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Fascinating threesome, Rosemary Wildblood

Elspeth Sandys
Upstart Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781927262900

Set mostly in the 1980s, Elspeth Sandys’s Obsession explores the dynamics of a relationship fuelled by desire and driven by a symbiotic need for intimacy. The narrative is purportedly written by a third party – who bears the sobriquet of the Dally poet – in a manuscript we are told in the foreword was discovered after his death. For those who like to judge a book by its cover, its design features three pressed flowers on a parchment-coloured background bearing faint traces of script, with the same theme continued through to the back in a graphic depiction of its contents. Combined with creamy pages inside, it’s a handsome book to own and shelve.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

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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Tipping points, Sylvan Thomson

First Lady – From Boyhood to Womanhood: The Incredible Story of New Zealand’s Sex-change Pioneer 
Liz Roberts with Alison Mau
Upstart Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781927262375

Sexual Cultures in Aotearoa New Zealand Education
Alexandra C Gunn and Lee A Smith (eds)
Otago University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781877578687

2014 was the transgender tipping point. At least that’s what Time Magazine declared, with its front cover featuring the transgender actress Laverne Cox poised mid-step, svelte and powerful, beside the subheading “Men cannot become women. Women cannot become men”. This heading  – possibly perplexing to those unfamiliar with transgender issues – is part of the media’s growing sensitivity towards trans identities: if someone born male wants to be a woman, then they always were a woman; it is society that categorised them as a man.

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Posted in Gender, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

From the sidelines, Michele A’Court

Dan Carter: My Story
Dan Carter with Duncan Greive
Upstart Press, $50.00
ISBN 9781927262382

Here’s a crazy idea – get someone who doesn’t give a toss about rugby to review the autobiography of the world’s greatest rugby union fly-half. Madness.

Dan Carter: My Story has featured on the bestseller lists since it was launched just days after the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup win last October – the game (spoiler alert) New Zealand won, in which Dan Carter kicked four penalties, two conversions and a drop goal, and was named the Man of the Match. A game I didn’t watch. (I know – handing in my New Zealand passport now.) But, after initial hesitation, I figured Carter, his writing collaborator Duncan Greive, and their book, would cheerfully survive no matter what I thought. It seemed that me reviewing it was a risk that wouldn’t involve a knockout win or loss for anyone.

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Posted in Autobiography, Non-fiction, Review and Sport

Acts political, Vanda Symon

Paul Thomas
Upstart Press, $35.00, ISBN 9781927262016

Where the Dead Men Go
Liam McIlvanney
Faber & Faber, $25.00, ISBN 9780571239863

New Zealand crime fiction is going from strength to strength, with great work being published by old favourites as well as the up-and-coming. This pair of novels by writers Paul Thomas and Liam McIlvanney explore the minefield of the political realm to underpin their stories.

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