This week, author Charlotte Wood won the Australian Stella Prize for literature for her novel The Natural Way of Things. “Exposing the threads of misogyny, cowardice and abuses of power embedded in contemporary society, this is a confronting, sometimes deeply painful novel to read. With an unflinching eye and audacious imagination, Charlotte Wood carries us from a nightmare of helplessness and despair to a fantasy of revenge and reckoning,” Chair of the Judges panel, Brenda Walker said. In a gracious acceptance speech, an edited text of which appears below, Wood cast a vivid shaft of light on the on-going emotional (as well as financial) struggle many authors face and her five reasons to write.
The Stella Prize Chief Judge, author and academic Brenda Walker, has summed up the shortlist for the 2016 shortlist as “finely composed and compassionate literary investigations of the fate of individuals interacting with the natural world and with social authority; with protection and self-protection in complicated environments; with the hard-won joy of living”. They are:
- Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight (Random House)
- Hope Farm by Peggy Frew (Scribe)
- A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower, pictured centre, (Text)
- The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau (Bloomsbury)
- The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, pictured right, (Allen & Unwin)
- Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright, pictured left, (Giramondo).
Ten young women awake after being drugged and kidnapped, to find themselves prisoners at a remote property somewhere in rural Australia, corralled behind a high electric fence. From the second they arrive they are systematically de-humanized; Shorn of their hair like the sheep that once occupied the run-down sheds, forced to wear old-fashioned Amish style clothing, leashed together, deprived of the most basic sanitation. And all the time subject to misogynistic rants and abuse by two enforcers the brutish Boncer and Teddy the narcissistic yoga addict.
The girls have little in common except that they have been the subject of