Shortlist year: 2022

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Pan Macmillan Australia: Picador

Prussia, 1836
Hanne Nussbaum is a child of nature – she would rather run wild in the forest than conform to the limitations of womanhood. In her village of Kay, Hanne is friendless and considered an oddity . . . until she meets Thea.

Ocean, 1838
The Nussbaums are Old Lutherans, bound by God's law and at odds with their King's order for reform. Forced to flee religious persecution the families of Kay board a crowded, disease-riddled ship bound for the new colony of South Australia. In the face of brutal hardship, the beauty of whale song enters Hanne's heart, along with the miracle of her love for Thea. Theirs is a bond that nothing can break.
The whale passed. The music faded.

South Australia, 1838
A new start in an old land. God, society and nature itself decree Hanne and Thea cannot be together. But within the impossible . . . is devotion.

About the author


Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent's first novel, the international bestseller, 'Burial Rites' (2013), was translated into over 30 languages and won the Australian Book Industry Awards – Literary Fiction Book of the Year, the Indie Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the Australian Booksellers Association – Nielsen Bookdata Bookseller's Choice Award, the Victorian Premier's People's Choice Award and the Fellowship of Australian Writers Christina Stead Award. It is currently being adapted for film by Sony TriStar. Hannah's second novel, 'The Good People' (2016), was also translated into many languages and is currently being adapted for film by Aquarius Productions.

Judges’ comments

Hannah Kent's 'Devotion' traces life in three parts through the eyes of Hanne. Religious bigotry at home (Prussia 1836) sees Old Lutherans – the Nussbaums, take to the seas (Ocean 1838) escaping persecution. South Australia 1838 was sold to them as a new start. Kent's characters are always in place, the families, the land – its soil and trees, the animals – domesticated then wild, vividly evoked. Devotion is rooted in place and ethereal in rendition, it is the language of sound, light, and love that stays long after reading. Devotion between Hanne and Thea survives death and through Hanne's spirit form we have panoptic vision of the colony encountering the original people – the Peramangk, without whom many of the newcomers would have died. There is magic here too. 'Devotion' demands attention and surrendering to it brings immense reward.