Blog Archives

The unnerving detritus of what was, Jane Westaway

The Shops
Steve Braunias and Peter Black (photographer)
Luncheon Sausage Books, $40.00,
ISBN 9780908689941

Once upon a time, I met people who owned a shop. I was young and impressionable and, on my first visit, was dazzled by a window display of ladies’ and gents’ watches, silverware and jewellery. The door pinged when you pushed it. Once inside, glass shelves and counters gleamed with promise, and the watchmaker’s wife stood behind the counter. It was a small place in a small town, but I was thrilled, not so much by what these people were offering for sale, as by the concept of shop-keeping itself.

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction and Review

Rescuing an heroic figure, Jane Westaway

Petals & Bullets: Dorothy Morris, New Zealand Nurse in the Spanish Civil War
Mark Derby
Potton and Burton, $40.00,
ISBN 9781927213766

In the preface to Mark Derby’s new book, Spanish War historian Angela Jackson writes of the challenge in recounting the lives of so-called “do-gooders”. Such figures – often female – aren’t sexy. They tend to live beyond the public eye, the corridors of power and the celebrity-mad media. Thus, they leave behind precious little of the source material biographers and historians rely on. Derby notes a related difficulty – that of making a dedicated life “appear interesting” – even though his subject is Dorothy Morris, a Christchurch nurse who worked in Spain during the Civil War, caring for horribly injured civilians and soldiers, as well as starving and traumatised children and refugees.

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Posted in Biography, History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Telling stories, Jane Westaway

In the Neighbourhood of Fame
Bridget van der Zijpp
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780864739247

Sleep Sister
Karen Breen
Eunoia Publishing, $30.00,
ISBN 9780994104755

These two new novels appear from what – not long ago – would have been opposite ends of the local fiction-publishing spectrum. One is published by a university press whose literary fiction is widely seen as its crowning glory, and whose novelists and short-story writers – think Knox, Catton, Perkins – often go on to garner glittering prizes both here and overseas. Just as often, these writers and their first works have been nurtured in an International Institute of Modern Letters workshop – a title made grander by rarely being seen unaccompanied by the adjective “prestigious”. Bridget van der Zijpp is one such writer. A couple of years after she emerged from the institute, Victoria University Press published her first novel, Misconduct. This was shortlisted for the regional section of the Commonwealth Writers’ Best First Book Prize and for the 2009 Montana New Zealand Society of Authors Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction. Her latest is In the Neighbourhood of Fame.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

Investigation: “The health and safety event of a generation”, Jane Westaway

Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and Why 29 Men Died Rebecca Macfie Awa Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781877551901 Every New Zealander of voting age should read this book. It recounts the decades-long lead-up to an afternoon, nearly three years ago,

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Posted in History, Non-fiction and Review

The ties that bind, Jane Westaway

The Lie That Settles Peter Farrell Ocean Books, $35.00, ISBN 978192721708 The Lost Pilot Jeffrey Paparoa Holman Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9781742539201 A History of Silence Lloyd Jones Penguin, $38.00, ISBN 9780143569473 “The cradle rocks above an abyss,” writes Nabokov in

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Editorial — Issue 103

Opening up the archive We’re starting to feel a little sheepish about the milestones we keep reaching. This is our third and fourth in less than three years. Still, here we go: with this – our 103rd issue – we’re

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Posted in Editorial

Cashing up, Jane Westaway

Jane Westaway sells a book and wonders how.  Eleven years ago I published a novel. Last Wednesday I received my latest royalty statement. Somewhere out there, I understand, are authors who, along with their statements, get cheques that go some

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Posted in Comment

Editorial — Issue 100

Whithering or withering? Back in the day, literary couple Iris Murdoch and John Bayley used to speak of “whithering”. They were referring to international festivals at which they were asked to address the question “whither the novel?” At the dawn

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Posted in Editorial

Editorial — Issue 98

Two issues beyond the 20th anniversary edition of New Zealand Books and two before our 100th  issue, we’ve reached another milestone. The determined enthusiasts who founded the journal might well have predicted the first two, and will certainly have hoped

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Posted in ebooks and Editorial

Heart to heart, Jane Westaway

Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story Kapka Kassabova Portobello Books, $39.99, ISBN 9781846272844   Tango is just a dance in the sense that rugby is just a ball game. You live and breathe it. Or you don’t. Fans –

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review
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