In conjunction with its generous sponsor ARA Group, the Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA) has announced the nine talented authors, and their outstanding novels, selected in the Longlist for the 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize – Adult Category. The longlisted entries include:
- Horse by Geraldine Brooks (Hachette Australia)
- The Good Wife of Bath by Karen Brooks (HQ (HarperCollins Publishers Australia))
- The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater (Simon & Schuster Australia)
- Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight by Steven Carroll (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
- Only Birds Above by Portland Jones (Fremantle Press)
- The Rat Catcher by Kim Kelly (Brio Books)
- Corporal Hitler’s Pistol by Tom Keneally (Penguin Random House)
- Cold Coast by Robyn Mundy (Ultimo Press)
- The Sawdust House by David Whish-Wilson (Fremantle Press)
The ARA Historical Novel Prize Shortlist will be announced on Wednesday 28 September. The winners will be announced on 20 October 2021.
THE JUDGING PANEL
The 2022 judging panel for the Adult category included Angelo Loukakis (Chair), Madison Shakepeare and Meg Keneally.
Due to actual or perceived conflicts of interest in relation to some authors entered into the Prize, Meg Keneally recused herself from critical decision-making relating to determination of the longlist. This is in accordance with the HNSA’s Conflicts of Interest policy.
According to Angelo Loukakis, “The novels selected for this year’s ARA Historical Novel Prize Adult Category Longlist draw on a wide range of eras, epochs and places in human history. Towards telling their story, each author on the list has focused on aspects of past experience in their own imaginative way, delivering a well-written and satisfyingly readable narrative. In the context of societal forces and historical events as they weigh upon individual lives, the judges were particularly impressed by the sensitive attention given to the emotions and relationships portrayed in these novels.”
“Diverse in their styles of telling and ranging widely in subjects and locations – from medieval England and one of its most revered tales, to a story originating in 17th Century Amsterdam but with a modern aftermath, to an exploration that brings together 19th and 21st Century America through the life of a great horse, to the battlefields of the World Wars and the home fronts and personal traumas of those wars, to a 1930s Norwegian archipelago and a pioneering woman’s efforts towards self- determination, and to much more – the Longlist presents a most eclectic and creative body of work,” said Loukakis.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
About Geraldine Brooks
Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in Sydney’s western suburbs. She worked for the Sydney Morning Herald and in 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University. Later she worked for the Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. In 2006 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her novel March. Her novels Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book and The Secret Chord were New York Times bestsellers, and Year of Wonders is an international bestseller, translated into more than 25 languages.
She is also the author of the acclaimed non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. In 2011 she presented Australia’s prestigious Boyer Lectures, later published as The Idea of Home. In 2016 she was appointed Officer in the Order of Australia for her services to literature. Geraldine Brooks divides her time between Sydney and Massachusetts and has two sons. For further information, visit Geraldine’s website.
New York City, 1954. Martha Jackson, a gallery owner celebrated for taking risks on edgy contemporary painters, becomes obsessed with a nineteenth-century equestrian oil painting of mysterious provenance.
Washington, DC, 2019. Jess, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian, find themselves unexpectedly connected through their shared interest in the horse – one studying the stallion’s bones for clues to his power and endurance, the other uncovering the lost history of the unsung Black horsemen who were critical to his racing success.
Horse is the latest masterpiece from a writer with a prodigious talent for bringing the past to life.
A Quote from Geraldine Brooks
“To be included in this distinguished long list is a joy and an honour. The rich rewards of ARA Historical Novel Prize go beyond the generosity of the award itself. The recognition it brings to our genre also brings new readers to the experience of an empathetic, imagnative engagement with our shared past.”
