitalized unexpectedly, Vicki travels to her parents’ isolated ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to help her father. She has been estranged from her parents for many years (the reasons for which rapidly become clear) and is horrified by what she discovers on her arrival. Her mother has always been mentally unstable, but for years camouflaged her delusions and unpredictability. Over the decades she has managed to shut herself and her husband away from the outside world. Vicki’s father, who has been systematically starved and kept virtually a prisoner in his own home, begins to realize what has happened to him and embarks upon plans of his own to combat his wife. Vicki quickly realizes how dangerous, and potentially life-threatening, her mother’s behavior is. She fears for her father’s life and her own safety if her mother returns home. The power play between her parents takes a dramatic turn and leaves Vicki embroiled in situations that are ludicrous, heart-breaking, and frightening.
5. Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko
A dark and funny new novel from the multi-award-winning author of Mullumbimby. Too much lip, her old problem from way back. And the older she got, the harder it seemed to get to swallow her opinions. The avalanche of bullshit in the world would drown her if she let it; the least she could do was raise her voice in anger.Wise-cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things – her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup, so she heads south on a stolen Harley.Kerry plans to spend twenty-four hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers, though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters fight to stop the development of their beloved river. And the unexpected arrival on the scene of a good-looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds more trouble – but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name.Gritty and darkly hilarious, Too Much Lip offers redemption and forgiveness where none seems possible.
6. Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin
In five long sections, Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic tells true and intimate stories of a community dealing with the extended aftermath of a suicide, a grandmother’s quest to kidnap her grandson to keep him safe, one community lawyer’s battle inside and against the justice system, the effects of multigenerational trauma, and the history of the author’s longest friendship. In writing that is inventive, bold, and generous, Axiomatic introduces an unforgettable voice. (Goodreads)