17 November 2020
By Göran R Buckhorn
The Oarsmen by Scott Patterson has been shortlisted for a prestigious literary prize in Australia.
The other day, it was announced on social media that Scott Patterson’s book The Oarsmen, the story of the Australian crew who won The King’s Cup in 1919, had been shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, in the Australia History category. The PM’s Literary Awards recognise and celebrate the exceptional literary talents of esteemed and emerging Australian writers.
The Oarsmen, which HTBS has mentioned earlier (see here), tells the story of the Australian servicemen who survived the war to row for the coveted King’s Cup at the 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta. Combining first-hand accounts with lively prose, this never-before-told story approaches the First World War from peacetime and illuminates history in vivid and compelling detail. Interweaving the soldiers’ personal stories from before, during and after the war, Scott Patterson paints a fascinating picture of how these men and society transitioned from an unprecedented war to a new sort of peace.
The award judges left the following comments about The Oarsmen:
This is an extraordinary book, which carefully pieces together the previously untold, extraordinary story of how a rowing eight made up of physically and psychologically scarred AIF servicemen won the King’s Cup at the 1919 Henley Regatta. Eschewing a narrative of nationalism this is a tale of the triumph of the human spirit.
Relying on careful research and using an understated prose style, Patterson explores the unassuming lives of these men in pre-war Australia as a prelude to detailing their experiences in the Armageddons of Gallipoli, Pozieres and Ypres. In Patterson’s narrative, the Henley triumph by such a mismatched and damaged crew is almost miraculous, although his accounts of their difficult and sometimes tragic post war lives carefully tempers that understanding. In also speaking to the wider experiences of these servicemen in peace and war this is an inspiring book about human frailty, endurance and survival.
On the Australian Government’s website, it states:
The Awards highlight the important role the arts have in connecting us to Australian voices and our story as a nation. This year we received 562 entries with the judges shortlisting a selection of 30 books touching on all of life’s experiences—love, fear, family, exile, climate, culture, and war.
We congratulate everyone selected for this year’s shortlist of 30 books written by Australian authors, illustrators, poets and historians.
Scott Patterson has previously published an article on HTBS, read it here. We keep our fingers crossed for Scott and his The Oarsmen.