I’m holding a special afternoon tea event at the historic Totara Estate in Oamaru on February 14. Tickets are $25 per person (includes a delectable damson-flavoured afternoon tea). To book, phone (03) 433 1269 or email email@example.com.
I’m holding a special afternoon tea event at the historic Totara Estate in Oamaru on February 14. Tickets are $25 per person (includes a delectable damson-flavoured afternoon tea). To book, phone (03) 433 1269 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need something to read? Here are 78 excellent books, as recommended by me and my Facebook friends. This list was compiled on Facebook, and is reprinted here for our mutual convenience and consideration over the coming months! I’ve stuck to books published last year or in the previous year or two and nicked the descriptions off the net to give you some idea of their plots. In no particular order:
1. Boy swallows universe, by Trent Dalton
An utterly wonderful debut novel of love, crime, magic, fate and a boy’s coming of age, set in 1980s Australia and infused with the originality, charm, pathos, and heart of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
2. The Heart’s Invisible Furies, by John Boyne
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more. In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.
3. A Ladder to the Sky, by John Boyne
The new novel from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Heart’s Invisible Furies, a seductive Highsmithian psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of fame.
4. Happiness, by Aminatta Forna
A stunning novel bringing an American scientist and a Ghanaian psychologist together in London in a hunt for a missing boy–and an expansive, subtle tale of loss, hope, love, compassion, culture…” (And foxes and coyotes.)
5. Take Nothing with You by Patrick Gale
Leaving your childhood behind is easier said than done. Take Nothing With You is a sad-funny comedy of resilience and survival. Fifty-something Eustace, a gay Londoner of leisure, realises in the same week that he has fallen hopelessly in love with a man he has yet to meet in the flesh, and that he has cancer of the thyroid.
6. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is set in a remote village in south-west Poland and follows an eccentric woman as she describes events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. When members of a local hunting club are subsequently found murdered, she becomes involved in the investigation. (This sounds right up my alley!)
7. Lambs of God, by Marele Day
Three eccentric, secluded nuns live on a remote island, forgotten by time and the Church – until a priest unwittingly happens upon them. He is as surprised to see the nuns as they are to see a flesh-and-blood man, and what follows is the strange, moving, and often hilarious story of their struggle – a struggle of wills, and of faith.
8. Lenny’s Book Of Everything, by Karen Foxlee
Lenny’s younger brother has a rare form of gigantism and while Lenny’s fiercely protective, it isn’t always easy being the sister of ‘the giant’. A book about finding good in the bad that will break your heart while raising your spirits in the way that only a classic novel can.
9. The tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners. Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism–but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. (Based on a true-ish story.)
10. Once Upon A River, by Diane Setterfield
A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child. Hours later the dead girl stirs. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science? Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.
11. Wild Swans: Three daughters of China, by Jung Chang
An oldie (from 1991) but a goodie if you haven’t read it. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is a family history that spans a century, recounting the lives of three female generations in China, by Chinese writer Jung Chang. First published in 1991, Wild Swans contains the biographies of her grandmother and her mother, then finally her own autobiography. The book won two awards: the 1992 NCR Book Award and the 1993 British Book of the Year. The book has been translated into 37 languages and sold over 20 million copies.
12. The Garden in the Clouds: from derelict smallholding to mountain paradise, by Antony Woodward
First published in 2010. A warm, witty memoir of one man’s escape from the city in an unlikely quest to create out of a mountainous Welsh landscape a garden fit for inclusion in the prestigious Yellow Book – the ‘Gardens of England and Wales Open for Charity’ guide – in just one year.
13. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
The best-selling novel in the UK last year by about a gazillion copies. Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realises. (I loved it. Wonderful, touching, easy to read in one go.)
14. We Never Asked for Wings, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
How far would you go for your children? Would you lie for them? Flee with them? Let someone else mother them if you thought they would do a better job? As a single parent, Letty does everything for her two children – apart from raise them. Being a mother terrifies her more than she can admit, and so she’s always let her mother take that role. When Maria Elena up and leaves, however, Letty has to confront her fears and become the parent she doesn’t think she can be. Even as she tries to give her children a future, Letty’s teenage son, Alex, struggles to forgive his mother for choices she made in the past. But he and Letty are not so dissimilar, and both are prepared to risk everything for those they love. Honest and compelling, We Never Asked for Wings is about family; it’s about the decisions we take, the mistakes we make, the people we trust and, above all, how – and where – we find love.” (This is on my bedside list; I really enjoyed her previous book The Language of Flowers.)
15. The Lost Man, by Jane Harper
Two brothers meet at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches in the lonely outback. In an isolated belt of Queensland, they are each other’s nearest neighbor, their homes four hours’ drive apart. The third brother lies dead at their feet. Something caused Cam, the middle child who had been in charge of the family homestead, to die alone in the middle of nowhere. So the eldest brother returns with his younger sibling to the family property and those left behind. But the fragile balance of the ranch is threatened. Amidst the grief, suspicion starts to take hold, and the eldest brother begins to wonder if more than one among them is at risk of crumbling as the weight of isolation bears down on them all. Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.
16. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, New York Times Bestseller
A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II, from the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr. Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work. (I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve had this on my shelf for, ahem, three years. Must read it in 2019!)
17. The String Diaries, by Stephen Lloyd Jones
The String Diaries. A jumble of entries, written in different hands, different languages, and different times. They tell of a rumour. A shadow. A killer. The only interest that Oxford Professor Charles Meredith has in the diaries is as a record of Hungarian folklore… until he comes face to face with a myth. For Hannah Wilde, the diaries are a survival guide that taught her the three rules she lives by: verify everyone, trust no one, and if in any doubt, run. But Hannah knows that if her daughter is ever going to be safe, she will have to stop running and face the terror that has hunted her family for five generations. And nothing in the diaries can prepare her for that. An imaginative, tight, edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller which follows an historical mystery through to its nail-biting contemporary conclusion.
18. Normal People, by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s acclaimed novel Normal People was named Waterstones’s book of the year, making the 27-year-old author the youngest recipient of the title ever.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years. This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life. A sparkling new novel from the Young Writer of the Year Award-winning author of Conversations with Friends. (I liked it. But I can’t see what all the fuss is about.)
19. Did You Ever Have a Family, by Bill Clegg
I’m still thinking about this book, three years after it was published. Just loved it. A series of interwoven stories. The stunning debut novel from bestselling author Bill Clegg is a magnificently powerful story about a circle of people who find solace in the least likely of places as they cope with a horrific tragedy. On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is upended when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. June is the only survivor. Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.
20. A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines
A Lesson Before Dying is Ernest J. Gaines’ eighth novel, published in 1993. While it is a fictional work, it is loosely based on the true story of Willie Francis, a young Black man sentenced to death by the electric chair twice in Louisiana, in 1945 and 1947.