The Good Wife of Bath by Karen Brooks
(HQ (HarperCollins Publishers))
About Karen Brooks
Karen Brooks is the author of fourteen books – historical fiction, historical fantasy, YA fantasy, and one non-fiction. She was an academic for over 20 years, a newspaper columnist and social commentator. She has a Ph.D. in English/Cultural Studies and has published internationally on all things popular culture, education and social psychology. An award-winning teacher, she’s taught throughout Australia and in The Netherlands and keynoted at many education conferences. Nowadays, she finds greatest contentment studying history and writing, and helping her husband in his Brewstillery, Captain Bligh’s. She shares a beautiful stone house in Hobart, Tasmania, built in 1868, with her husband, adorable dogs and cats, and shelves brimming with books. For further information:
About The Good Wife of Bath
England, 1364. When married off aged 12 to an elderly farmer, Eleanor Cornfed, quickly realises it won’t matter what she says or does, God is not on her side. But Eleanor was born under the joint signs of Venus and Mars. Both a lover and a fighter, she will not bow meekly to fate. Even if five marriages, several pilgrimages, many lovers, violence, mayhem and wildly divergent fortunes do not for a peaceful life make. Alyson, the counsel of one Geoffrey Chaucer, and a good head for business, Eleanor fights to protect those she loves from the vagaries of life, the character deficits of her many husbands, the brutalities of medieval England and her own fatal flaw… a lusty appreciation of mankind. All while continuing to pursue the one thing all women want – control of their own lives. This funny, clever retelling of Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’ from The Canterbury Tales is a cutting assessment of what happens when male power is left to run unchecked, as well as a recasting of a literary classic that gives a maligned character her own voice, and allows her to tell her own (mostly) true story.
A Quote from Karen Brooks
“It is both humbling and such an honour to be longlisted for the ARA Historical Novel Prize. Historical fiction puts creative flesh on history’s dry bones by reimagining people and events of the past. It builds temporal bridges for us to cross and thus discover our common humanity. The struggles, desires, hopes, despair, fears, and dreams we share, regardless of time and social or cultural contexts. It was such a joy to bring to life and celebrate the strengths and weaknesses of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath. In giving a previously mocked and derided female character a voice and having her tell her own story, it was astonishing to discover that though she’s 800 years old, her tale IS ours as well. This is why awards like this are so important. They acknowledge what historical fiction does best – it revisions history, sheds light in dark corners, and can offer alternate, entertaining, and meaningful versions of a past that, for too long, has been beholden to voices of power and privilege. Thank you so much for this.”
The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater
(Simon & Schuster Australia)
About Lauren Chater
Lauren Chater is the author of the historical novels The Lace Weaver and Gulliver’s Wife, as well as the baking compendium Well Read Cookies – Beautiful Biscuits Inspired by Great Literature.
In 2018 she was awarded a grant by the Neilma Sidney Literary Fund to travel to the Netherlands to research her third novel The Winter Dress, inspired by a real 17th century gown found off the Dutch coast in 2014. She has made appearances at the Brisbane Writers Festival, Storyfest, the Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival and the Tamar Valley Writers’ Festival, as well as many others. She is currently completing her Masters of Cultural Heritage through Deakin University. For further information:
About The Winter Dress
Two women separated by centuries but connected by one beautiful silk dress. A captivating novel based on a real-life shipwreck discovered off Texel Island by the bestselling author of Gulliver’s Wife, Lauren Chater. Jo Baaker, a textiles historian and Dutch ex-pat is drawn back to the island where she was born to investigate the provenance of a 17th century silk dress. Retrieved by local divers from a sunken shipwreck, the dress offers tantalising clues about the way people lived and died during Holland’s famous Golden Age.
Jo’s research leads her to Anna Tesseltje, a poor Amsterdam laundress turned ladies’ companion who served the enigmatic artist Catharina van Shurman. The two women were said to share a powerful bond, so why did Anna abandon Catharina at the height of her misfortune? Jo is convinced the truth lies hidden between the folds of this extraordinary dress. But as she delves deeper into Anna’s history, troubling details about her own past begin to emerge.
On the small Dutch island of Texel where fortunes are lost and secrets lie buried for centuries, Jo will finally discover the truth about herself and the woman who wore the Winter Dress.
