Blog Archives

“Lashings of empathy”, Tina Shaw

From the Ashes
Deborah Challinor
HarperCollins, $37.00,
ISBN 9781460754122

What You Wish For
Catherine Robertson
Black Swan, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143772811

Discovering that From the Ashes is a sequel to Fire, Challinor’s 2006 novel, makes sense of this novel’s title. Fire was set in Auckland, although based on the Ballantyne’s department store fire of 1947 in Christchurch. From the Ashes is the second book in a series called “The Restless Years” that will take readers up to the Vietnam War.

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Knowing one another, Maggie Trapp

The Beat of the Pendulum: A Found Novel
Catherine Chidgey
Victoria University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776561704

 

Tess
Kirsten McDougall
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776561001

Gabriel’s Bay
Catherine Robertson
Black Swan, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143771456

Imaginative writing takes the hurly-burly of life and boils it down to something at once contained and capacious, and stories – whether real or imagined – allow us to see and feel lives other than our own. In their new novels, Catherine Chidgey, Kirsten McDougall, and Catherine Robertson present compelling, intimate accounts of New Zealanders. These works are about ostensibly everyday lives. Yet these ordinary characters reveal the extraordinary that we all live within. These stories, each in its own way, speak to our need for story. 

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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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