2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize Shortlists Announced

Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA), in partnership with Australia’s leading essential building and infrastructure services provider ARA Group, is excited to announce the Shortlists for the 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize.

This year’s shortlisted titles weave a rich tapestry of narratives, transporting readers across different times and places, exploring the depths of human spirit, resilience, and the complex dance of survival and identity amidst adversity. From the haunting lanes of wartime Europe and the magical corners of 19th century Melbourne, to the fiery landscapes of conflict-ridden Macedonia and the raw, untamed edges of colonial lands, these stories span a spectrum of experiences, emotions, and histories. They delve into familial bonds reshaped by societal shifts, individual journeys marked by courage and friendship, and the enduring struggle against the shadows of oblivion and subjugation.

The Shortlist for the 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize – Adult Category is:

The Shortlist for the 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize – Children and Young Adult (CYA) Category is:

About the Prize

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 an additional $5,000 to be awarded to each of the remaining 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.

The Winners of the 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize will be announced on 19 October 2023. For more information about the awards and to see last year’s winners, please visit the HNSA website.

Chair and Program Director of the Historical Novel Society Australasia, Elisabeth Storrs, said, “Drawing from an impressive range of eras and settings, the 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize Shortlists demonstrate the true depth of talent of historical fiction authors. It’s a collection that underscores the transformative power of literature to illuminate forgotten tales and the shared human condition echoing through the annals of time.”

“These stories are a symphony of diverse voices, unfolding the myriad layers of human experience, emotion, and resilience. They traverse across varied landscapes of time and place, revealing poignant tales of survival, identity, and friendship amidst the chaos of a changing world. They delve into the depths of our shared histories, uncovering the hidden strands of our collective journey and the indomitable spirit of humanity. Each narrative illuminates the transformative power of stories to connect us across eras, to reflect the complexities of our existence and to celebrate the shared tapestry of our hopes, struggles, and memories,” 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.

ARA Group Founder, Executive Chair and CEO — and patron of the arts — Edward Federman said, “I’m thrilled to recognise the talented authors shortlisted for the 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize. The Prize continues to underscore the invaluable role of the arts, uplifting the enduring importance and influence of the historical fiction genre, which has gone unrecognised for too long.”

“Our vision for the ARA Historical Novel Prize is twofold: to notably reward the endeavours of this year’s outstanding authors and to spotlight the rich tapestry of historical fiction narratives, honouring entrants from both Australia and New Zealand.”

The Judging Panels

The 2023 judging panel for the Adult category included Dr Robert Gott (Chair), Dr Renée Otmar and Lucy Treloar.

According to the judging panel, “This year’s shortlist represents a tight finish, with three exceptional works that offer fresh perspectives on historical events and figures. They invite us to question what we know, or think we know, about our history and those who inhabit it.”

“The novels chose themselves as much as we have chosen them: powerful, compelling stories from history that reflect the cultural narratives and conversations of contemporary Australia.”

“In one novel, and a scenario so intimately familiar yet simultaneously alien to Australians in the 20th century, we follow four significant historical figures who offer themselves as medical volunteers responding to an environmental and humanitarian crisis sparked both by human error and wilfulness. Another confronts the painful, yet fundamental, questions inherent in seeking an understanding of truth-telling and ownership for the wrongdoings of colonisation. We find its threads of reclamation deeply woven within a third novel, which employs the vernacular of Sydney’s criminal underbelly to provide a richly detailed account of life in the Depression era, particularly for women.”

“If there is a theme uniting these three novels, it is perhaps a desire for freedom – from the constraints of unjust laws and social convention as much as from our self-inflicted boundaries.”

Due to an actual or perceived conflict of interest Dr Robert Gott recused himself from discussions relating to the inclusion of a particular book on the longlist. He withdrew from determining the shortlist and winner.

The 2023 judging panel for the CYA category included Christopher Cheng (Chair), Dr Craig Cormick and Lauren Keenan.

According to Christopher Cheng, “The power of historical fiction is truly reflected in these three shortlisted titles. In each work the reader can slip into the characters and feel history flow with and around them – they could be active participants experiencing all that is happening to the characters on the pages. These wonderfully imagined books are a demonstration not only of the skill of the writers in creating cleverly moulded narratives, but also in the depth of research that was undertaken to craft the words that we are reading, deftly weaving the historical fact throughout the fiction. Readers will be wanting more from these authors.”

“These three titles are beautifully written and were immediate standouts for the judges in a longlist of delightful titles.”


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 Melbourne Writers Festival, the Monkey Baa Theatre, the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Crown Sponsor of the Taronga Zoo and Significant Partner of the Story Factory.

For further information, visit: https://aragroup.com.au/

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