A Quote from Lauren Chater
“I am honoured and very grateful to have my book longlisted for the ARA Historical Novel Prize, alongside many other wonderful works of historical fiction. Textiles and dress history are currently enjoying a cultural resurgence thanks to the dedication of historians and conservators. Clothing is a mirror, reflecting who we are as individuals and as a society. Yet until now its scholarship has often been overlooked. By weaving a fictional tale around the discovery of a 400-year-old dress, I hope readers will be inspired to think more deeply about their connection to fabric and clothing and consider what these artefacts can teach us about the past.”
Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight, by Steven Carroll
(HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
About Steven Carroll
Steven Carroll is the multi-award winning author of twelve novels including A World of Other People (2013) , which was the joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, and The Time We Have Taken (2007), which was the winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the SE Asia and Pacific Region and the Miles Franklin Award in 2008. Forever Young (2015) was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2016. A New England Affair (2017) was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2018 and The Year of the Beast (2019) was longlisted for the 2020 Voss Literary Prize. His most recent novel is O (2021).
Steven lives in Melbourne with his partner, the author Fiona Capp, and their son.
About Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight
London, June 1940. With help from friends, Vivienne Haigh-Wood, the wife of celebrated poet TS Eliot, is about to effect a daring escape from Northumberland House, the private insane asylum where she has been held for the past four years. Her family, and most particularly her husband, think she’s insane – and maybe she has been, in the past, Vivienne thinks, mad with love, that is, but she is starting to finally feel like herself again.
There is an old law, Vivienne has been told, that if a person can break out of an asylum and stay free for thirty days, proving they can look after themselves, they can’t make you go back. But closing in on Vivienne is the young Detective Sergeant Stephen Minter, a man with a hidden past of his own, who has orders to track her down…
With Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight, Steven Carroll completes his critically acclaimed, award-winning and much-loved Eliot Quartet. This novel is a poignant, deeply felt and intensely moving novel of beginnings, endings and reinvention, about the aftermath of a marriage and the reassembling of a broken woman.
A Quote from Steven Carroll
“Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight, is set in another country and another time with no Australian characters, which may make it seem almost resolutely irrelevant. But being listed for this prestigious prize reassures me that it may have resonance in the here and now.”
Only Birds Above by Portland Jones
About Portland Jones
Portland Jones is a writer, lecturer and horse trainer who lives and works in the Swan Valley. She has a PhD in Literature and her first novel, Seeing the Elephant, was shortlisted for the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award. Only Birds Above is her second novel. She has also co-authored a non-fiction book, Horses Hate Surprise Parties. Portland lives and works in the Swan Valley and is currently working on a third novel and another non-fiction book. For further information, visit:
About Only Birds Above
This is the story of Arthur Watkins, blacksmith, who leaves his beloved young wife Helen to serve with the 10th Light Horse Regiment in the Middle East in World War I. He returns without his horse, a man forever changed by what he has seen and suffered. Years later, Arthur’s children Ruth and Tom are still feeling the effects of the first war when Tom is sent by his father to work in Sumatra. Tom Watkins is there in 1942 when the Japanese invade and is taken prisoner. This is the story of two wars that divide and unite a father and son, and all the years that lie in between.
A Quote from Portland Jones
“I am absolutely honoured to be long listed for the ARA Historical Novel Prize. It is simultaneously exciting and humbling to see my work in such amazing company.
When I was small my grandmother would hold me on her knee and tell me the sorts of stories that many would consider inappropriate for a child. These stories started a life long love of history that, if anything, grows stronger as I age because to me history isn’t just stories about the past it’s a kind of medieval here be dragons map for the future. I often think about my grandmother when I’m writing and I believe that in honouring those that came before us we seek to both understand our present moment and to navigate the hazards of the future. Because of this, in the current era of uncertainty and change, the work of the HNSA is of even more importance and I am extremely grateful for their support of historical fiction.”
