‘Surprise of a book’; congratulations to 2019 Stella Prize winner Vicki Laveau-Harvie
Vicki Laveau-Harvie last night accepted the $50,000 Stella Prize for Australian women’s writing for her standout debut book and memoir, The Erratics. Laveau-Harvie’s sharp, darkly funny and powerful book explores the universal themes of family, the pain they can inflict and the legacy they leave.
This is the second time a debut author has won the Stella Prize in its seven-year history. The Erratics tells Laveau-Harvie’s story of returning to her ageing, estranged parents halfway across the world and the conflict of loyalty, love, obligation and damage that ensue.
Louise Swinn, Chair of the 2019 Stella Judging Panel, says of the winning book: “Set against the bitter cold of a Canadian winter, Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s The Erratics mines the psychological damage wrought on a nuclear family by a monstrous personality. Despite the dark subject matter, this book has a smile at its core, and Laveau-Harvie shows constant wit when depicting some harrowing times. The narrator somehow manages to see all viewpoints, and we are rewarded with an evocative and expansive view of a family that has more than its fair share of dysfunction. The writing throughout is of a consistently high standard and we were constantly delighted by this surprise of a book.”
Published for the first time in her seventies, Vicki Laveau-Harvie has been writing in one form or another all her life. Of winning the 2019 Stella Prize, she says: “This prize rewards women who write truth – historical, political, and the truth of the heart and the soul: the truth of individuals, of each of us, and the truth of the world we live in... The Stella is a very generous prize—it is a gift of freedom to the winner. I’m going to use this gift to travel to places no one has ever heard of—places like Neche, North Dakota, in the US—to find the traces of a hidden part of my heritage. I hope to find the threads of the next story I will tell, and that the themes of that story will be universal ones. This prize gives me the means to do that. I am grateful to all those who make the Stella Prize possible: for the hard work, belief, and dedication that make it a beacon and a force for good.”
Michelle Scott Tucker, Stella’s Executive Director, says of the 2019 Stella Prize: “As with every year, the Stella Prize celebrates the incredible strength and diversity of writing by women in Australia. This year's shortlist was comprised of six remarkable books that refuse to be categorised. I am delighted to congratulate Vicki Laveau-Harvie for winning the 2019 Stella Prize with The Erratics, a memoir that is beautiful, fiercely sparkling, hard and sharp—I'm thrilled for Vicki and couldn't be more grateful to our wonderful judges who, once again, have chosen an absolute gem.”
Photo: Cameron’s own literary agent, Jeanne Ryckmans with Catherine Milne, publisher at HarperCollins, and Stella Prize winner, Vicki Laveau-Harvie at the awards ceremony last night, Tuesday 9 April, at Arts Centre Melbourne.