21. The North Water, by Ian McGuire
A 19th-century whaling ship sets sail for the Arctic with a killer aboard in this dark, sharp, and highly original tale that grips like a thriller. Behold the man: Stinking, drunk, brutal and bloodthirsty, Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaling ship bound for the hunting waters of the Arctic Circle. Also aboard is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to embark as ship’s medic on this ill-fated voyage. In India during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which a man can stoop and imagined he’d find respite on the Volunteer, but now, trapped in the wooden belly of the ship with Drax, he encounters pure evil and is forced to act. As the true purposes of the expedition become clear, the confrontation between the two men plays out in the freezing darkness of an Arctic winter.
22. Love Is Blind, by William Boyd
This is William Boyd’s sweeping, heart-stopping new novel. Set at the end of the 19th century, it follows the fortunes of Brodie Moncur, a young Scottish musician, about to embark on the story of his life. When Brodie is offered a job in Paris, he seizes the chance to flee Edinburgh and his tyrannical clergyman father, and begin a wildly different new chapter in his life. In Paris, a fateful encounter with a famous pianist irrevocably changes his future – and sparks an obsessive love affair with a beautiful Russian soprano, Lika Blum. Moving from Paris to St Petersburg to Edinburgh and back again, Brodie’s love for Lika and its dangerous consequences pursue him around Europe and beyond, during an era of overwhelming change as the nineteenth century becomes the twentieth.
Love is Blind is a tale of dizzying passion and brutal revenge; of artistic endeavour and the illusions it creates; of all the possibilities that life can offer, and how cruelly they can be snatched away. At once an intimate portrait of one man’s life and an expansive exploration of the beginning of the twentieth century, Love is Blind is a masterly new novel from one of Britain’s best loved storytellers.
23. The Only Story, by Julian Barnes
Financial Times Best Book of the Year. One summer in the sixties, in a staid suburb south of London, nineteen-year-old Paul comes home from university and is urged by his mother to join the tennis club. There he’s partnered with Susan Macleod, a fine player who’s forty-eight, confident, witty, and married, with two nearly adult daughters. She is a warm companion, her bond with Paul immediate. And soon, inevitably, they are lovers. Basking in the glow of one another, they set up house together in London. Decades later, Paul looks back at how they fell in love and how—gradually, relentlessly—everything fell apart. As he turns over his only story in his mind, examining it from different vantage points, he finds himself confronted with the contradictions and slips of his own memory—and the ways in which our narratives and our lives shape one another. Poignant, vivid and profound, The Only Story is a searing novel of memory, devotion, and how first love fixes a life forever. (This is short but really good.)
24. The Sealwoman’s Gift, by Sally Magnusson
In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.
In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Ásta, the pastor’s wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head. Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland, she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity, but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of loving.
The Sealwoman’s Gift is about the eternal power of story telling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories – Icelandic ones told to fend off a slave-owner’s advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die. And there are others, too: the stories we tell ourselves to protect our minds from what cannot otherwise be borne, the stories we need to make us happy.”
25. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee – a girl who inherited her mother’s bright-blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt, and Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to hold someone accountable. But it’s the youngest in the family, Hannah, who may be the only one who knows what really happened.
26. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
The New York Times Top 10 Best Seller. The brilliant new novel from the author of Everything I Never Told You. Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colours of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.” (Loved it.)
27. Transcription, by Kate Atkinson
In 1940, 18-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realise that there is no action without consequence. Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of this country’s most exceptional writers.
28. On The Java Ridge, by Jock Serong
In Canberra, a federal election looms and Cassius Calvert, Minister for Border Integrity, is facing a new hard-line policy regarding asylum-seekers. Off the Indonesian island of Dana, Isi Natoli, skipper of the Java Ridge, and a group of Australian surf tourists are anchored beside an idyllic reef. A few kilometres away, Roya and her mother are amongst the passengers fleeing persecution aboard the Talakar. When a storm breaks, these stories collide with chilling consequences.
29. The Shepherd’s Hut, by Tim Winton
Jaxie dreads going home. His mum’s dead. The old man bashes him without mercy, and he wishes he was an orphan. And then, in one terrible moment, his life is stripped to little more than what he can carry and how he can keep himself alive. There’s just one person left in the world who understands him and what he still dares to hope for. But to reach her he’ll have to cross the vast saltlands on a trek that only a dreamer or a fugitive would attempt.
30. Lethal White, by Rober Galbraith
When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic. Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott – once his assistant, now a partner in the agency – set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside. And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been – Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much more tricky than that. The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, Lethal White is the gripping next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.
31. The Year of the Farmer, by Rosalie Ham
In a quiet farming town somewhere in country New South Wales, war is brewing. The last few years have been punishingly dry, especially for the farmers, but otherwise, it’s all Neralie Mackintosh’s fault. If she’d never left town then her ex, the hapless but extremely eligible Mitchell Bishop, would never have fallen into the clutches of the truly awful Mandy, who now lords it over everyone as if she owns the place.
So, now that Neralie has returned to run the local pub, the whole town is determined to reinstate her to her rightful position in the social order. But Mandy Bishop has other ideas. Meanwhile the head of the local water board – Glenys ‘Gravedigger’ Dingle – is looking for a way to line her pockets at the expense of hardworking farmers already up to their eyes in debt. And Mandy and Neralie’s war may be just the chance she was looking for… A darkly satirical novel of a small country town battling the elements and one another, from the best-selling author of The Dressmaker.
32. This Mortal Boy, by Fiona Kidman
(Fiona Kidman is a national treasure and I immediately bought this upon hearing her talk about it. Brilliant local non-fictionish novel.) An utterly compelling recreation of the events that led to one of the last executions in New Zealand. Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand. But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society’s reaction to outsiders? Black’s final words, as the hangman covered his head, were, ‘I wish you all a merry Christmas, gentlemen, and a prosperous New Year.’ This is his story.
33. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2018.
Who says you can’t run away from your problems? Arthur Less is a failed novelist about to turn 50. A wedding invitation arrives in the post: it is from an ex-boyfriend of nine years who is engaged to someone else. Arthur can’t say yes – it would be too awkward; he can’t say no – it would look like defeat. So, he begins to accept the invitations on his desk to half-baked literary events around the world. From France to India, Germany to Japan, Arthur almost falls in love, almost falls to his death, and puts miles between him and the plight he refuses to face. Less is a novel about mishaps, misunderstandings and the depths of the human heart.
34. Educated, by Tara Westover
A gripping memoir of home-schooling (un-schooling?) by whackjob parents in the US from a 32-year-old writer who went on to get a PhD at Cambridge. Overachiever! Unsurprisingly, her parents aren’t too keen on her version of events. I really enjoyed this but some bits seem a bit far-fetched.
Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist. As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At 16 Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, from her singular experience Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.
35. Priestdaddy, by Patricia Lockwood
Similar to Educated, but really funny and elegantly written. Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met – a man who lounges in boxer shorts, who loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates “like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972”. His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the church’s country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents’ rectory, their two worlds collide. Lockwood pivots from the raunchy to the sublime, from the comic to the deeply serious, exploring issues of belief, belonging, and personhood. Priestdaddy is an entertaining, unforgettable portrait of a deeply odd religious upbringing and how one balances a hard-won identity with the weight of family and tradition.
