One Thousand Hills

James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe

2017 Winner

Book cover of One Thousand Hills

Judges' comments

Touching and terrifying, this novel about the 1994 Rwandan massacres is related through the voice of ten-year-old Pascal as he recounts to a counsellor the homicidal madness that descended upon his country. Written with a deft eye for detail, One Thousand Hills builds tension from the first pages. This book draws the reader effortlessly into the simple warmth of daily life and childhood concerns, evoking the lived experience of a Rwandan Tutsi child as his world begins to crumble.

This collaborative novel, written by a highly regarded Australian young adult author and a Rwandan–Australian witness to the dreadful events, packs a powerful punch. The central characters are all beautifully drawn and immediately empathetic, and the authors have done a masterful job of balancing the use of the unreliable and naïf narrative point of view against the unfolding events. The sense of apprehension builds relentlessly until the terrible climax. It forces the reader to confront questions of diversity, guilt, complacency and acquiescence as it considers how evil prospers in the face of wilful ignorance. 

One Thousand Hills is an impressive and tightly crafted piece of writing. Although novels with younger protagonists can sometimes struggle to connect with an older audience, One Thousand Hills engages readers of all ages. It transports them to another world that — while confronting — is utterly authentic and well worth the travel. This important and beautifully written story deserves to be widely read.

Updated on 17 August 2021