Shortlist year: 2010

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: The Text Publishing Company

Abandoned in a big city at the onset of winter, a hungry four-year-old boy follows a stray dog to her lair. There in the rich smelly darkness, in the rub of hair, claws and teeth, he joins four puppies suckling at their mother’s teats. And so begins Romochka’s life as a dog. Weak and hairless, with his useless nose and blunt little teeth, Romochka is ashamed of what a poor dog he makes. But learning how to be something else…that’s a skill a human can master. Fortunately—because one day Romochka will have to learn how to be a boy.

About the author

Eva Hornung

Eva Hornung was born in Bendigo and now lives in rural South Australia.

Formerly published as Eva Sallis, Hornung is an award-winning writer of literary fiction and criticism: her first novel Hiam won the Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 1997 and the Nita May Dobbie Award in 1999. The Marsh Birds won the Asher Literary Award 2005 and was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Age Book of the Year 2005, NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Eva Hornung’s highly acclaimed Dog Boy was shortlisted for numerous prizes and won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2010.

Judges’ comments

To the ancient folkloric and literary traditions of children lost, then raised and nurtured in the animal world, Eva Hornung brings her own compassionate and contemporary outrage at the treatment of refugees and outcasts.

Dog Boy is a testing but triumphant feat of the imagination. Hornung challenges us to believe that an abandoned child in a decaying city in deep winter can sympathetically enter the small, embattled but protective society of a dog pack.

The resonances of the novel are bleak and unsettling, but the resolution is both shocking and apt, the experiment and the manner of its telling have a compelling assurance. The winner of the 2010 Fiction Awards is a remarkable work of international standing.