Blog Archives

Courting controversy, Emma Martin

Fiction
The Suicide Club
Sarah Quigley
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143771012

Midway through Sarah Quigley’s The Suicide Club, Lace, one of its three troubled young protagonists, recalls a story told to her by her father, a celebrated film-maker who, along with Lace’s mother and younger sister, died in horrifying circumstances when Lace was eight – a loss which she has learned to accommodate, but from which she has in no way recovered. In the story, a beautiful princess develops an allergy to sunlight, which leaves her crying salty tears that form small ponds around her. The allergy becomes progressively more extreme until she is unable to tolerate even artificial light, leaving her living in darkness with only a blind manservant for company.

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People and places, Louise O’Brien

A Surfeit of Sunsets
Dulcie Castree
Mākaro Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780994123787

The Earth Cries Out
Bonnie Etherington
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143770657

In the late Dulcie Castree’s novel, Shirley abandons her sophisticated life in Wellington in favour of the small seaside town, and its eccentric society, of Taiwhenua on the Kāpiti Coast. Nursing a broken heart and feeling pretty sorry for herself, she finds herself besieged by A Surfeit of Sunsets, relentlessly predictable in their daily beauty.

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“The push and pull of parenting”, Catriona Ferguson

Billy Bird Emma Neale Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9780143770053 Emma Neale’s sixth novel, Billy Bird, probes the life of a troubled family – Liam, Iris and eight-year-old Billy. They are all reeling from a series of tragedies that have befallen their

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Sweet recklessness, Kiran Dass

The Salted Air  Thom Conroy Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9781775538820 “We strut about imagining heroism and lucky saves, but we’ve got it all wrong. Catastrophe arrives when the air is warm and people are everywhere … .” So observes the keenly self-aware

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Love and war, Murray Bramwell

Love as a Stranger
Owen Marshall
Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9781775538578

The Antipodeans
Greg McGee
Upstart Press, $38.00, ISBN 9781927262030

In his captivating new novel, Love as a Stranger, Owen Marshall immediately greets the reader with portents. The epigraph quotes the 17th-century dramatist and poet, Pedro Calderon de la Barca: “When love is not madness, it is not love.” And the opening sentence in the opening chapter, set in the present,  but located in a 19th-century Auckland cemetery, establishes with a limpid calm a story that is both pleasingly, disarmingly familiar and subtly marbled with a sinister unease:

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Echoes of the real, Sarah Ross

Starlight Peninsula Charlotte Grimshaw Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9781775538226   “A collar in the studio!” enthuses John Campbell to his co-host, as he takes over his new afternoon slot on National Radio: I have to share this with the listeners, because

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Haunted by the 1970s, Tina Shaw

The Predictions Bianca Zander Blackfriars, $30.00, ISBN 9780349134369 The Party Line Sue Orr Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9781775537557   These two novels consider two very different communities back in the 1970s and 80s. Much of it will be familiar territory. They

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Before and after, Christina Stachurski

Remembering Christchurch: Voices from Decades Past Alison Parr Penguin, $45.00, ISBN 9780143573371 A Villa at the End of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City Fiona Farrell Vintage, $40.00, ISBN 9781775537519 King Rich Joe Bennett HarperCollins, $37.00, ISBN

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Posted in Non-fiction and Sociology

Maybe, maybe not, Craig Cliff

The Writers’ Festival
Stephanie Johnson
Vintage, $38.00
ISBN 9781775537984

Taken together, Stephanie Johnson’s The Writing Class (2013) and her latest novel, The Writers’ Festival, are a study in ambivalence. Can creative writing be taught? the first asks. Maybe, maybe not. At least, Johnson’s two writing tutors in The Writing Class are in disagreement. Merle Carbury, a 50-something midlist-and-slipping novelist, believes teaching “a student with no instinct for writing is as impossible as teaching a tone-deaf child the violin”. Gareth Heap, on the other hand, has parlayed a prize-winning first novel into a teaching gig and reckons writing, like chemistry or a foreign language, can be taught.

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“Shocking the model” John McCrystal

Five Minutes Alone
Paul Cleave
Penguin, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143572312

The Legend of Winstone Blackhat
Tanya Moir
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9781775537755

MiSTORY
Philip Temple
Font Publishing, $35.00,
ISBN 978047328204

You could argue that the artistic imagination is like one of those massively complex algorithms that scientists and economists use to search for patterns and rules in quotidian chaos. By constructing a simulacrum of reality and then tweaking the parameters – computer modellers call this “shocking the model” – they develop an understanding of the elasticity and sensitivity of the status quo to change. And by running a model forwards, they sometimes seek to construct a vision of the future, a probabilistic telling of our fortune.

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