36. You, by Caroline Kepnes
Gone Girl meets Fatal Attraction. When aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works, he is instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: tough, razor-smart, and sexier than his wildest dreams. He’d kill to have her. Soon Beck can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom made for her. When a string of macabre incidents tears her world apart, there is only one person she can turn to. But there’s more to Joe than Beck realizes and much more to Beck than her perfect facade. The obsessive relationship quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences. A chilling account of unrelenting, terrifying deceit.
37. The Girl from the Sugar Plantation, by Sharon Maas
(This is also sold as The Sugar Planter’s Daughter.) An unputdownable story about a woman in search of the truth, the man she falls in love with, and the devastation of the Second World War. All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret. Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas. But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts. An utterly compelling and evocative story about the heart-breaking choices men and women had to make during a time of unimaginable change.
38. The Clockmaker’s Daughter, by Kate Morton
In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor in rural Oxfordshire. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.
Over 150 years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river. Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?
Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through it like a river is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.
39. Severance, by Ling Ma
An offbeat and unforgettable apocalyptic satire by a young novelist whose star is on the rise. It’s the early 2010s and a mysterious Shen Fever seems to have killed off almost the entire US population but for a small group of survivors, who have banded together to make their way to a sanctuary near Chicago. Millennial and first-generation American Candace Chen is the last one to join the group. But things are not as they seem and soon she must plot her escape. An original, sharp and funny literary debut that explores themes of belonging, alienation, late-capitalism, overconsumption and the immigrant experience.
40. The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman
Non-fiction. In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds and how it came about. Consider, as Ackerman does, the Clark’s nutcracker, a bird that can hide as many as 30,000 seeds over dozens of square miles and remember where it put them several months later; the mockingbirds and thrashers, species that can store 200 to 2,000 different songs in a brain a thousand times smaller than ours; the well-known pigeon, which knows where it’s going, even thousands of miles from familiar territory; and the New Caledonian crow, an impressive bird that makes its own tools. This elegant scientific investigation and travelogue weaves personal anecdotes with fascinating science.
41. The Versions of Us, by Laura Barnett
Some moments can change your life forever. Have you ever wondered, what if…? A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. On that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life.
Eva and Jim are 19 and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva’s then lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. Lives filled with love, betrayal, ambition but through it all is a deep connection that endures whatever fate might throw at them.
The Versions of Us explores the idea that there are moments when our lives might have turned out differently, the tiny factors or decisions that could determine our fate, and the precarious nature of the foundations upon which we build our lives. It is also a story about the nature of love and how it grows, changes and evolves as we go through the vagaries of life.
42. Barkskins, by Annie Proulx
Barkskins is a 2016 novel by American writer Annie Proulx. It tells the story of two immigrants to New France, René Sel and Charles Duquet, and of their descendants. It spans over 300 years and witnesses the deforestation of the New World from the arrival of Europeans into the contemporary era of global warming. In the late 17th century, two illiterate woodsmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, make their way from Northern France to New France to seek a living. Bound to a feudal lord, a seigneur, for three years in exchange for land, they suffer extraordinary hardship, always in awe of the forest they are charged with clearing, sometimes brimming with dreams of its commercial potential.
43. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
Shortlisted for: Popular Fiction Book of the Year – Specsavers National Book Awards 2012. This one will make you sob like a baby. The film is charming too.
Lou Clark knows a lot of things. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop, and she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live, and now everything feels small and joyless. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.
44. The Ice Shelf, by Ann Kennedy
Kiwi author. On the eve of flying to Antarctica to take up an arts fellowship, thirty-something Janice, recently separated, has a long night of remembrance, regret and realisation as she goes about the city looking for a friend to take care of her fridge while she’s away. En route she discards section after section of her novel in the spirit of editing until there is nothing left to edit. The Ice Shelf, a novel written as Acknowledgements, is an allegory for the dangers of wasting love and other non-renewable resources.
45. Shadows on the Nile, by Kate Furnivall
1932, London. 27-year-old Jessica Kenton’s stable life is torn apart when her younger brother, Timothy, vanishes. Vowing to find him, she follows Timothy’s trail to the lush and exotic lands of Egypt but she doesn’t expect the danger she is confronted with. There are powerful people who do not want her brother found but not everything is as it seems.
46. Past Tense, by Lee Child
From number one best seller Lee Child, the thrilling new blockbuster featuring hero Jack Reacher. Reacher, the eternal drifter, happens by chance on the small New Hampshire town he remembers his father was supposed to have come from. But when he starts looking for his dad’s old home, he finds there’s no record of anyone named Reacher ever having lived there.
47. Gabriel’s Bay, by Catherine Robertson
Kiwi author (she’s super groovy).
A heart-warming, thoroughly entertaining novel about a whole community. Kerry Macfarlane has run away from his wedding-that-wasn’t. He lands in coastal Gabriel’s Bay, billed as ‘a well-appointed small town’ on its website (last updated two decades ago). Here Kerry hopes to prove he’s not a complete failure. Or, at least, to give his most convincing impression. But Gabriel’s Bay has its own problems – low employment, no tourists, and a daunting hill road between it and civilisation. And Kerry must also run the gauntlet of its inhabitants- Sidney, single mother deserted by a feckless ex; Mac, the straight-shooting doctor’s receptionist; a team of unruly nine-year-olds; a giant restaurateur; and the local progressive association, who’ll debate apostrophe placement until the crack of doom. Can Kerry win their respect, and perhaps even love? Will his brilliant plan to transform the town’s fortunes earn him a lasting welcome in Gabriel’s Bay?
48. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou
This is from the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category. The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers. In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.
49. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
Embarrassed to admit that I’ve bought it and been meaning to read this for two years. Maybe this year! Winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
Born in Dickens, Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in his father’s racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father’s memoir will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed, he discovers there never was a memoir. Fuelled by despair, he sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.
50. Frieda: a Novel of the Real Lady Chatterley, by Annabel Apps
The moving story of Frieda von Richthofen, wife of D. H. Lawrence – and the real-life inspiration for Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a novel banned for more than 30 years.
Germany, 1907. Frieda, daughter of aristocrat Baron von Richthofen, has rashly married English professor Ernest Weekley. Visiting her family in Munich, a city alive with new ideas of revolution and free love, and goaded by a toxic sibling rivalry with her sisters, Frieda embarks on a passionate affair that is her sensual and intellectual awakening.
England, 1912. Trapped in her marriage to Ernest, Frieda meets the penniless but ambitious young writer D. H. Lawrence, a man whose creative energy answers her own needs. Their scandalous affair and tempestuous relationship unleashes a creative outpouring that will change the course of literature – and society – forever. But for Frieda, this fulfilment comes at a terrible personal cost. A stunning novel of emotional intensity, Frieda tells the story of an extraordinary woman – and a notorious love affair that became synonymous with ideas of sexual freedom.
