Hi folks! Welcome to another week.
At the moment I’m rapidly reading my way through the Stella longlist, as well as a bunch of other books people thought might be on the longlist. I have to confess that one of my worst traits during these times is to just throw myself into the books and neglect to tell you about the rad things I’m reading! So I thought I would start a new series called Recent Reads – this will give you a bit of an outline of the books and what I think of them without them being full on reviews.
First things first – welcome to the Stella longlist.
The Stella prize is for exceptional women’s writing. Of course with everything that specifies gender, it would be nice if this was expanded to include anyone not male, but we aren’t there yet. I personally love the prize as it has introduced me to some of my favourite Aussie books, and it always puts things onto my radar that I haven’t seen elsewhere.
Ok, here are some books I’ve read!
I’ve spoken previously about Helen Garner and how much I love her work. The way she writes about true crime is utterly captivating.The Consolation of Joe Cinque is the story of the trial of Joe Cinque’s fiancé, Anu Singh, for his murder. The crime occurred in 1997 so it’s been a while – Singh has been out for a number of years and in 2012 earned her PhD with a thesis about women offenders. In this book, Garner captures the grief and confusion of both families and the way charismatic and unwell individuals can make truly bizarre things happen around them.
I have written “terrible”, but the word the Crown used was “wicked”. Wicked. That awkward, helplessly old-fashioned, almost comical word, hung about with cobwebs, junking p the attic: how could such a bedraggled relic survive the modern light of day?
This is a great example of why I love Garner’s writing. I feel so terribly for Joe and his family, and also for Singh, who clearly had some serious mental health issues. I couldn’t help but wonder if this had happened today, if Singh’s friends would have been more likely to reach out for assistance to support services.
A Constant Hum by Alice Bishop was a firm favourite amongst bookstagrammers for the Stellas, but didn’t make it across the line. It is excellent, and particularly timely given the terrible fires that Australia has been dealing with since last year. A Constant Hum is a series of vignettes, some a few lines, others pages, that have been shaped by the experience of those who suffered through the Black Friday bushfires in 2009. Bishop’s writing is both thought provoking and utterly devastating. The impact of bushfire on communities, families, individuals, children, the elderly is so varied in trauma and effect that you can’t possibly imagine it if you haven’t lived it. But this book will give you some insight. Make sure you have the tissues ready.
There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett is a lovely portrait of a family separated by time and space and is a love story to grandparents everywhere. Grandparents have a very different relationship to their grandkids compared to their parents, and Parrett really captures this love and gentleness beautifully. Parrett’s book also deals with the difficulties of restrictive regimes and immigration. I really enjoyed this story of family and community – of people caring for each other as best they can in the circumstances.
This one really made me think of my own grandparents, who I miss very much. The friar in the photo is actually a biscuit jar that my grandmother had in her kitchen for my whole life (and no doubt a long time prior).
That’s enough for part one – part two will follow soon!
What have you been reading? Are you reading the Stella longlist as well?