The Rat Catcher by Kim Kelly
About Kim Kelly
Kim Kelly is the author of eleven novels, including the acclaimed Wild Chicory and bestselling The Blue Mile. With distinctive warmth and lyrical charm, her stories explore Australia, its history, politics and people. Her work has gained shortlistings in The Hope Prize and Australia’s premier short novel award, Viva la Novella. A long-time book editor and sometime reviewer, Kim is a dedicated narrative addict and lover of true love. In fact, she takes love so seriously she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life. Originally from Sydney, today Kim lives in central New South Wales, on Wiradjuri country, with her muse de bloke, two cats and some chickens, and occasionally the kids when they come home to graze. For further information:
About The Rat Catcher
In the sweltering summer of 1900, young wharf labourer Patrick O’Reilly is down on his luck in the slums of Sydney and homesick for Tralee. When a deadly outbreak of plague descends on the city, O’Reilly’s daydreaming mind is miles away – in the golden hair and kindly, confident air of a girl called Rosie Hughes.
Just as he’s wondering why any girl would want a no-hoper like him, opportunity knocks with the offer of a job as a rat catcher working for the city’s Plague Department, containing the spread of disease. But the job will bring him a lot more than a pay rise and a swift education on traps and poisons.
In the Public Lending Library, on the top floor of the Queen Victoria Building, above the bustling centre of Sydney, he comes face-to-face with a legendary rat called Old Scratch who will change the way he understands himself and the world forever. Drawn from Kim Kelly’s own trove of Irish-Australian family lore, The Rat Catcher is a mischievous, fast-paced fable told with her trademark compassion, a sharp eye on the epic in the ordinary, and an irrepressible love for life, in all its marvellous forms.
A Quote from Kim Kelly
“After almost two decades spent fossicking for truths beneath what Twain called Australia’s ‘beautiful lies’, to have my efforts recognised by this ARA Historical Novel Prize longlisting is a shining honour I will always cherish. It’s also wonderful that the judges, in their commitment to literary diversity, have chosen to include a cross-genre romantic comedy exploring poverty, bigotry and the dignity of meaningful, fairly valued work – a small but epic story of ordinary people inspired by the scrappy immigrants who made me. Thank you, Edward Federman of ARA Group, for your extraordinary generosity and vision, and the HNSA for your celebration of historical fiction in all its forms. Because all our stories are important: together, they are a mosaic of mirrors showing us glimpses of who we really are.”
Corporal Hitler’s Pistol by Tom Keneally
(Penguin Random House)
About Tom Keneally
Tom Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler’s Ark, later made into the Steven Spielberg Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List. His non-fiction includes the memoir Searching for Schindler and Three Famines, an LA Times Book of the Year, and the histories The Commonwealth of Thieves, The Great Shame and American Scoundrel. His fiction includes Shame and the Captives, The Daughters of Mars, The Widow and Her Hero (shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award), An Angel in Australia and Bettany’s Book. His novels The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates were all shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers for the Paraclete won the Miles Franklin Award. The People’s Train was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia division.
About Corporal Hitler’s Pistol
When an affluent Kempsey matron spots a young Aboriginal boy who bears an uncanny resemblance to her husband, not only does she scream for divorce, attempt to take control of the child’s future and upend her comfortable life, but the whole town seems drawn into chaos.
A hero of the First World War has a fit at the cinema and is taken to a psychiatric ward in Sydney, his Irish farmhand is murdered, and a gay piano-playing veteran, quietly a friend to many in town, is implicated.
Corporal Hitler’s Pistol speaks to the never-ending war that began with ‘the war to end all wars’. Rural communities have always been a melting pot and many are happy to accept a diverse bunch … as long as they don’t overstep. Set in a town he knows very well, in this novel Tom Keneally tells a compelling story of the interactions and relationships between black and white Australians in early twentieth-century Australia.
A Quote from Tom Keneally
“All awards are welcome since they make further writing possible. I feel very honoured. The suspicion that one might be a novelist is enhanced by a jury deciding that you are.”
