In March, we introduced a new service: the Reading Doctor. Read more about Dr Louise here. And do feel free to request further prescriptions, as needed!
Prescription #13: books with a sense of place
I've just finished Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall and loved the way the small South Island setting was as important as a human character in the book. Can you recommend other New Zealand books that have a really strong sense of place?
Fiona Farrell’s pair of books set in post-quake Christchurch, one non-fiction – The Villa at the Edge of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City – and one fiction – Decline and Fall on Savage Street – are not only documentaries specific to a time and place in New Zealand history, but also testament to the ways in which art emerges from tragedy.
In The Bone People, the Booker Prize-winning novel by Keri Hulme, the wild beaches of the West Coast of the South Island are a setting which also represent the bleak isolation of the characters who inhabit them.
The wide world of sand and ocean and sky on Northland’s Ninety Mile Beach is the landscape of James George’s Hummingbird, in which three strangers are thrown together.
Life in Hokitika Town is the backdrop for Charlotte Randall’s story about a “coin boy” during the height of the gold rush, one of a cast of characters who have come to the West Coast to make their fortunes.
Another West Coast gold rush novel is Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, currently screening on our television screens in luscious technicolour.
Somes Island, in Wellington Harbour, is where Josef Mandl is interned as a dangerous alien during WWII, in Maurice Gee’s Live Bodies, a far cry from the Vienna of his childhood.
The people of Whangara, on the East Coast of the North Island, claim descent from The Whale Rider, in Witi Ihimaera’s novel, in which a young girl discovers that she has a sacred gift.
A particular slice of wealthy and pretentious Auckland society is the milieu for Charlotte Grimshaw’s interconnected books, Opportunity, Singularity, The Night Book and Soon.
A Māori community struggles for survival against the attempts of land developers to coerce and bully them from their ancestral land in Patricia Grace’s Potiki, winner of the New Zealand Book Awards in 1987.
Lifting offers a familiar portrait of Wellington, in which Amy works as a store detective in a grand department store, in the novel by Damien Wilkins.
Eastbourne is immortalised in Katherine Mansfield’s short story At the Bay, a work of literary impressionism written from abroad.