The Honeyman and the Hunter

Shortlist year: 2020

Shortlist category: Young adult literature

Published by: Allen & Unwin

When sixteen-year-old Rudra Solace dredges up a long-hidden secret in his father's trawl net, his life in the sleepy fishing village of Patonga shifts dramatically. It is not long before Rudra is leaving Australia behind, bound for India on a journey of discovery and danger.

A wonderfully compelling tale of belonging and loss, of saltwater and mangroves, of migration and accepting change; a story of decisions that, once made, break through family histories like a cyclone swell.

About the author

Neil Grant

Neil Grant

Neil Grant was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He spent many years slouching through Europe and Asia with a stack of notebooks until, in 2001, Allen & Unwin agreed to publish his first novel, 'Rhino Chasers'. This was followed by 'Indo Dreaming' in 2005, which saw him researching traditional whale-hunting, surf culture and two-minute noodles in Indonesia. In 2009, he travelled to Afghanistan to gather material for a book on asylum seekers, a journey that changed his life; 'The Ink Bridge' was published in 2012. 'The Honeyman and the Hunter' is based partly in India—the birthplace of his mother.

Judges’ comments

'The Honeyman and the Hunter' is an intricate and elegantly crafted novel that celebrates the rich potential of language, and that utilises the power of the novel to express rather than expound. The story explores identity and belonging, two common enough tropes in young adult fiction, but these ideas are granted new relevance with a combination of terse, nuggety dialogue, minimal internal discourse, and a wealth of succinct and expressive imagery.

Rudra is as Australian as the surf, and he belongs as surely to the beachside suburb of Patonga as does the creek flowing into the bay. That his mother is from India should be irrelevant, as should the fact he is named after an Indian deity, so when others call him 'curry-muncher' and tell him to 'go back to where he came from', he has to stifle 'the big wrongness punching through doors inside him'. That his father is a brute is less irrelevant, but Rudra has learnt to both dodge and sometimes even find a way to justify his father's cruelty.

Rudra doesn't talk much. He often can't find the speech marks to put around what he feels, and though he is largely taciturn, remains silent about his emotions and brushes off probing questions, he nonetheless feels intensely. But instead of focusing on the dissection of Rudra's state of mind and heart, 'The Honeyman and the Hunter' harnesses the imagery of water to suggest emotion. Ripples, waves, surf, waterways, creeks, currents and tides; water as barrier, water as friend, water as refuge, water as danger, water as cleanser, and water as concealer of a hidden past are intensely integral to meaning throughout this novel. When Rudra is impelled to face the materiality of his Indian heritage by the unexpected arrival of his tiny but formidable grandmother, he travels to India to encounter a whole new perception of water and, ultimately, of himself.