Saturday, March 07, 2020

Bits and pieces of historical fiction news: HNSA and RNA awards, the upcoming Mantel, and lists of genre favorites

Big news from the Historical Novel Society's Australasian chapter: The HNSA has announced the ARA Historical Novel Prize 2020.  "With prize money of $30,000," reads the announcement, "the new 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." The ARA Group is the principal partner.

Novels published between January 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020 are eligible, and the prize uses the definition of historical fiction from the Historical Novel Society. A longlist and shortlist will be announced later this year, with the winner to be selected this November. For more details on rules and eligibility, see the link above.

This will be a great opportunity for historical novelists in Aus and NZ, and for the genre as a whole.


Also, from the main branch of the Historical Novel Society, registration for the 2020 conference in Durham, UK, this September is now open. Keynote speakers are Pat Barker, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Julie Cohen, and Emma Darwin.


In the UK, the winners of the Romantic Novelists' Association's 2020 Romantic Novel Awards were announced on March 2. Among the works of historical fiction which garnered prizes:

- The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook, a multi-period novel (WWII & present day), won the Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award.

- Jenni Fletcher's Miss Amelia's Mistletoe Marquess, a Victorian romance, won the the Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award.

- Winner of the Romantic Saga award was Tania Crosse's The Street of Broken Dreams, set in London and south-east England in 1945.

Natasha Lester's The French Photographer, set during WWII, won the Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award.  In the US, this book has the title The Paris Orphan.


With the imminent release of the concluding volume of Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, the media has been focusing its gaze on the historical fiction genre.

From the BBC's History Extra: nine excellent historical novels, as chosen by historians. I haven't heard of a couple of these; jump over to the link to read more about the books and the historians who selected them.

Last week, the New York Times published a piece on seven great young adult historical novels, a diverse list with both new releases and recent classics.

From the Guardian on February 29th: Beyond Mantel: the historical novels everyone must read. The works described and celebrated here are works of literary historical fiction.

And from Publishers Weekly, an interview by John Maher with Mantel herself, with some terrific quotes.

On her subject of Thomas Cromwell: "There’s so much we will never know, and what attracts me as a novelist is the combination of documented fact—the heavily-inked paper—and what’s missing and unknown—the white space."

And on history and the past, what she wishes more readers would realize: "The past has to be respected and valued for its own sake. It is not a rehearsal for the present, and its people are not us in a primitive form."


  1. Some interesting links there. I was excited to learn about the HNSA prize. Will be watching the longlist and shortlist announcements with interest.

    I think I could happily read any of those RNA prize winners.

  2. Some interesting lists! I'd never heard of Woolf's "Orlando" - sounds intriguing. And I went through a Renault phase many years ago - I wouldn't mind getting back to her. "To Calais.." sounds great also, I'm currently reading Brooks' "Year of Wonders" and really enjoying it. The YA list is good too. Thanks for adding to my TBR!

    1. Same here with Renault. I read one of her books a long time ago and meant to read more - I expect they've held up very well over time.

      Year of Wonders is very timely these days!

  3. I'm very eager to see what will be on the HNSA longlist and shortlist.

    For the RNA winners, I enjoyed The Forgotten Village though preferred the modern story, oddly enough - not the way it usually goes!