51. My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tennant
A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming book about one 14-year-old girl’s heart-stopping fight for her own soul. At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall; that chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it; that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. She doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school;
why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see; why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done; and what her daddy will do when he finds out…. (This is great, but a bit challenging having it read aloud as an audiobook!)
52. Curious charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick
Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.
But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met—a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places. Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities.
53. Light is the New Black: A Guide to Answering Your Soul’s Callings and Working Your Light, by Rebecca Campbell
A self-help guide from 2015. Follow what lights you up, and you’ll light up the world. Light Is the New Black is a guidebook for a new breed of women who are here to be bright lights in the world – modern-day lightworkers, who agreed to be here at this time in history.
54. The Choice: Embrace the Possible, by Edith Eva Eger
Even in hell, hope can flower. ‘One of those rare and eternal stories you don’t want to end and that leave you forever changed’ – Desmond Tutu
‘A masterpiece of holocaust literature. Her memoir, like her life, is extraordinary, harrowing and inspiring in equal measure’ – The Times Literary Supplement
In 1944, sixteen-year-old ballerina Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents on arrival, she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive. The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her learn to live again with a life-affirming strength and a truly remarkable resilience. The Choice is her unforgettable story. It shows that hope can flower in the most unlikely places.
55. Everybody’s Son, by Thrity Umrigar
The bestselling, critically acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The World We Found deftly explores issues of race, class, privilege, and power and asks us to consider uncomfortable moral questions in this probing, ambitious, emotionally wrenching novel of two families—one black, one white.
During a terrible heat wave in 1991—the worst in a decade—ten-year-old Anton has been locked in an apartment in the projects, alone, for seven days, without air conditioning or a fan. With no electricity, the refrigerator and lights do not work. Hot, hungry, and desperate, Anton shatters a window and climbs out. Cutting his leg on the broken glass, he is covered in blood when the police find him.
Juanita, his mother, is discovered in a crack house less than three blocks away, nearly unconscious and half-naked. When she comes to, she repeatedly asks for her baby boy. She never meant to leave Anton—she went out for a quick hit and was headed right back, until her drug dealer raped her and kept her high. Though the bond between mother and son is extremely strong, Anton is placed with child services while Juanita goes to jail.
The Harvard-educated son of a US senator, Judge David Coleman is a scion of northeastern white privilege. Desperate to have a child in the house again after the tragic death of his teenage son, David uses his power and connections to keep his new foster son, Anton, with him and his wife, Delores—actions that will have devastating consequences in the years to come.
Following in his adopted family’s footsteps, Anton, too, rises within the establishment. But when he discovers the truth about his life, his birth mother, and his adopted parents, this man of the law must come to terms with the moral complexities of crimes committed by the people he loves most.
56. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the #1 New York Times bestseller is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
57. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as seven other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.
58. Driving to Treblinka: A Long Search for a Lost Father, by Diana Wichtel
2018 Ockham Award winner (NZ Book Awards). A must read.
Diana Wichtel was born in Vancouver. Her mother was a New Zealander, her father a Polish Jew who had jumped off a train to the Treblinka death camp and hidden from the Nazis until the end of the war. When Diana was 13 she moved to New Zealand with her mother, sister and brother. Her father was to follow. Diana never saw him again.Growing up in New Zealand she gave her father little thought, but later in her life troubling questions began to emerge. What had happened to him? Why had he not re-joined the family? Diana’s quest took her around the world as she tracked down long-lost relatives, historians, archivists – anyone who might know something about her father, and about the members of his family who had been trapped in the Warsaw ghetto. Painstakingly, with extensive research and numerous interviews, she discovered the truth.The story of Diana’s search is also a moving meditation on how none of us can know who we really are until we confront and understand our past, no matter how painful.
59. The Butcher’s Hook, by Janet Ellis
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize 2016. The debut novel by actress and presenter Janet Ellis, The Butcher’s Hook is the dark and unexpected tale of a young girl in 18th-century London determined to take her life in her own hands. No matter the cost. Anne Jaccob is coming of age in late 18th-century London. When she is taken advantage of by her tutor – and her father’s great friend – her powerlessness in the world is brought home to her. And it joins several other formative experiences in her short life so far that will serve to dictate her future actions. Her saviour appears in the form of Fub, the butcher’s boy. But will what she learns in his company actually be her salvation or her damnation? This is a book in which the panoramas and filthy streets of the city, the colour and bear-baiting of St Bartholomew’s Fair, the nobility and the hypocrisy of learning and piety, the excitement and envy of love and obsession, and the visceral rites of passage of passion and death are all gloriously celebrated and scrutinised.
60. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan
Memoir. A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker writer. Barbarian Days is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying listeners with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.
61. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund
Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of carrying only opinions for which you have strong supporting facts. When asked simple questions about global trends – why the world’s population is increasing; how many young women go to school; how many of us live in poverty – we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers. In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and a man who can make data sing, Hans Rosling, together with his two longtime collaborators Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens and reveals the 10 instincts that distort our perspective. It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most. Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world.
62. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V Higgins
When small-time gunrunner Eddie Coyle is convicted on a felony, he’s looking at three years in the pen – that is, unless he sells out one of his big-fish clients to the DA. But which of the many hoods, gunmen and executioners he calls his friends should he send up river? Set on the mean streets of Boston and told almost entirely in crackling dialogue by a vivid cast of cops and lowlifes, The Friends of Eddie Coyle set a standard for authentically gritty crime fiction that has never been bettered.
63. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
The Times Book of the Year 2017, A Sunday Times Book of the Year 2017
A Mail on Sunday Book of the Year 2017, A Daily Express Book of the Year 2017
An Irish Times Book of the Year 2017. On 21 June 1922, Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely. But instead of his usual suite, he must now live in an attic room while Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval. Can a life without luxury be the richest of all?
64. My Life, My Fight by Steven Adams (co-written by the hilarious Spinoff writer Madeleine Chapman)
For the first time, Steven Adams shares the story behind his meteoric rise from Rotorua to his emerging stardom in the NBA. Adams overcame the odds to become a top prospect in the 2013 NBA draft. From there he went on to secure a four-year contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder – making him New Zealand’s highest-paid sportsperson ever – and forge a reputation for his intense, physical style of basketball. In this intimate account of his life story so far, the seven-foot centre reflects on his humble upbringing, the impact of his father’s death when he was just 13, the multiple challenges and setbacks he has faced, early career-defining moments, and what basketball means to him. Told with warmth, humour and humility, My Life, My Fight is a gripping account from one of New Zealand’s most admired sporting stars.
65. From Cradle to Stage, Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars, by Virginia Hanlon Grohl
(This is a cool read. She was afraid her son would be snatched up by man-eating Madonna!) Virginia Grohl, mother of Dave Grohl, had not seen any of it coming. Not the arenas of screaming fans, not Nirvana or the Foo Fighters, not the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and certainly not her son, Dave, performing with Sir Paul McCartney at the White House. But when Virginia saw Nirvana play for the first time to crazed applause from thousands of screaming fans, she knew nothing would ever be the same. She was the mother of a rock star. And as Virginia watched her son’s star rise, she often wondered about the other mothers who raised sons and daughters who became rock stars. Were they as surprised as she was about their children’s fame?
