Congratulations to the winner of the 2015 Stella Prize which was awarded tonight in Melbourne to author Emily Bitto for The Strays (Affirm Press). It’s a first for the Stella with a debut work taking out the $50,000 prize.


The manuscript of Emily Bitto’s debut novel was shortlisted for the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. The Strays was shortlisted for the 2015 Indie Prize, is currently longlisted for the Dobbie Award and is the winner of the 2015 Stella Prize.

Set in bohemian Melbourne in the 1930s, Bitto’s novel is partly inspired by the Heide artists’ colony and follows the story of the friendship between Lily, an only child and Eva — an artist’s daughter from ‘old money’.

This year’s judges of the 150 entries were critic and writer Kerryn Goldsworthy (Chair); singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko; author Melissa Lucashenko; journalist and broadcaster Caroline Baum; and writer/lecturer Tony Birch.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said:

‘Emily Bitto’s debut novel The Strays is about families, art, isolation, class, childhood, friendship, and the power of the past. It’s both moving and sophisticated; both well researched and original; both intellectually engaging and emotionally gripping … In its subject matter, its characters, and its sombre mood, this novel is reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Sybille Bedford’s Jigsaw, or A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, and in this company it can hold its head high. The Strays is like a gemstone: polished and multifaceted, reflecting illuminations back to the reader and holding rich colour in its depths.’


Winning author Emily Bitto said in her acceptance speech:

‘It is an astounding, life-changing honour to be selected as the third recipient of the Stella Prize for my debut novel, The Strays. Even since being included on the Stella shortlist, I have noticed a clear difference in the kind of attention that my work has received. The Stella Prize is an award I feel very passionate about, and I am particularly honoured to have won a prize that has grown from a motive so dear to my own heart: the desire to redress gender inequality in the literary world. And to be recognised alongside such an astonishingly talented long- and shortlist, including writers I revere as a reader, is the greatest honour.

As a debut novelist, I cannot even begin to quantify the benefits this award will bring. I am incredibly grateful to the Stella board, the judging panel, and the generous donors who have contributed the prize money. In its three years of existence, the Stella Prize has had a huge impact on the Australian literary landscape and has initiated a vital dialogue about gender within the public domain. As a female writer, I have benefited from this award before even finding myself on the longlist, and I am so grateful for its existence.’

You can read AWW Challenge reviews of The Strays here:

Stella links:

  • You can read an extract from The Strays here
  • Read the Stella Interview with Emily Bitto here
  • Watch Emily read from The Strays here.

Twelve titles were longlisted for the 2015 Stella Prize and you can read AWW Challenge founder Elizabeth Lhuede’s reviews roundup here.

Six works were shortlisted; each shortlisted author received $2,000.

Carrie Tiffany won the inaugural Stella Prize in 2013 for Mateship with Birds; Clare Wright won the 2014 prize for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.

About Me

I’m a freelance book reviewer, journalist, writer and editor. I blog over at Wordsville and can be found in the library (I work in one) and on Twitter @PaulaGrunseit