Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA), in partnership with Australia’s leading essential building and infrastructure services provider ARA Group, is excited to announce the winners of the 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize.

This year’s winners make the past come alive in an astonishing way. Their luminous prose conjures worlds that intertwine history with imagination to explore themes of survival, identity, desire and power. Both novels embody storytelling at its very best.

The winner of the 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize – Adult Category is Corporal Hitler’s Pistol by Tom Keneally (Penguin Random House).

The winner of the 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize – Children and Young Adult (CYA) Category is Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief by Katrina Nannestad (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

The ARA Historical Novel Prize is worth a total of $100,000 in prize monies. The Prize will award $50,000 to the Adult category winner, with $5,000 awarded to each of the two shortlisted authors. In the Children and Young Adult (CYA) category, the winner will receive $30,000, while the two shortlisted authors will receive $5,000 each.

Chair and Program Director of the Historical Novel Society Australasia, Elisabeth Storrs, said, “Selected from over 130 entries, the 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize winners demonstrates the true depth of talent of historical fiction authors. The winning novels demonstrate the irresistible prose, unforgettable characters, meticulous research, and epic storytelling for which historical fiction is known.”

“Both Corporal Hitler’s Pistol and Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief demonstrate the power of the historical fiction genre to illuminate unspoken truths and connect the past with the present. This fosters an understanding of the complicated nature of the world today, and humanises the lives of our predecessors. The Prize is a true celebration of historical fiction, and a real opportunity to foster the genre on a grander scale,” said Storrs.

The ARA Historical Novel Prize has been made possible through the generous patronage of ARA Group. The ARA Group, and its Founder, Executive Chair and CEO, Edward Federman, are committed to supporting the arts and literature.

Edward Federman said, “I congratulate Tom Keneally and Katrina Nannestad on winning the 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize. It has been a pleasure to be involved in making a long-lasting contribution to the arts, particularly to the historical fiction genre that has not always received the attention it rightly deserves.”

“Our hope is that the ARA Historical Novel Prize will not only make a considerable difference to the lives of this year’s winning authors, but also shine a light on the historical fiction genre and the work of all entrants across Australia and New Zealand,” said Federman.


The 2022 judging panel for the Adult category included Angelo Loukakis (Chair), Madison Shakespeare and Meg Keneally. Due to actual or perceived conflicts of interest in relation to authors longlisted in the Prize, Meg Keneally withdrew from judging the shortlist and winner. This is in accordance with the HNSA’s Conflicts of Interest policy.

According to Angelo Loukakis, “Fiction as it surely is, Corporal Hitler’s Pistol also compels for its presentation of a special kind of knowledge. The author seamlessly integrates historical realities with a deep understanding of his own to create a novel that reads at least as much ‘felt’ as studied into life. Keneally knows the larger history of the world as much as he understands the mentalities of a small town. There is nothing second-hand about his rendering of social stratifications and hierarchies, whether of Australian or Irish origin.”

“Keneally knows the traumas visited on ordinary men during war, how these may also be buried only to surface years later. In Corporal Hitler’s Pistol he shows us the wound that is both visible and not visible on the skin, and convincingly makes interesting and unexpected connections. The provenance of a German pistol, Hitler’s supposed own WW1 pistol, may seem implausible – until we recall that surviving Australian soldiers commonly souvenired their enemy’s weapons, from Luger pistols to Samurai swords, to bring home.”

“In his latest novel we again see many of the signature marks of this author’s technical mastery. It is recognisable in an expansive, demotic vocabulary, in the rhythm of sentences shaped to particularise the characters, to capture what they register, see, remember, in their accounts of reality – to give them their own voices. But, as in the best novels, we also have a further and important voice – the compassionate and multivalent authorial voice that confidently enjoins this story’s diversity of people and experience to create a most readable and believable work.”

“For a historically revealing, absorbing, sobering as well as entertaining story, for a highly skilled prose technique that makes him the perfect teller of this human and moving tale, for that rarest of elements – a voice the reader can trust – the Judges have determined Corporal Hitler’s Pistol to be the winner of this year’s ARA Historical Novel Prize in the Adult category… and warmly congratulate its author, Tom Keneally, on his achievement.”

The 2022 judging panel for the CYA category included Paul McDonald (Chair), Deborah Abela and Rachael King.

According to Paul McDonald, “In Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief, award-winning writer Katrina Nannestad once again transports us to World War 2 as she did in her previous award-winning children’s novel ‘We are Wolves’. This time the reader arrives in Russia and the Great Patriotic War and we share the life of Sasha, a soldier at only six years old. Based on a true story of a boy soldier in the Red Army, Nannestad has created a beautiful, poignant and compelling narrative. The author’s gift is her ability to find the light in this story, to offer a tale that in the end still offers hope and love and joy. The writing is beautiful, the research seamless and the reader- appeal broad, the novel an ideal choice for readers aged 10 or 80.”

About the ARA Historical Novel Prize

The ARA Historical Novel Prize gives Australian and New Zealand historical novelists the chance to be recognised in a class of their own, with the most significant prize purse for any genre-based prize in Australasia. Historical fiction is defined as a novel in which the majority of the narrative takes place at least 50 years before publication. A range of sub-genres are eligible, including historical mystery, historical romance, alternate history, historical fantasy, multi-time, time-slip, and parallel narrative novels. The judging criteria include depth of research, widespread reader appeal, with excellence in writing as the deciding factor. 

About the ARA Group

The ARA Historical Novel Prize has been made possible through the generous patronage of ARA Group. ARA Group provides a comprehensive range of building services and products to major customers throughout Australia and New Zealand. Through its workplace giving program—The ARA Endowment Fund—the company plays a proud and positive role in the community.

The ARA Endowment Fund currently donates 100 per cent of the interest earned annually to The Go Foundation, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and The David Lynch Foundation. ARA Group has also sponsored the Historical Novel Society Australasia’s biennial conferences since 2017, is Principal Partner of Sydney Writers Festival, the Monkey Baa Theatre and the National Institute of Dramatic Art, a Key Partner of The Story Factory, and Presidential Partner of Taronga Zoo. For further information, visit: https://aragroup.com.au/

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