So began a two-year odyssey where she had conversations with such women from all over the world, such as Verna Griffin, Dr Dre’s mother; Carolyn Williams, Pharrell Williams’ mother; Janis Winehouse, Amy Winehouse’s mother; Patsy Noah, Adam Levine’s mother; Donna Haim, mother to the Haim sisters; and Hester Diamond, Mike D of the Beastie Boys’ mother, to name just a few. From Cradle to Stage will appeal to mothers everywhere but particularly to those with children who march (or play) to the beat of their own drum; and it’s for those children who have their mothers to thank for everything. For music lovers and rock fans, it’s the ultimate backstage pass – for anyone who has wondered what it’s like to be on the inside, looking out at a packed arena.
66. Ngā Tama Toa: The Price of Citizenship (28th Māori Battalion), by Monty Soutar
Non-fiction. Nga Tama Toa: The Price of Citizenship offers a truly unique insight into the impact the Second World War had on the iwi of the Tairawhiti district (on the east coast of the North Island) focusing on the region’s war effort not only overseas, but also at home and in government. Through personal recollections, eyewitness accounts, numerous anecdotes and highly illustrated throughout, the book tells the fascinating story of the Battalion’s war. It captures the special ‘spirit’ of the Maori Battalion, which became renowned for its courage and daring in battle, as well as for its contribution in manpower to the war effort — of the 3600 men who served in the Maori Battalion, a quarter were from Tairawhiti. It’s an amazing story, at times heart-rending, at times heart-warming, and it allows the voices of those who were actually there to be heard on almost every page.
67. The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman
Good book but terrible movie! Tom is a World War I veteran who maintains a lighthouse off the shore of Australia with his wife Isabel, a woman desperate to have a baby. Her prayers are answered when an infant washes up on shore in a rowboat. Tom thinks they should notify the authorities but ultimately gives in to Isabel’s wish to keep the girl. Fate strikes again when the couple meet the child’s biological mother on the mainland. Now, Tom and Isabel must make a decision that will forever affect the lives of four people.
68. The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart, by Emily Nunn
Non-fiction. In the tradition of Elizabeth Gilbert and Ruth Reichl, former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn chronicles her journey to heal old wounds and find comfort in the face of loss through travel, home-cooked food, and the company of friends and family. One life-changing night, reeling from her beloved brother’s sudden death, a devastating breakup with her handsome engineer fiance and eviction from the apartment they shared, Emily Nunn had lost all sense of family, home, and financial security. After a few glasses of wine, heartbroken and unmoored, Emily – an avid cook and professional food writer -poured her heart out on Facebook. The next morning she woke up with an awful hangover and a feeling she’d made a terrible mistake, only to discover she had more friends than she knew, many of whom invited her to come visit and cook with them while she put her life back together. Thus began the Comfort Food Tour.
69. Tangerine, by Christine Mangan
Set in 1950s Morocco, Tangerine is a gripping psychological literary thriller. The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the horrific accident at Bennington, the two friends – once inseparable roommates – haven’t spoken in over a year. But Lucy is standing there, trying to make things right. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy, always fearless and independent, helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.
But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice – she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind. Tangerine is an extraordinary debut, so tightly wound, so evocative of 1950s Tangier, and so cleverly plotted that it will leave you absolutely breathless.
70. The Wife Between Us, by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks
A New York Times top-ten bestseller. ‘A fiendishly clever thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. It’s about a jealous wife, obsessed with her replacement. It’s about a younger woman set to marry the man she loves. The first wife seems like a disaster; her replacement is the perfect woman. You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships. You will be wrong.
71. Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver
2016 Vineland. Meet Willa Knox, a woman who stands braced against the vicissitudes of her shattered life and family – and the crumbling house that contains her. 1871 Vineland. Thatcher Greenwood, the new science teacher, is a fervent advocate of the work of Charles Darwin, and he is keen to communicate his ideas to his students. But those in power in Thatcher’s small town have no desire for a new world order. Thatcher and his teachings are not welcome. Both Willa and Thatcher resist the prevailing logic. Both are asked to pay a high price for their courage. A testament to the power and goodness of human spirit, Unsheltered explores the foundations we build, crossing time and place to give us all a little more hope in those around us, and a little more faith in ourselves.
72. Orphan X, by Gregg Hurwitz
The book centres around the character Evan Smoak. At the age of 12, he was enrolled in a top-secret operation known as the “Orphan Program.” He is the 24th recruit in the program and is known only as Orphan X. The goal of the program is to train orphans so they can be assassins for government agencies. The program is shut down but Orphan X maintains access to the program’s funding and weapons. In his 30s, Smoak begins freelancing as an assassin, using his skills to fight corruption in the form of vigilante justice.For each person he helps, he tells them to pay it forward by giving someone in need of help his phone number.During his adventures, he discovers that former Orphan agents have also begun freelancing and are trying to assassinate him.
73. The Antipodeans: A Novel, by Greg McGee
Beginning with the return to Venice of an old and sick man determined to confront his past, and accompanied by his daughter who is escaping hers, The Antipodeans spans three generations of a New Zealand family and their interaction with three families of Northern Italy. From Venice to the South Island of New Zealand, from the assassination of a Gestapo commander in the last days of Italian resistance in WWII to contemporary real estate shenanigans in Auckland, from political assassination in the darkest days of the Red Brigade to the vaulting cosmology of particle physics, The Antipodeans is a novel of epic proportions where families from the opposite ends of the earth discover an intergenerational legacy of love and blood and betrayal.
74. Warlight, by Michael Michael Ondaatje
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018. An elegiac, dreamlike novel set in post-WW2 London about memory, family secrets and lies, from the internationally acclaimed author of The English Patient. London, 1945. The capital is still reeling from the war. Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister Rachel are abandoned by their parents who leave the country on business, and are left in the dubious care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. Nathaniel is introduced to The Moth’s band of criminal misfits and is caught up in a series of teenage misadventures, from smuggling greyhounds for illegal dog racing to lovers’ trysts in abandoned buildings at night. But is this eccentric crew really what and who they claim to be? And most importantly, what happened to Nathaniel’s mother? Was her purported reason for leaving true? What secrets did she hide in her past? Years later Nathaniel, now an adult, begins to slowly piece together using the files of intelligence agencies – and through reality, recollection and imagination – the startling truths of puzzles formed decades earlier.
