Last night historian, Clare Wright, won a major literary award for women’s writing in Australia, The Stella Prize. Her book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, was selected from a strong shortlist which included some of Australia’s most celebrated novels published in the last year and a compelling memoir which has been shortlisted for a number of awards.
Many Australians have heard the tale of the Eureka Stockade over and over, but as the judge’s comment, “The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka sheds a bright new light on a dark old Australian story”. The judge’s citation goes on to say that Wright’s work is, “[a] rare combination of true scholarship with a warmly engaging narrative voice… makes this book compulsively readable.”
Wright demonstrates how history can be brought to life. Her writing makes original scholarship attractive to the general public. Released in October last year, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka has gone into reprint. In what is surely a strong message to publishers readers have voted at the cash register for a book with twenty-four pages of endnotes.
It is the strength of writing as well as the depth of research that attracts readers to this book. In an interview I did with Clare Wright a few weeks ago for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge, she explains how writing for television influenced the writing of her book. “I had learnt a lot about the power of narrative, as well as the audience’s need to be emotionally engaged in the experience, to be invested in the question of ‘what happens next’.” Wright’s “frank and lively style of storytelling makes her material accessible without sacrificing either the scholarly accuracy of her account, the depth of its detail, or the complexity of its ideas”, note the judges of The Stella Prize.
Readers have shown that they enjoy well-written history that includes women as well as men. The Stella Prize citation concludes, “Wright does not attempt to discredit existing versions of events, but rather to deepen and enrich our knowledge of Eureka and our understanding of its place in Australian history”.
I hope by now that you are curious about this book. You can read an extensive review of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka I wrote last year on this blog. The Stella Prize judge’s citation is worth reading. This book is not a typical history book so I asked Wright about how she approached writing it. She made some interesting comments which you can read in an interview published on the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge website.
This afternoon a shortened version of my review was published on the ABC’s The Drum website.