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Grimshaw, Charlotte
Writer's File

Charlotte Grimshaw

Auckland - Tāmaki Makaurau
Grimshaw, Charlotte
In brief
Charlotte Grimshaw is a critically acclaimed fiction writer and an award-winning reviewer. She has received a range of significant national and international awards and prizes since the release of her debut novel Provocation in 1999. Grimshaw's short fiction has been widely anthologized, and she won the 2006 Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Award. Grimshaw was awarded a Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship in 2000, and her first short story collection Opportunity (2007) won the Fiction Award in the 2008 Montana Book Awards. Both Opportunity and her later collection Singularity (2009) were shortlisted for the prestigious Frank O’Connor Short Story Award, in 2007 and 2009 respectively. In 2022, her bestselling memoir, The Mirror Book, was shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.


Grimshaw, Charlotte (1966 - ) is a novelist whose first book, Provocation (1999), draws on her experience as a criminal lawyer. While not a thriller in the strictest sense, Provocation makes use of many elements of the genre, with suspense, violent crime and legal drama featuring in the story. It has been well received in the UK - where it was first published - and in New Zealand. English novelist Sarah Dunant describes Provocation as ‘atmospheric, intelligent and seductively strange...leads you into a slow-burning nightmare.’

In the Review of New Zealand Books Catherina Van Bohemen wonders, ‘Could a title such as Provocation be slipped alongside Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice? Charlotte Grimshaw sprawls beyond Austen’s famous ‘two inches of ivory’...but Stella is arguably on the same path to self-knowledge as Anne Elliot and Elizabeth Bennett.’

Of the text, The Times reviewed: ‘Grimshaw shows a level of accomplishment unusual in a first-time writer, her shiny diamond-hard prose suiting her subject matter perfectly. A deliciously dark treat.’ The Irish Examiner echoes these sentiments, noting that ‘Provocation is a compelling read and Grimshaw’s prose is magnificent. First fiction just doesn’t get any better than this.’

Guilt (2000), Grimshaw’s second novel, follows the lives of four characters in 1987 Auckland. As the title suggests, it explores the phenomenon of guilt and the damage that people can inadvertently inflict on one another. ‘Some pages are so breathtakingly exquisitely good that you really feel like you’re bearing witness to a virtuoso talent flexing her muscles’ commented The Good Book Guide UK.

Grimshaw’s third novel is Foreign City (Random House NZ, 2005). Essentially three novels in one, Foreign City traces the story of a young New Zealand painter living in London as she navigates through two chance encounters that raise questions about identity and creativity: can she really ‘see’ her new city properly - and can she reconcile family life and art?

‘Smart and readable, Foreign City not only cements Grimshaw’s already considerable reputation, it marks her out as exceptional’ writes Louise O’Brien in The Dominion Post. ‘She’s world-class,’ says North and South. ‘A swarming energy pervades every page she writes...her descriptive writing has always been of the highest order. Most of it would work just as well as poetry’ - The New Zealand Listener. ‘Grimshaw builds enormous narrative power through her use of structure, which keeps us guessing, concentrating hard, until the last page’ - Herald on Sunday.

Grimshaw was awarded a Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship in 2000. She has also contributed to the following anthologies: Myth of the 21st Century (Reed 2006); The Best New Zealand Fiction Volumes Two, Three, Four and Five (Vintage); The New Zealand Book of the Beach Volumes One and Two (David Ling); Some Other Country (Victoria University Press); and Second Violins (Vintage, 2008).

Grimshaw has been a double finalist and prize winner in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition. In 2006 she was awarded the Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Award for her short story ‘Plane Sailing’ which judges described as ‘clever, serious, amusing, superbly crafted and wonderfully sly.’ The annual Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Awards are one of New Zealand’s longest-running creative writing awards and were launched to help new writers achieve recognition in their country.

In 2007, Grimshaw won a place in the Book Council’s Six Pack Prize for her short story, ‘The Yard Broom’, which was published in The Six Pack Volume Two.