75. The Pretty Delicious Cafe, by Danielle Hawkins
Kiwi author. Food, family and fresh beginnings. On the outskirts of a small New Zealand seaside town, Lia and her friend Anna work serious hours running their restored cafe. The busy season is just around the corner, and there are other things to occupy them. Anna is about to marry Lia’s twin brother, and Lia’s ex-boyfriend seems not to understand it’s over. When a gorgeous stranger taps on Lia’s window near midnight and turns out not to be a serial killer, she feels it’s a promising sign. But the past won’t let them be, and Lia must decide whether events rule her life or she does. The Pretty Delicious Cafe will remind you of those special, good things we love about living. And the food is great. A warm, witty novel, brimming with the trademark romance, friendship and eccentricity that Danielle Hawkins’s fans adore.
76. Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, a New Earth, by Charles Massy
Non fiction. “Is it too late to regenerate the earth? Call of the Reed Warbler shows the way forward for the future of our food supply, our Australian landscape and our planet. This ground-breaking book will change the way we think of, farm and grow food. Author and radical farmer Charles Massy explores transformative and regenerative agriculture and the vital connection between our soil and our health. It is a story of how a grassroots revolution – a true underground insurgency – can save the planet, help turn climate change around, and build healthy people and healthy communities, pivoting significantly on our relationship with growing and consuming food.
Using his personal experience as a touchstone – from an unknowing, chemical-using farmer with dead soils to a radical ecologist farmer carefully regenerating a 2000-hectare property to a state of natural health – Massy tells the real story behind industrial agriculture and the global profit-obsessed corporations driving it. He shows – through evocative stories – how innovative farmers are finding a new way and interweaves his own local landscape, its seasons and biological richness.
At stake is not only a revolution in human health and our communities but the very survival of the planet. For farmer, backyard gardener, food buyer, health worker, policy maker and public leader alike, Call of the Reed Warbler offers a tangible path forward for the future of our food supply, our Australian landscape and our earth. It comprises a powerful and moving paean of hope.
77. Bridge of Clay, by Markus Zusak
(The best-selling author of The Book Thief). The Dunbar boys bring each other up in a house run by their own rules. A family of ramshackle tragedy – their mother is dead, their father has fled – they love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world. It is Clay, the quiet one, who will build a bridge – for his family, for his past, for his sins. He’s building a bridge to transcend humanness. To survive. A miracle and nothing less. Markus Zusak makes his long-awaited return with a profoundly heartfelt and inventive novel about a family held together by stories and a young life caught in the current: a boy in search of greatness as a cure for a painful past.
78. Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan
Winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. A dazzling, original novel of slavery and freedom, from the author of the international bestseller Half-Blood Blues. When two English brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation, they bring with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black – an eleven year-old field slave – is horrified to find himself chosen to live in the quarters of one of these men. But the man is not as Washington expects him to be. His new master is the eccentric Christopher Wilde – naturalist, explorer, inventor and abolitionist – whose obsession to perfect a winged flying machine disturbs all who know him. Washington is initiated into a world of wonder: a world where the night sea is set alight with fields of jellyfish, where a simple cloth canopy can propel a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning – and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed one fateful night, Washington is left to the mercy of his new masters. Christopher Wilde must choose between family ties and young Washington’s life.
My vivacious neighbour Alyson is not my husband’s favourite person. Alyson is a travel agent and furniture importer who specialises in exotic India (this year she brought home a shipping container load of ornate wrought-iron gates, most of which are now installed at Foggydale Farm, hence my hubby’s nervousness at the mere mention of her name!)
Anyway, Alyson and I have put together a blooming awesome itinerary for a two-week fully escorted tour of India next March, taking in all the sights from the Taj Mahal to the Valley of Flowers. Think Eat, Pray, Love… plus Gorgeous Gardens!
Here’s the basic itinerary: 13 nights/14 days, departing Auckland on 20 March 2017, flying Singapore Airlines.
Day 1: Arrive in Mumbai, transfer to our hotel for a two night stay. (Accommodation 4* Deluxe + 5* Heritage Property.) Relax and enjoy some leisure time together.
Day 2: After breakfast, we’ll board a ferry to Elephanta Island, for a 1-hour cruise affording picturesque seaside views. Thereafter, enjoy the city tour of Mumbai visiting Gateway of India (a triumphal arch to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary) with its turrets and intricate latticework carved into yellow basalt stone. We’ll check out the treasures at the Prince of Wales Museum (carefully preserved, this mid-Victorian Gothic-style building was built in 1904 with beautiful gardens); visit Dhobi Ghat and Crawford market.
Day 3: After breakfast, we’ll fly to Jaipur and check into our hotel for a two-night stay. The evening is free to relax at the hotel or explore the Jaipur Bazaar, famous for textiles, jewellery, bangles etc.
Day 4: After an early breakfast, we’ll head out on an excursion to the majestic Amber Fort with a photo stop at Hawa Mahal, poetically known as the “Palace of Winds”. Continue to Amber Fort, the former ancient capital of Jaipur state, a superb example of Rajput architecture. The most enthralling experience of Amber Fort is the gaily decorated elephant ride to the Amber Fort. Later, well take a guided tour of Jaipur city starting with the City Palace Museum, registered in the Guinness Book of Records to contain the biggest silver objects in the world. Conclude your sightseeing with a visit to Jantar Mantar. One of the famed observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh, it is a complex of astronomical instruments, chiselled out of stone.
Day 5: After breakfast, we’ll travel to Agra for a two-night stay. Agra is home to India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal. En-route we’ll visit Abhaneri Stepwell, an ancient village in Rajasthan renowned for its early medieval monuments.
Day 6: We’ll take an early morning visit to the Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays), the epitome of love. Standing on the banks of the river Yamuna, it was built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. This magnificent monument is built around a Charbagh or ‘four garden’ plan, split by watercourses, and reflects the influence of Persian architectural style. Come back to hotel for breakfast, followed by a sightseeing tour of the Agra Fort, built by Emperor Akbar; Itimad-ud-Daulah, nicknamed Baby Taj; a marble factory and then explore the colourful markets.
Day 7: After a leisurely breakfast, check out and travel to Delhi for a two night stay, with the rest of the day at your leisure.
Day 8: Take a guided sightseeing tour of Old & New Delhi. Begin with Old Delhi with a drive past Red Fort Palace to reach Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, built from red sandstone. Between the mosque and Chandni Chowk is a narrow shop-lined street along which you will be transported by cycle rickshaws on your most photogenic journey of the tour. We’ll also visit Khari Baoli, a street in Delhi famous for its wholesale grocery and Asia’s largest wholesale spice market, selling all kinds of spices, nuts, herbs and other food products. In the afternoon, explore New Delhi, which will include photo opportunities at some of the following attractions: the exterior of the Parliament House, the War Memorial Arch (India Gate) and residence of the President of India in New Delhi. Conclude your day with visit to Qutub Minar; being one of the most important landmarks of Delhi, with calligraphically decorated interiors and also inscriptions of verses of the Holy Quran.
Day 9: After breakfast we’ll fly to Srinagar, and be transferred to a traditional Kashmiri houseboat anchored on the prime location of Dal Lake, our accommodation for the next five nights.
