Mini Reviews – Stella Spotlight #1

Mini Reviews – Stella Spotlight #1

I had planned to do three sets of mini reviews for the Stella Prize longlist, before the shortlist was announced. However, I have just realised that the shortlist will be announced next week (Thursday 10th March). Nevertheless, I will not stray from my predetermined path – I will still be posting about the longlist! Hopefully, I’ll have them all read and blogged about by the end of next week, and then I can analyse the shortlist! 😛

The Other Side of the World – Stephanie Bishop
30th June 2015, 352 pages, 3.5/5 stars

Beautifully lyrical, with evocative images of its Australian setting, The Other Side of the World, deserves its critical acclaim. We first meet Charlotte walking through the English countryside; she is headed home to her husband (Henry) and child, having just discovered that she is pregnant again – yet it is not a happy feeling. Charlotte doesn’t know who she is anymore. Henry suggests a move to Australia, and Charlotte, although conflicted, hasn’t the will to fight the idea. The book brilliantly encapsulates feelings of homesickness. However, despite appreciating the beauty of this book, I couldn’t connect with either main character, and they made me ridiculously angry. Yet, this had me turning the pages compulsively. Despite not enjoying the book as much as I wanted to, it definitely had an impact.

Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger – Fiona Wright
1st September 2015, 224 pages, 5/5 stars

The only non-fiction book on the Stella Prize longlist this year, Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger is absolutely wonderful. Short essays on Wright’s struggle with anorexia effectively encapsulate the patient’s mindset, and her desperation to heal. I needed this book in high school, when many girls struggled with eating disorders – I wasn’t particularly sympathetic, and yet this book has made me reconsider my attitudes. An incredibly touching insight into mental illness, which uses the author’s own travels, and takes representations of eating disorders from her literary heroes. I particularly loved Wright’s inclusion of the character of Rose from Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, a text I studied for my HSC – it was fascinating to discover her insights about a character I thought I had understood.

A Guide to Berlin – Gail Jones
3rd August 2015, 272 pages, 4/5 stars

Six foreigners, united only by their love of Nabokov, meet in empty apartments around wintry Berlin to tell their life stories. The readers meets the city, and the group, through Cass, a young Australian. I absolutely loved Jones’ portrayal of Berlin, and it has sparked a desperate need to visit the city for myself. I want to see for myself the empty bookshelves at Bebelplatz, a memorial to the books burned during the Nazi regime. Cass was a very intriguing character, terrified of her own past, yet entranced by the others’ stories. The story moves in a beautifully calm manner, until its shocking end. I was disappointed by the end, but only because it jarred me from the story’s enchanting setting. A lovely, literary story about growing up, facing the ghosts of the past, and understanding that there will be more to come.

The Women’s Pages – Debra Adelaide
27th October 2015, 304 pages, 3/5 stars

This book is written on two timelines. One is about Dove, newly motherless, writing a novel. The other is about Ellis, Dove’s creation, and her drive to be independent, not an easy task for a woman in the 1960s. I did become a little bit confused while reading – I definitely preferred Ellis’ story – it was more intriguing, and it wasn’t told chronologically; the jumps made for a fair amount of mystery. Debra Adelaide’s use of a Latin word at one point of the story gave away one of the major mysteries though….. Although it was a fantastic read, and a page-turner, I was left dissatisfied at the end – there was a little bit too much left unresolved for my tastes. Ellis was an amazing character though, and it’s worth reading just to live beside her for a moment – so much insight into one woman’s struggles for independence.

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