A Stella Spark is the book by an Australian woman that struck a spark for you, igniting ideas, creativity and a passion for great writing.
That book for me is the novel White Heart by Heather Rose.
A year ago, whenever I mentioned Heather Rose as one of my favourite writers, I'd get a blank or curious look in return. Now, thanks to her most recent (and brilliant) novel winning last year's Stella Prize, her work has been getting some long overdue and much-deserved attention in Australia. I'm thrilled to hear it. I've been a Heather devotee since White Heart, her first novel.
It came out in 1999 and I read it in 2000, when I was 19. I have re-read every year since. I believe it's sadly no longer in print, which makes it all the more precious to me.
It’s a novel about a woman named Farley who grows up in Tasmania and who, in the face of a devastating loss (though we don’t realise exactly what this loss was until near the end), goes searching elsewhere - overseas and mainland Australia - for meaning, wholeness and love.
It was one of the most beautifully written books I’d ever read and it still is. It was quiet in its beauty though, if that makes sense. It contained a wildness and a fiery spirit, yet was so gentle.
It sounds trite to say ‘it changed my life’ but it did. Before White Heart, the only glimpses of Tasmania I'd really seen in the literature I'd read was of a gothic, wild and quite oppressive place, but this novel had snapshots of the Tasmania that I actually knew and could relate to, as well as capturing its darker side. It made me realise that I could write about the Tasmania I knew as well.
It was also thanks to discovering White Heart that I started noticing other amazing Tasmanian women writers who had been somewhat unknown to me up to that point, and it opened up a completely new world for me.
But in terms of actually changing my life…well, *I* had to do that. I was 19 when I first read White Heart and if you’ve read my own book, you’ll know that at that age, I really lost my way. It took a while for me to find my path. But it did spark something.
And remembering that has reminded me, like Farley in White Heart, I too had to go on a soul-searching journey to heal and find my true self.
I love everything Heather Rose has ever written but I always, always come back to this one. If you ever see a copy, get it! You won’t regret it.
What's your Stella Spark?