Stella Prize Longlist Book of the Day, Book 7: Gail Jones’s A Guide to Berlin
Each weekday between now and the announcement of the 2016 Stella Prize shortlist on March 10, we’ll be turning the Stella spotlight on a different longlisted author and their book. Today is day 7, and our featured book is…
A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones
What the Stella judges said:
A Guide to Berlin pays homage to a great writer, Vladimir Nabokov, whose own fiction provides the title, and to Berlin: a city that is a focus of political and architectural wreckage as well as liberation and civilisation. The novel is both an examination and an enactment of storytelling. A young Australian woman is invited to join a group of international travellers currently living in Berlin. They have a shared interest in the work of Nabokov, and they meet to discuss his writing and to share their own stories.
The stories are varied and intriguing; bringing the politics and experiences of each traveller into sharp conjunction with the others. Gail Jones’s novel is designed with architectural precision, inhabited by illuminating discussions of literature, art and life.
A group of six international travellers, two Italians, two Japanese, an American and an Australian, meet in empty apartments in Berlin to share stories and memories. Each is enthralled in some way to the work of Vladimir Nabokov, and each is finding their way in deep winter in a haunted city. A moment of devastating violence shatters the group, and changes the direction of everyone’s story.
Brave and brilliant, A Guide to Berlin traces the strength and fragility of our connections through biographies and secrets.
About the author:
Gail Jones is the author of two short story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams of Speaking, Sorry and Five Bells. Three times shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, her prizes include the WA Premier’s Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, and the Age Book of the Year Award.
What the critics said:
“I’ve always felt that Gail Jones is yet to receive the recognition she deserves. This is her sixth novel and it is, I believe, a masterpiece.” Mark Rubbo, Readings blog
“Hers is an unashamedly cerebral work that will only gain by rereading; but it is also, like its Nabokovian parent, a narrative that pulses with feeling. Its pages finally summon not one ghost but millions of them.” Geordie Williamson, The Australian
“A Guide to Berlin is brimming with rich descriptions, founded on the ‘Nabokovian regard for the weird vibrancy of things, the writer’s capacity for relish and glorification’. The dark, haunted cityscape of Berlin’s winter is beautifully captured, with detailed references to streets, districts and tramlines composing Jones’s personal guide to Berlin.” Cassie Davies, The Telegraph
- David Haworth interviews Gail Jones for Readings
- Watch a video of Gail Jones in conversation with Michelle de Kretser at the Sydney Writers festival in May 2008