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Beyond the pale, Kathryn Walls

Heloise
Mandy Hager
Penguin Random House, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143770992

Heloise is Mandy Hager’s reconstruction in novelistic terms of the lives of the 12th-century lovers Heloise and Abelard, told from Heloise’s point of view. While both Abelard and Heloise read a great deal, neither of them had ever read a novel. They had, no doubt, read Augustine’s Confessions, an autobiography as distant in time from the 12th century as the 12th century is from our own. But Augustine saw no point in the concrete realisation of experience that characterises most novels. Unlike Hager, he does not mention things like the off-putting “flatulence, coughs and wheezing snores” of the convent dormitory, or the impression made on him by “streams of fish gut and animal entrails that [ran] down to meet the river”, or where the privy was. His subject was his psyche as a model for the reader’s. Being an African, he might have been black, but his skin colour remains a mystery. And yet, Hager, whose novel is rich in evocations of earthy reality, is not genuinely concerned with “the medieval body” (although the subject is currently being done to death by academics). Indeed, she has followed in the steps of Augustine (in this respect, at least, as so many great novelists have done) by focusing on the trajectory of her subject’s inner life. Paradoxically, while she has sought to establish authenticity by appealing to our senses, the effect here is decorative. What is truly authentic about her novel is quite different. Hager has, impressively, studied a wealth of primary and secondary texts in order to reconstruct Heloise’s mental and emotional development.

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Boys’ own adventures, Tina Shaw

Singing Home the Whale
Mandy Hager
Random House, $20.00, ISBN 9781775536574

Magic and Makutu
David Hair
HarperCollins, $25.00, ISBN 9781869509330

If these two titles are anything to go by, New Zealand young adult fiction is in good shape. These are two very different novels, although both integrate Māori culture into the storyline, and both feature a boy as the main protagonist.

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Wearing their ethics on their sleeves, Jack Ross

Mortal Fire Elizabeth Knox Gecko Press, $30.00, ISBN 9781877579530 Dear Vincent Mandy Hager Random House, $20.00, ISBN 9781775533276 There was a time when I used to wait eagerly for each new YA novel by Margaret Mahy. Starting with The Haunting

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From trenches to terrorism, Barbara Else

Marked   Denis Martin Walker Books, $20.00, ISBN 9781921977541 My Brother’s War David Hill Puffin, $15.00, ISBN 9781742532653 Into the River Ted Dawe Mangakino University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780473205089 The Nature of Ash Mandy Hager Random House, $20.00, ISBN 9781869799038

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review and Young adults

The hand of fear, Mandy Hager

Telling Lies Tricia Glensor  HarperCollins, $20.00, ISBN 9781869509347 Earth Dragon, Fire Hare Ken Catran HarperCollins, $25.00, ISBN 9781869509415 There seems to have been a rash of books recently about our involvement in the two world wars, and both these YA

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Thoughtful thrills, Jill Holt

Fierce September Fleur Beale Random House, $19.99, ISBN 9781869793289 Guardian of the Dead  Karen Healey Allen & Unwin, $19.99, ISBN 9781741758801 Resurrection  Mandy Hager Random House, $19.99, ISBN 9781869795221   When do young people have the chance to engage in

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A “rotten” novelist, Mandy Hager

Mandy Hager dodges Anne of Green Gables to reach for Paul Gallico. Paul Gallico’s Flowers for Mrs Harris is a simple tale related in his unpretentious and somewhat “telling” style.  Revisiting something well-loved from childhood or adolescence is always a

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Posted in Imprints

No holds barred, Joan de Hamel

Too Many Secrets Adele Broadbent HarperCollins, $19.99, ISBN 9781869508562 Smiling Jack  Ken Catran HarperCollins, $22.99, ISBN 9781 869508128 The Haystack Jack Lasenby HarperCollins, $19.99, ISBN 9781869508524 Into the Wilderness Mandy Hager Random House, $19.99, ISBN 9781869793296 Adele Broadbent is an

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review and Young adults

Innocence and experience, Saskia Voorendt

The Crossing Mandy Hager Random House, $19.99, ISBN 9781869791506 Blackthorn’s Betrayal Elizabeth Pulford Walker Books, $17.00, ISBN 9781921529030 Bute View Janice Marriott Mallinson Rendel, $18.00, ISBN 9781877423253 Fire on High David Hill Mallinson Rendel, $18.00, ISBN 9781877423321 Mandy Hager’s The

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review and Young adults

No easy heroics, James Norcliffe

Shadow of the Mountain  Anna Mackenzie Longacre Press, $18.99, ISBN 9781877460005 Smashed  Mandy Hager Random House, $18.99, ISBN 9781869419424 Gool  Maurice Gee Puffin, $19.95, ISBN 9780143304005   Each of these kidult novels tells a compelling story in a tightly written

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