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Posted on 8 Oct 2020 in Fiction |

The ARA Historical Novel Prize longlist

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The ARA Historical Novel Prize is a new prize specifically for historical fiction by Australian and New Zealand writers. Initiated by the Historical Novel Association of Australasia and administered by the New England Writers Centre, it has been made possible by sponsorship from the ARA group. With a total prize pool of $60,000 — $50,000 to the winner and $5000 each to two runners-up – it is one of the richest literary prizes in Australia, and certainly the richest genre-based prize.

NRB’s Linda Funnell was one of four judges, alongside writers Colin Falconer, Paula Morris and Kirsty Murray, who assessed an astonishing 185 entries ranging from young adult fiction to historical romance, family sagas and literary fiction.

The longlist was announced yesterday, 7 October 2020, and we’re delighted to bring you the eight longlisted titles with comments from the judges.

Sienna Brown Master of My Fate

‘Moving from Jamaican plantations to colonial New South Wales, Sienna Brown’s debut novel explores the life of a West Indian convict in a lyrical, eloquent story of rebellion and survival.’ – Paula Morris

Nigel Featherstone Bodies of Men

‘Set during and after the Second World War, this is a tender and beautifully written love story that challenges ideas about fathers and sons, masculinity and war.’ – Colin Falconer

You can read Kim Kelly’s review of Bodies of Men here.

Catherine Jinks Shepherd

Shepherd is a powerful evocation of brutality in rural NSW during the 1840s. Told in the unsentimental voice of a young poacher transported for life, Jinks has crafted a taut and compelling work of historical fiction.’  – Kirsty Murray

Mirandi Riwoe Stone Sky Gold Mountain

‘Mirandi Riwoe recreates the experiences of two Chinese siblings struggling to survive on the North Queensland goldfields in  1877. Richly imagined and eloquently expressed, Stone Sky Gold Mountain depicts a past too rarely portrayed in Australian fiction.’ – Kirsty Murray

You can read an extract from Stone Sky Gold Mountain in our Friday extract series here.

Dominic Smith The Electric Hotel

‘From the Lumiere Brothers first demonstrations of moving pictures in Paris to early American movie houses and the battlefields of World War I, this is a prodigiously researched journey through the birth of cinema and one man’s doomed obsession with his muse.’ – Colin Falconer

You can read Jeannette Delamoir’s review of The Electric Hotel here.

Christos Tsiolkas Damascus

‘Visceral and immersive, Damascus delivers a flesh and blood Paul of Tarsus, placing him within his historical period, a time of slavery and violence when Christianity was a minor sect in a pagan world.’ – Linda Funnell

Pip Williams The Dictionary of Lost Words

‘In her character’s observations of, and later role in, the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, Pip Williams elegantly demonstrates the unconscious biases in how language is codified. Set at the time of the women’s suffrage movement in England, it reclaims and celebrates women’s language.’ – Linda Funnell

Tara June Winch The Yield

‘Bringing together Indigenous Australian history, the Wiradjuri language, the tragedy of dispossession and its consequences, The Yield is a powerful elegy for what has been lost and a testament to the strength of what survives.’ – Paula Morris

You can read Suzanne Marks’s review of The Yield here.

Our congratulations to all the longlisted authors. The shortlist will be announced on 28 October, and the winner on 10 November.

You can watch the video of the longlist announcement here.

For further details, visit the Historical Novel Society Australasia here.

And of course you can order all these titles from Abbeys Bookshop or Booktopia via the links at the top of this page.