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Serong, Nannestad win $100k Historical Novel Prize

Victorian writer Jock Serong has won the $50,000 ARA Historical Novel Prize in the adult category for The Burning Island (Text), while Katrina Nannestad has won the $30,000 children and young adult (CYA) category for We Are Wolves (ABC Books).

Selected from over 130 entries and a shortlist of three announced in September, The Burning Island follows a daughter’s devotion to his father and she accompanies her ageing father on a journey through the islands of the Bass Strait. Serong’s fellow shortlisted authors, Anita Heiss for Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray, River of Dreams (S&S) and Gail Jones for Our Shadows (Text), receive $5000 each.

Judging panel chair of the adult category Nicole Alexander described The Burning Island as a ‘richly imagined epic’ where ‘Serong’s nuanced exploration of relations between European men and their Tyereelore wives reflects a depth of research that sits effortlessly within a beautifully executed narrative’.

‘I’m very grateful to the [Historical Novel Society Australasia], the judging panel and the prize sponsors ARA Group for this wonderful recognition,’ said Serong. ‘Recent years for me have involved a deep dive into the inspiring and diverse historical writing this country produces, and to be given a place among these writers I admire so much is the best thing I could wish for in my career.’

Nannestad is the inaugural winner of the CYA category, which was established this year. We Are Wolves is a middle-grade story about a Prussian family who are forced to flee their home in 1945. Amelia Mellor and Pamela Rushby also each receive $5000 for their shortlisted novels, The Grandest Bookshop in the World (Affirm) and The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle (Walker Books) respectively.

Judging panel chair of the CYA category Paul Macdonald said We are Wolves ‘is simple, poetic and deeply moving’. ‘This outstanding novel demonstrates great writing, extensive research and great appeal for young—and not so young—readers.’

The Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA), in partnership with ARA Group, announced the winners at a virtual conference on 22 October.

Mirandi Riwoe won the inaugural $50,000 prize last year for her novel Stone Sky Gold Mountain (UQP).

For more information see the HNSA website.


Category: Awards Junior Local news