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April 1, 2019


#Stella Prize 2019 shortlist Enza Gandolfo

by N@ncy


  • Well, here is my next shortlist: Stella Prize 2019
  • I won’t have much time to read them all because
  • the prize will be announced on 09 April 2019.
  • But I will give it ‘the old college try’
  • …is it only to make an informed decision
  • …as to which book I THINK should win!


Shortlisted books: 1/6   



  1. Backdrop: On October 15, 1970, while it was under construction
  2. …the West Gate Bridge collapsed, killing 35 workers.
  3. It was Victoria’s worst ever workplace accident.
  4. Main plot is driven by Jo Nielson (19 yr)
  5. She is racked with guilt after the car she drove
  6. crashed against the basr of the bridge.
  7. Her BFF Ashleigh was killed.
  8. Subplot: Nello (bridge rigger) Ash’s grandfather
  9. …is suffering PTSS
  10. He survived the bridge collpase and his friends died.
  11. Now he is haunted…the bridge takes another victim.
  12. Nello’s  world and Jo’s world
  13. …come crashing down on them.



  1. 1970 – Ch 1-3  Dramatic description of bridge collapse.
  2. 39 yrs later…
  3. 2009  – Ch 4-23  Friendship Jo and Ashleigh, car accident, funeral, Jo’s depression
  4. 2010  – Ch 24-30  Jo’s day in court.



Weak point:  too many  narratives to follow

  1. This weakens the drive of the story.
  2. I felt the novel never came alive
  3. …it just dragged on and on.
  4. The large cast of characters
  5. the book that TV soap opera feel.
  6. I don’t mean that as a criticism.
  7. But there is just too much in a book of 384 pages!
  8. It is a maze of…
  9. teenagers – parents, teachers,
  10. grandparents, great-grandparents,
  11. lawyer – lawyer’s best friend Ada
  12. …in-laws , ex-husbands
  13. old friends who worked on the bridge,
  14. …their wives, children or miscarriages!
  15. A series of connected stories
  16. …that revolve around the collapsed bridge.
  17. The death of Ashleigh (major character) feels like
  18. ..another one of the stories going on, rather than the main plot.


Weak point: too much backstory:

  1. We all want to know about a character’s past.
  2. Gandolfo should decide whose story she’s telling.
  3. You can’t tell everything.
  4. I’m overwhelmed byall the flashbacks
  5. dream sequences and the
  6. …memories that keep surging and spilling
  7. every time Jo (main character) touches the fabric of a dress,
  8. …hears a song
  9. or opens a pink ballerina journal.


Weak point:  book needs editing!

  1. The author is often the one least able to see what need to be removed!
  2. Ask a reader!  Ask an editor!
  3. Gandolfo needs someone to tell her
  4. which scenes are unnecessary or should be shortened.
  5. Here are a few things that I noticed:
  6. Bridge collapse:
  7. I did not need…
  8. technical specifics about the bridge.
  9. Ch 1-3
  10. felt like Wikipedia with some dialogue,
  11. moaning of iron girders, crashing slabs of concrete
  12. ..bolts snapping and explosions.
  13. This information could have been concise
  14. …and compact in one short exposition chapter.
  15. Sarah the lawyer:
  16. I did not need…
  17. to know her weight problems and
  18. the haunting death of her BFF Ada (jumped from the bridge).
  19. I think the lawyer’s backstory was ‘filling’ to evoke emotions.
  20. Ch 17 Funeral
  21. I did not need…
  22. to know every detail of funeral service
  23. …..who attended, style of  the mourning clothes on family members,
  24. the color of coffin and flowers and
  25. rosary beads wound around gandmother’s fingers.
  26. I think this could have been written in a few sentences
  27. Establish somber mood with a description of the weather. (rain?)
  28. Remember the service while riding home from church.
  29. Cherish the tearful hug given by parents or friends. Done!


Weak point:  dialogue.

  1. Feels static, heavy and does not  shines off the page.


Weak point Gandolfo is killing her novel with details!

  1. Pages of details that slow the pace and aren’t interesting or relevant.
  2. Example ch 15 – Ash’s journal is found and Jo places in Grandpa’s safe.
  3. Wonderful!
  4. But don’t go on to tell me the history of the safe
  5. …that is was a bargain and
  6. …grandma’s precious pearls that are kept there.
  7. I don’t care!
  8. Often what you don’t say is just as important as what you do.
  9. Few things will turn readers off
  10. ..quicker than pages of trivia!


Last thoughts:

  1. Unfortunately I could not find any strong points
  2. …about this book.  Believe me, I tried.
  3. It is  impossible to grasp fully that this book
  4. would be considered for the Stella Prize.
  5. Where is the jury’s report?
  6. I’d like to read it!
  7. Did you read this book?
  8. #HonestOpinion



4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 2 2019

    Thanks so much for you comments.
    I sometimes wonder what the jury is looking for in particular shortlisted books?
    It really depends on their ‘report’ if a book gets selected or not.
    Readers experience books in different ways…this book was praised but
    I just don’t see the merits in The Bridge.. C’est la vie!


  2. May 25 2019

    Wow Nancy, I’ve just read this. I disagree with pretty much everything you say! I thought nearly all that detail was needed, and that she never laboured it. I felt the backstories were needed because this is also a story about class. It’s about how humans need to realise that they should not rush to judgement but think about where other people might have come from. Sarah’s BFF jumping off the bridge is something I nearly mentioned in passing as another aspect of bridges – people jump off them. But she’s also an example of someone who did not learn how to live with her pain and gave up instead (like Antonello and Jo considered doing).

    Anyhow, it’s really interesting to hear your opinion. My reading group will read it later this year, and I suspect we’ll have quite a variety of responses to it.


    • May 25 2019

      Yes, quite another look at the book compared to your review.
      I decided not to comment on your blog….because It would not be positive.
      The book and I just did not click. Perhaps I was just having a bad day.
      I did not read the deeper feelings layered in the text…just wanted to finish it and move on.
      Thanks for your comments…and I wonder what the reactions will be in book group!


      • May 25 2019

        I don’t mind a negative comment on my blog N@ncy! That’s what discussion is about.

        Your comments and a couple of other reviews I’ve read have prepared me not to be surprised when there are different opinions to mine! I’m grateful for that!

        Liked by 1 person

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