THE VIRGIN & THE WHALE
It is 1919. Elizabeth Whitman is working as a nurse in the local hospital, waiting for her husband to return from war, though he is missing in action, ‘presumed dead’. She keeps him alive for their four-year-old son, Jack, by telling the story of a man she calls The Balloonist, who went away in a hot-air balloon and has adventures in exotic countries.
When she is asked to nurse a returned soldier whose head injury has reduced him to an animal-like state with no memory, Elizabeth starts telling stories to him. It is through them that she manages to engage his interest and offer him a new life ...in more ways than one.
A touching, clever novel about stories, about using them to create your own identity, and about the way they can forge bonds of love.
Box Saxton just wants to bury, Mark, his stepson. What happens, though, when the boy's biological father, a Maori leader, unexpectedly turns up in the days before the funeral and forcibly takes the boy's body? According to Maori custom the boy should be buried in the tribe's ancestral cemetery at the small coastal town of Kaipuna. According to the law there is very little Box can do. With no plan and little hope, Box gets in his old truck and drives north, desperate and heartbroken.
Settlers' Creek examines the claims of both indigenous peoples and more recent settlers to have a spiritual link to the land. The book explores with depth and compassion some of the many issues of race and culture which New Zealand faces.
ROCKING HORSE ROAD
Lucy Asher's murder makes a huge impact on all those who live along Rocking Horse Road, which runs through the Spit, a long 'finger of bone-dry sand' between the ocean and the estuary. It's an event that for one hot summer brings together a group of fifteen-year-old boys and then keeps them linked for the rest of their lives.
Evolving from Nixon's celebrated short story, this powerful novel is much more than an intelligently evoked murder mystery. It's a book about coming of age and loss of innocence, not just for the characters but for New Zealand, as the country turns upon itself during the 1981 Springbok Tour. It examines how early events can influence the rest of our lives, and probes ideas of community, collective memory and story-telling. Above all, it's a compelling story, set in a New Zealand we can all recognise.
THE TALLY STICK
While on holiday in New Zealand in 1978, an English family have a catastrophic car crash. Twelve year-old Katherine Chamberlain, and her two brothers, Maurice and Tommy survive, but their parents are both killed. Injured and unable to get back to the road the children are forced to survive in a remote forest of New Zealand’s South Island.
Help eventually comes in the form of local pig hunter and dope grower, Peters. Instead of taking them to civilisation, he leads them to the isolated farm he shares with tattooed eccentric Martha. In a strange land the children don’t know if what Martha and Peters tell them is true or not. Is the farm really cut off from the world for most of the year? Do Katherine and her brothers owe a debt that has to be paid off before they can leave? Whatever the truth is, they are forced to work on the farm as indentured labour.
Meanwhile, their aunt, Suzanne, makes repeated trips from England to the area where the Chamberlain family vanished. Long after the police have stopped looking Suzanne still searches. Her quest, though, takes a toll, on her and her own family. And as the years pass her chances of finding Katherine and the boys becomes increasingly small.
A novel in 21 stories
Publication: August 2023
Penguin Random House (NZ)
One Family. Forty Years.
The Waters kids ― practical, athlete Mark; the physically beautiful dreamer Davey; and the baby of the family, Samantha ― have had to face more than their fair share of challenges. 1979 was the year their father sold up the farm and invested all the family’s money in a doomed property development next to the ocean in Christchurch. Is that when 'everything started going wrong', as Mark believes?
Will their bond survive the passage of time or will the three siblings succumb to their parents’ legacy of failure? Can the past be overcome . . . and forgiven?
The Waters examines familial responsibility and the inevitability, or not, of following the trajectory our childhoods propel us along.