Opportunity, a collection of short stories, was published by Random House in 2007. Opportunity is a series of stories that can be read separately, but contribute to a unified whole. The author says it is ‘a novel with a large cast of characters...each story stands by itself, and at the same time adds to the larger one.'

In 2007, Opportunity was short-listed for the world’s richest short fiction prize, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. In 2007, she was also short-listed for the prize of Montana River Reviewer of the Year.

In 2008, she received the Montana Award for Fiction and the Montana Medal for Fiction or Poetry at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards for Opportunity.

In their report, the Montana Judges praised Opportunity for its stories ‘packed full of drama, surprising turns and compelling characters.’ The judges considered Opportunity ‘the most structurally sophisticated book of fiction submitted...Its stories offer reflections on the art of writing and story-telling, its structure and its self-awareness don’t compromise the more traditional pleasures of its structure it resembles the work of Tim Winton; in its stylistic compression it shows hints of Jorge Luis Borges; like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway it offers an uncompromising but tender portrait of a city.’

Charlotte Grimshaw was awarded the 2008 Montana Prize for Reviewer of the Year in recognition of her fiction reviews in the NZ Listener.

Singularity, which is a companion volume to Opportunity, was published in 2009 by Random House New Zealand and Jonathan Cape in the UK. Singularity was short-listed for The Cork City - Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award in 2009.

Grimshaw’s novel The Night Book was published by Random House New Zealand in 2010. Roza’s quiet, orderly life is about to be changed forever: in a few months there will be an election, and she may soon become the Prime Minister's wife – but a chance encounter with party donor Simon Lampton sparks a chain of consequences that will bring turmoil to both their lives. The Night Book was a finalist in the Fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2011.

Charlotte Grimshaw was interviewed by Nicholas Reid in the anthology Words Chosen Carefully, edited by Siobhan Harvey (Cape Catley Ltd, 2010).

Soon (Random House New Zealand) was published in New Zealand in 2012 by Random House NZ, and in the UK in 2013 by Jonathan Cape. Grimshaw's exhilaratingly gripping and clever narrative traces the lives of its beautiful people as they jostle for position in their leader's court. This humane and capacious novel, generous and faithful to its characters in ways that they are not to each other, articulates the ancient idea that to be moral is an act of consciousness, and an exertion of will.

Grimshaw's novel Starlight Peninsula was published by Penguin Random House in July 2015. The storyline traces the life of Eloise as she undergoes a marital break-up and is plunged into a traumatic episode from her past. Like in her previous works Opportunity, Singularity, The Night Book and Soon, the character of Simon Lampton appears in the narrative of Starlight Peninsula. Pip Adam of Metro Magazine writes: "watching events unfold in Starlight Peninsula from both inside and outside [Eloise's] understanding is an extremely exciting experience. Her real-time reflections of Simon Lampton as they discuss the death of Eloise's ex-partner provided me with some of the most thrilling and nail-biting reading I've done." Starlight Peninsula was a finalist for the 2016 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.

Mazarine was published by Penguin Random House in April 2018. Set in Auckland, London, Paris and Buenos Aires, Mazarine is a literary thriller about families, terrorism, surveillance and disconnection in the lead-up to the election of Trump.

In 2019, Grimshaw's novels The Night Book and Soon were adapted into the television series The Bad Seed. The Night Book and Soon have been republished as an omnibus edition by Penguin Random House, titled The Bad Seed.

Grimshaw's best-selling memoir, The Mirror Book, was shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. The judge's report states 'The prose in Charlotte Grimshaw's The Mirror Book is exquisitely precise in its navigation of the complexity of the author's family dynamics.'

In a review for the Academy of New Zealand Literature, Rachael King writes 'The Mirror Book is a fascinating portrait of not only a family, but the writing process. How we magpie material (go and make a story out of it) and what we build from it — and at whose expense? And where the line between fact and fiction is drawn... The writing in this memoir is astounding.'