Award nomination for 26’s Elise Valmorbida

Elise’s novel The Madonna of the Mountains is on the national fiction shortlist for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2019.

As one of just six nominees in the fiction category, being shortlisted is quite an achievement in itself. And if Elise wins her category she’ll be in the running for the overall prize, which is the single most valuable literary award in Australia. As well as staying tuned for the judges’ verdict, anyone can get involved by voting for the people’s choice award with just one click.

Here’s what the judges have said about The Madonna of the Mountains:

The Madonna of the Mountains follows the life of an Italian peasant woman across some of the most transformative historical flashpoints of the 20th Century, from 1923 through to the early 1950s. Elise Valmorbida has written an engrossing, nuanced novel that is an indictment of poverty and power and a tribute to one woman’s resourcefulness, resilience and courage in the face of civic and domestic oppression.

Maria Vittoria is from an impoverished rural family, who sell her into an abusive marriage to Achille. Maria and Achille have children and run a successful grocery shop that is upended by the fascists during World War II. Blackmailed by a cousin, Maria is forced to make compromises for her children and her husband that she can barely live with. Valmorbida writes of the dynamics of motherhood – its pleasures and its burdens – with great empathy and sensitivity.

Written with great attention to the smallest details of village life – from the cultivation of silk worms, to the preparation of meals, to the traditional expectations surrounding marriage and family – this is a moving but unsentimental novel, one that might be considered a rural counterpart to the works of Elena Ferrante in its unflinching depiction of poverty, casual violence and the complicated dynamics of family and village life. It is a triumph of a literary novel that shifts in unexpected, utterly fascinating ways.”

Needless to say, it’s a great review.

Plus, in the 26 Recommends section of our September newsletter, fellow 26 member Jane Chittenden described the novel as “My best holiday read ever.”

Good luck, Elise. We’ve all got our fingers crossed for you.

– Sophie Gordon

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