2008 winners by category.


The Zookeeper's War by Steven Conte

Judges comments

Judges noted Stephen Conte's The Zookeeper's War as a striking first novel that is imbued with the melancholy of a collapsing world—Nazi Germany in the last years of the Second World War. Vera, married to the keeper of the Berlin Zoo, struggles each day to survive Allied air raids and betrayal by neighbours.

All around are frightened people, some tenacious, some treacherous. While Conte's research is formidable, it is the breadth of his historical imagination that enriches this novel.

As characters negotiate intricate and destructive moral choices, the narrative drive is sustained to the satisfyingly uncertain ending.


Ochre and Rust: Artefacts and Encounters on Australian Frontiers by Philip Jones

Judges comments

Philip Jones’ Ochre and Rust: Artefacts and Encounters on Australian Frontiers was commended for achieving the difficult task the author set himself: extrapolating the implications of cultural contact between European and Aboriginal people through the examination of objects, most now in Australian museums.

These disparate objects include a cake of red ochre, Aboriginal shields and Daisy Bates' travelling suit. The book is written with elegance, simplicity and outstanding clarity.

The insights drawn are through a true historian's eye and the work illuminates larger debates about encounters between the first Australians and the European settlers.

Jones' conception of using artefacts to discuss aspects of the Australian frontier is an original one. His analysis has depth and breadth; and his prose has simplicity and elegance.