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.

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).

For further details, visit:


(Penguin Random House)


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 ThievesThe 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.


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.


“Prizes are wonderful. This one from ARA is wonderful to me. And it is far from a bad moment for the immensely gifted shortlist of my friend Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer -winner, and of Robyn Mundy. I remember reading with  Indian Booker Prize winner Kirin Desai, who said that when the Booker people gave her the prize, her first thought was, “My God, I must be a novelist. They think so.” We need these affirmations sometimes in our lives, and this one will keep me writing unto death and perhaps a little after. As sweet as it is, and as august as the judges might be, prizes are a sort of happy accident. When the accident befalls one, it is delightful. Young writers can’t say that. But this old one vulgarly does. Yippee!”

“And yet it is not yippee for the others on the list, and I agree with the proposition that there is a danger that a prize given to an 87 year-old writer like me runs the danger that dentists, continence napkin manufacturers and undertakers might be the chief beneficiaries.”

“That must not happen. May I argue that writing is two-pronged matter: a business on one hand, the creator of transcendent manifestations from the ceaseless tide of story that runs through our species. Writing is on one hand an industry that employs 20,000 people in its service. Writers are primary producers growing risky crops. I have been saying this since I started in the early Sixties, but many Ministers for the Arts seem not to see it as a serious,  in those terms; fail to see that the writer generates international standing, foreign income revenue and Australian jobs, and choose instead to see it as just that, a lefty hobby, an indulgence.  As a gesture against such thinking, I would like to give, and it is very appropriate for me to do so. the six long-listed writers a small taken, a prizelet of $4000 each, as an addition to whatever other income keeps them afloat and writing. I hope they will accept this small gesture.  I think my age and history warrant this! For most of us criminally failed to be born into families of means.”

“So, a combined Yippee! goes  to ARA and its eminent judges. And thanks to those who make writing a career.”    


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.”


(HarperCollins Publishers Australia)


Katrina Nannestad is an award-winning Australian author. Her books include the CBCA-shortlisted We Are WolvesThe Girl Who Brought Mischief, the Travelling Bookshop series, the Girl, the Dog and the Writer series, the Olive of Groves series, the Red Dirt Diaries series, the Lottie Perkins series, and the historical novel Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief. Katrina’s novel, We Are Wolves, was the winner of the inaugural 2021 ARA Historical Novel Prize.

Katrina grew up in country New South Wales, in a neighbourhood stuffed full of happy children. Her adult years have been spent raising boys, teaching, daydreaming and pursuing her love of stories. Katrina celebrates family, friendship and belonging in her writing. She also loves creating stories that bring joy or hope to other people’s lives. 

Katrina now lives on a hillside in central Victoria with her husband, a silly whippet called Olive and a mob of kangaroos. For further information:


Wood splinters and Mama screams and the nearest soldier seizes her roughly by the arms. My sister pokes her bruised face out from beneath the table and shouts, ‘Run, Sasha! Run!’

So I run. I run like a rabbit.

It’s spring, 1942. The sky is blue, the air is warm and sweet with the scent of flowers. And then everything is gone. The flowers, the proud geese, the pretty wooden houses, the friendly neighbours. Only Sasha remains.

But one small boy, alone in war-torn Russia, cannot survive. One small boy without a family cannot survive. One small boy without his home cannot survive. What that small boy needs is an army.


“I am honoured and absolutely delighted to have won the ARA Historical Novel Prize for Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief. I am so very grateful to the ARA Group who sponsors this award, and especially to Edward Federman for his generous patronage. The prize is a is a huge encouragement and support to me as I continue to write historical fiction, and a wonderful endorsement of the genre’s importance to young readers.”

“Historical fiction is exciting and plays a vital role in getting children hooked on books. It also encourages our young readers to explore history and the big issues that shape our world, which will better equip them to make good decisions for the future. Happiness, insight and intelligence wrapped in a book!”

“Thank you HNSA and ARA for this wonderful prize and for celebrating the genre and its writers!”


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.”



ARA Group provides a comprehensive range of building services and products to major customers throughout Australia and New Zealand and – through its workplace giving program, The ARA Endowment Fund – 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, the National Institute of Dramatic Art, and Presidential Partner of Taronga Zoo.

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