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Loosening stiff upper lips, Charlotte Graham

Leap of Faith 
Jenny Pattrick
Black Swan, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143770916

Good Sons
Greg Hall
Mary Egan Publishing, $32.00,
ISBN 9780473383787

It seems there are two major challenges for any author wanting to write about New Zealand in some of its formative historical periods. One is the research. The other is conveying the spirit of tough people who lived tough lives, when often these were men and women of few words. The tendency of our forebears not to respond to even the most brutal of conditions, or to utterly cavernous moments of grief and loss, with anything other than stoicism, has bred an odd national reluctance to talk about our problems that persists, in some forms, to the present day. It presents an even bigger challenge to writers of historical fiction, who need to convey moments of hope and anguish among the austere, taciturn Pākehā of 1907 or 1917 without breaking character or boring us to tears. On screen, it can be done with sideways looks: the raise of an eyebrow, or a mumbled syllable. But Jenny Pattrick, author of Leap of Faith, and Greg Hall, in his book Good Sons, have set themselves a difficult task to convey it through text.

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Tea and comfort, Sarah Laing

The Hiding Places
Catherine Robertson
Black Swan, $37.00,
ISBN 9781775536420

Where is the line between popular and literary fiction? If the latter is rich with poetic language and literary references, then Catherine Robertson has crossed it. But if popular fiction aims to entertain and to comfort above all, then Robertson has a foot on either side. Her previous three novels fall firmly in the popular fiction camp, but The Hiding Places is a compelling hybrid, a novel that attempts to hold a mirror up to the world, at the same time as delighting in eccentric English characters and mock-Tudor mansions.

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War stories, Anne Else

Passing Through
Coral Atkinson
Dancing Tuatara, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473262693

Heartland
Jenny Pattrick
Black Swan, $37.00,
ISBN 9781775535850

Tropic of Guile
Sue McCauley
Xlibris, $42.00,
ISBN 9781483683195

All three of these novels centre on hard-won survival against the odds of poverty, violence and malice, offset by love, loyalty and friendship; but the clashes they chronicle range widely in time, place and complexity.

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Being Minnie, Lawrence Patchett

The Day She Cradled Me Sacha de Bazin Black Swan, $38.00, ISBN 9781869797744   The Day She Cradled Me is about Minnie Dean, the Southland “baby-farmer” hanged for infanticide in 1895. Therefore it has the problem of any such novel

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The voice of the monster, Bernard Carpinter

Blood Men Paul Cleave Black Swan, $36.99, ISBN 978869792718 Containment Vanda Symon Penguin Books, $28.00, ISBN 9780143202295 Cut and Run Alix Bosco Penguin Books, $37.00, ISBN 9780143011910 What Remains Behind Dorothy Fowler Black Swan, $29.99, ISBN 9781869792084 New Zealand’s reputation

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That old stuff, Coral Atkinson

The Sea Between Carol Thomas HarperCollins, $36.99, ISBN 9781869507626 Weathered Bones Michele Powles Penguin Books, $28.00, ISBN 9780143011248 Flashback Forward John Cairney Black Swan, $29.99, ISBN 9781869419219 After generations of being like adolescents with no interest in “that old stuff”,

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Mermaids, miners and mystics, Anne Else

Saltskin Louise Moulin Black Swan, $27.99, ISBN 9781869419608 Ribbons of Grace Maxine Alterio Penguin Books, $35.00, ISBN 9780143006442 Acts of Love Susan Pearce Victoria University Press, $29.99, ISBN 9780864735652 Three first (or at any rate, first published) novels, all by

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Coming of age for Kiwi baddies, Bernard Carpinter

The Cleaner Paul Cleave Black Swan, $29.95, ISBN 9781869417604 The Killing Hour Paul Cleave Black Swan, $27.99, ISBN 9781869418663 Overkill Vanda Symon Penguin, $28.00, ISBN 9780143006657 From My Cold, Cold Hands David McGill Silver Owl Press, $34.99,  ISBN 9780958245159 The

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Confessions of an historical romance virgin, Beryl Fletcher

The Paua Tower Coral Atkinson Black Swan, $27.99, ISBN 1869417623 The Sawdust Makers Jackie Fraser Hazard Press, $34.99, ISBN 187739307X Kitty  Deborah Challinor HarperCollins, $34.99 ISBN 1869506014 First, a confession: I’m an historical romance virgin. This is either a good

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Bring on the gothic, Jane Stafford

Fire  Deborah Challinor Harper Collins, $39.99, ISBN 9781869506001 Wild Latitudes Barbara Else Vintage, $27.99, ISBN 9781869418670 A Secret Mind  Kaye Kelly Black Swan, $27.99, ISBN 978869417819 Sylvia lay awake listening to the mournful cry of a morepork. Another noise, a

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