Day 10: We travel to Gulmarg, Meadows of Flowers, situated 2,730 metres above sea level. The spring season starts by mid-March so it’s the best time visit Gulmarg. In spring, we will witness the meadows dotted with countless colourful bluebells, daisies, forget-me-nots and buttercups. Gulmarg is a wondrous mountain resort with the world’s highest golf course and also India’s premier ski resort. It’s a relaxed day to soak up the scenic beauty. On arrival, proceed for a local sightseeing tour of Gulmarg that includes a visit to famous nearby attractions. If you’re brave, take the gondola ride… Gulmarg is home to the world’s second highest cable car ride. In the evening, we’ll return to our houseboat.
Day 11: Explore the Dal-Lake, Waterways, Back Waters, Canals, Floating Garden, flower Garden, Vegetable Gardens of the lake area.
Day 12: We’re off to the Srinagar Tulip Festival – Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, on the shores of the famous Dal Lake. The garden looks like a silken carpet of bright coloured sprawling tulips over 5 hectares. The garden now boasts more than 2 million bulbs. Cultural programs, Kashmiri folk songs, sale of local handicrafts, and preparation of traditional Kashmiri cuisine forms an eminent part of the entertainment of visitors during the festival.
Day 13: The morning is free to explore the Tulip Garden, while later in the afternoon we explore the old city and visit Jama Masjid, originally built in 1394 and restored in 1672. As the largest mosque in Kashmir, Jama Masjid has 378 wooden pillars supporting the structure and is so large that it can accommodate thousands of devotees. Another great attraction is the Shah-e-Hamdan situated on the banks of River Jhelum.
Day 14: Enjoy breakfast together at our hotel. The tour concludes with a direct transfer to the Srinagar airport to board our Singapore Airlines flight home.
How much does it cost? A single room is $9790; double is $8490; internal flights $550 and tipping kitty approx $275 per person. For full details, talk to Alyson. Phone 09 292 4400, 021948508 or email: email@example.com
I’m chuffed to announce that advance copies of my new book have just landed, (though I suspect my husband isn’t so chuffed about me chucking all his gear out of our red barn so I could clear enough space to store them!).
Foggydale Farm Jam Sessions is a 50:50 mix of growing and harvesting advice… and recipes for preserving all your homegrown harvests in homemade jams, jellies, compotes & chutneys, just like my Nanas used to make.
You can order copies for $55 (including free P&P anywhere in NZ) and I’ll personally autograph them for good measure. You can pay by credit card, internet banking or post a good old-fashioned cheque.
For more information and to see sample pages from the book, check out my little online store: www.foggydalefarm.co.nz
Happy preserving this summer!
I’ve had a few emails this week about the column I wrote in the Sunday Star-Times about my attempt to make tomato sauce that tastes just like the red stuff. Here’s the story (including the recipe) if you missed it:
It went down like an episode of Breaking Bad. Having made contact with a sympathetic small-town pharmacist, I sidled up to the counter and was handed a paper bag containing a disposable plastic syringe and a small bottle of acetic acid.
I went home, donned a pair of latex gloves, sterilised my stainless steel jam pan, sharpened a knife and embarked on an afternoon of bloody carnage. Obviously I wasn’t cooking a batch of crystal meth but something equally addictive: homemade Wattie’s Tomato Sauce.
In our house, nothing is safe from it. Not a sausage (especially a sausage). Not steak and chips. Not mince on toast. Not bacon and eggs. Not mashed potato nor fried rice nor pasta, including free-range fettuccine from the ovaries of our own chooks.
My husband and children go through a large bottle of Wattie’s Tomato Sauce every week. They are ferociously brand loyal. Not only does Heinz have no place in our home, every time I’ve tried to fob them off with homemade ketchup, they’ve shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
These days, you can find recipes for almost anything on the internet, from Coca Cola to Colonel Sanders’ 11 secret herbs and spices (paprika, onion, celery salt, sage, garlic, allspice, oregano, chilli, black pepper, basil and marjoram, apparently). But on the subject of Wattie’s Tomato Sauce, the world wide web was all but silent.
My search took me deep into the archives of foodlovers.co.nz, where, at 10.59pm on Thursday 7 February, 2008, a lady named Diane shared her half-century-old method with a glowing endorsement: “This IS like Wattie’s and is pure tomato!”
I weighed out Diane’s ingredients on a set of vintage imperial Salter scales: 12lb tomatoes, 2lb sugar, 3oz whole allspice, 3oz salt and 1.5oz glacial acetic acid from the chemist.
The method was just 16 words long: “Boil all except acid for 3 hours then put through blender/mouli. Add acid and bottle.”
Now for a quick chemistry lesson: acetic acid, which Wikipedia hilariously warns against confusing with the ascetic pursuit of abstinence from worldly pleasures, is the compound that makes vinegar smell sharp and taste sour. The acetic acid in vinegar comes from ethanol fermentation – white vinegar is made from leftover lactose from the dairy industry, malt vinegar from barley, cider vinegar from apples, balsamic from grapes, and so on – and is up to 5 per cent acetic acid, whereas glacial acetic acid is 99 per cent pure.
Why this matters, I have now learned, is that when you make sauces and chutneys with vinegar, it takes hours to boil off all that extra liquid, resulting in a dark brown sauce rather than a sea of red. But if you deseed the tomatoes first (the seeds and gel-like pulp also turn brown when boiled for any length of time), and add only two small spoonfuls of acetic acid as opposed to an entire bottle of vinegar, the sauce retains all of its colour and concentrated tomato flavour.
You must, of course, begin with only the beefiest, beautiful tomatoes. I acquired four crates of ‘Spanish Red’tomatoes from Curious Croppers in Clevedon – horticulturists to the stars, or at least the stars of the Auckland restaurant scene. I sliced each meaty tomato in half, plunging my fingers deep into their blood-red flesh and squeezing sensuously until the seedy pulp ejaculated into a bowl (strain and save the juice for Bloody Marys).
I also tinkered a bit with Diane’s recipe, halving the amount of salt and glacial acetic acid (history tells me that Digby Law and his ilk were rather more fond of vinegar than our modern palates) and adding a tablespoon of citric acid just before bottling in hot jars.
Then I assembled a panel of experts for a blind taste test. My husband, self-confessed sauce connoisseur, couldn’t tell the difference, though the kids remained suspicious until I decanted my DIY version into an empty Wattie’s sauce bottle.
“Profit is sweet,” said Sophocles, “even if it comes from deception.”
Remember that childhood game – was it called Memory? – where you were presented with a plate with a bunch of random things on it, then you were given a minute to memorise everything on it before reeling them off to score points?I’d be hopeless playing an adult version of this game with the flowers in my garden. Somehow, the more beautiful something is in bloom, the more likely it is that, while staring point-black at it, I won’t be able to recall its jolly name.
This afternoon, I took a little tiki-tour around my garden with my secateurs, and this is what I found:
1. Blood red abutilons, or Chinese lanterns. Such fabulously underrated shrubs for tucking into the gaps under deciduous trees, and easy to strike from cuttings (according to Julian Matthews). I wonder why these gorgeous, if a little gangly, plants aren’t easier to buy. They must have fallen out of fashion.