Cold Coast by Robyn Mundy
About Robyn Mundy
For over 20 years Robyn Mundy has worked seasonally as a ship-based tour guide in Svalbard, Greenland, Antarctica, the Norwegian coast and wild Scotland. Her numerous visits to Svalbard led to her 2021 novel Cold Coast. Robyn lives in Tasmania with a penguin biologist and a Blue Heeler. For further information, visit:
About Cold Coast
In 1932, Wanny Woldstad, a young widow, travels to Svalbard, daring to enter the Norwegian trappers’ fiercely guarded male domain. She must prove to Anders Sæterdal, her trapping partner who makes no secret of his disdain, that a woman is fit for the task.
Over the course of a Svalbard winter, Wanny and Sæterdal will confront polar bears, traverse glaciers, withstand blizzards and the dangers of sea ice, and hike miles to trap Arctic fox, all in the frigid darkness of the four-month polar night. For Wanny, the darkness hides her own deceptions that, if exposed, speak to the untenable sacrifice of a 1930s woman longing to fulfil a dream.
A Quote from Robyn Mundy
“If Mrs Wanny Woldstad were alive today, she would be as thrilled as I am for her remarkable life in the high Arctic to be included in this distinguished list. Thank you, HNSA, ARA, and the judges, for making a literature prize possible that means the world to any writer. More especially so, when the subject of a novel stretches far beyond Australian shores, to a bygone era of trapping, making no apology for the mindset of the time, while testing the sensibilities of a contemporary reader. Cold Coast rests on a year of field and archival research, a love of the Arctic, and on twenty years of bobbing across the ocean as a polar expedition guide. Thank you, for honouring the work in this way.”
The Sawdust House by David Whish-Wilson
About David Whish-Wilson
David Whish-Wilson is the author of eight novels and three creative non-fiction books. He was born in Newcastle, NSW but raised in Singapore, Victoria and WA. He left Australia aged eighteen to live for a decade in Europe, Africa and Asia, where he worked as a barman, actor, streetseller, petty criminal, labourer, exterminator, factory worker, gardener, clerk, travel agent, teacher and drug trial guinea pig.
David’s first novel in the Frank Swann crime series, Line of Sight (Penguin Australia) was shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Award in 2012. He has since written three more in the series – the first three being published in Germany by Suhrkamp Verlag. David wrote the Perth book in the NewSouth Books city series, which was short-listed for a WA Premiers Book Award. Three of David’s crime novels have been published in Germany by Suhrkamp Verlag.
David also teaches in the prison system in Perth and previously in Fiji, where he started the countries first prisoner writing program. He currently lives in Fremantle, Western Australia with his partner and three kids, where he teaches creative writing at Curtin University. For further information, visit:
About The Sawdust House
San Francisco, 1856. Irish-born James ‘Yankee’ Sullivan is being held in jail by the Committee of Vigilance, which aims to rout the Australian criminals from the town. As Sullivan’s mistress, seeks his release and as his fellow prisoners are taken away to be hanged, the convict tells a story of triumph and tragedy: of his daring escape from penal servitude in Australia; how he became America’s most celebrated boxer; and how he met the true love of his life.
A Quote from David Whish-Wilson
“As much as the information encoded in our DNA, we are each of us made of the stories of the people who came before us. If we are very lucky, we might come to know some of these people, and some of their stories. When approached with respect, and humility, historical fiction becomes a means of writing into those vast silences of forgotten, misrepresented, ignored or neglected story. Immersed in these story-worlds, we sense the kinship of fellow-feeling, the randomness of fateful moments, or the tragedy of missed opportunities. We emerge back into our own time, alive to the same truths, joys, hauntings and regrets that shape our own story, and of those around us. This is the understanding we gain from stories shared, and stories felt, so different from mere knowledge. As a reader, Australian historical fiction has been a great teacher, and as a writer, it is therefore a special honour to be on a longlist for an award that celebrates the contributions of fellow writers, working to bring the old stories to life.”
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