2. Annual blue forget-me-nots. Jason’s ex-girlfriend planted these under the silver birches at the end of the driveway, and they return year after year in a chintzy carpet of baby blue. I adore them.
3. Bluebells. The perfect companion for forget-me-nots, with the same provenance.
4. I think this is the cute wee Australian wax flower, Eriostemon myoporoides ‘Profusion’, but I wouldn’t stake my life on it.
5. Dainty white thrift, Armeria maritima ‘Alba’.
6. Dinky English daisies, Bellis perennis. I love, love, love them, even if they hate, hate, hate Auckland’s humid climate.
7. Pansies. Aww, look at their happy little faces.
8. The last of the winter-flowering Primula malacoides.
9. I have no idea what variety these creamy rhododendrons are, but by summer they’re so riddled with thrips that it looks like someone spraypainted their leaves white.
10. Apple blossoms. (We have so many apple trees that I figured I could sacrifice one bunch of ‘Gala’ for a photograph.)
11. False or Mexican orange blossom, Choiysa ternata. Horrible smelling beast, but rather lovely in my white garden. It reminds me that I must seek out a few plants of its posh sibling ‘Aztec Pearl’, which has smaller flowers but millions more of them.
12. It’s one of Murphy’s Laws of Gardening that the more you try to kill something, the stronger and healthier it will grow just to spite you. This pale lilac clematis fits into that category. It was here when I came and I moved it twice, with no thought for its welfare, but each time it bounced back. Meanwhile, every flamboyant ‘Nellie Moser’ and ‘Fireworks’ vine I have bought has met an untimely fate before its first season was out.
13. That teeny tiny blue flower is the very first bud to open on Sisyrinchium ‘Devon Skies’, a grassy little perennial that looks like a constellation of starry blue blooms in full flight in summer.
14. My friend Fiona gave me this one, and I think she said it was a fothergilla?
15. I bought this ti-tree last week because its name is Lynda. Well, close enough. It’s Leptospermum ‘Wiri Linda’, bred by Jack Hobbs.
16. Self-sown honeywort, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’. I have a veritable forest of this stuff, and the bees are going bonkers for it.
17. Gah. Ranunculus. I’m giving up on them. This is my best bloom from over 100 corms. (For scale, notice how it is as small as a sprig of freesias.) I don’t know what the secret to big fat ranunculus is, but I wish someone would tell me!
18. Fabulously fragrant freesias. I have them in red, yellow, white and lilac.
19. Perennial ‘Bowle’s Mauve’ wallflowers are in bloom year-round in the garden in front of our stables. They’re so lovely. A favourite of my Grandma Clarice.
20. Purple-flowered honesty, beloved for its papery moon-like seed heads.
21. The deciduous azalea ‘Sweet Inspiration’, which has a daft name but oodles of beauty in spring. (And fragrance to boot!)
22. False Queen Anne’s Lace, Ammi majus. I’m going to try to dry some of this in summer; apparently the trick is to hang it upright through a mesh screen so that the lacy umbrella-like heads hold their shape.
23. My all-time favourite spring flower, Orlaya grandiflora. A hardy annual that self-seeds like the world’s prettiest weed every year. I wouldn’t be without it.
24. The first of my granny’s bonnets (Aquilegia) to bloom. Can never have too many of these tucked into the corners.
25. This giant white iberis or candytuft is a cracker of a plant. Mine were a gift from a group of generous Taranaki gardeners (when they visited my place a few years back, they “paid” one plant each!)
26. The giant Madeira geranium, Geranium maderense, most commonly has garish hot-pink flowers but this is the refined, and rare, white form. It grows into a 1m-wide bush one year, then smothers itself in flowers the next. Then, more often than not, the blimming thing carks it. You can get it from Terry Hatch at Joy Plants.
27. The first of my (million or so) sweet williams. Yay! I have heaps of old-fashioned tall dianthus for picking.
28. Here’s a show-off shrub. A posh shrub. A fancy-pants, bet-no-one-else-has-it sort of shrub. It’s Calycanthus ‘Hartlage Wine’ and it’s divine. It’s deciduous, so when the spring foliage comes out it’s lavishly lush and lime-green, with sultry blooms of darkest claret. Mine cost $50 each, and were worth every cent. They’re just coming into bloom now.
29. Viburnum ‘Summer Snowflake’, a compact viburnum that gets better every year. I’ve gone a bit mad for viburnums this year, with six new plants sitting in the driveway awaiting planting.
30. The red geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ is an oldie but a goodie, but its new double-flowered electric orange cousin ‘Fireball’ is even better. I think it’s fabulous.
31. The snowball tree, Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’ has flowers of lime that age to pure white. I wish it lasted better in the vase. I suspect you need to treat the stems somehow because mine always hang their heads in shame by the following morning.
32. You’d have to be a miserable so-and-so not to melt a little at the sight of spring poppies. Mine (all self-sown) are mostly red, but also come in baby pink, white, orange and scarlet.
33. One of the very first perennials I ever fell in love with was Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum multiflorum. It grows like a weed in Mum’s garden, and I’m thrilled to report that it’s finally, after a couple of years of desperate coaxing, heading in that direction here too. So graceful it is, like a ballerina but with several dozens pairs of white slippers slung over each arm.
34. Fond. Yes, I’m very fond of the little perennial viola ‘Maggie Mott’. Not awestruck or smitten or infatuated or anything stronger than fond, but there’s nothing wrong with fondness!
35. Verbenas do well here in summer. At least, the ones that Jack Frost doesn’t murder do well. Not sure how these two escaped his attentions last winter.
36. At the end of our driveway there’s an anonymous red carpet rose that manages to bloom in the gloom beneath a copper beech tree. It looks very much like Flower Carpet Red in bloom, except the single flowers are borne from these perfect buttonhole buds.
37. ‘Souvenir de Mme. Leonnie Viennot’ – an old-fashioned rambling rose that’s the perfect choice for any farm gate.
38. The ornamental cherry Prunus ‘Shimidsu Sakura’ has these flouncy fat blossoms, but it’s hit and miss here. My two trees only have about half a dozen clusters of blossoms each because the rotten rosellas eat them.
39. This is the best dark purple lavender. And I’d love to tell you its name but I can’t because I’ve forgotten it. I think it was in the Bee series. But then again, perhaps it was just a random purchase. I’ll never know.
40. Another wallflower, sold to me as ‘Bowle’s Mauve’ but quite a bit paler.
41. Self-sown viper’s bugloss, Echium vulgare. It’s a weed, frankly, and bristly.
42. Another dainty delight from Fiona. It’s a spiraea of some sort. (Or if not, it’s something similar!)
43. And the lucky last? Dark burgundy aquilegias from the ‘Tower Double’ series. They look like multi-layered Victorian ladies’ bustles and seem to come true-ish from seed, as they’re popping up all through my paths. Gotta love a freebie!
(ps. Click on the photo above to enlarge it)