Last updated on July 30th, 2022
Featured image: Wild lupins by the mountains, New Zealand | Photo by Nathan White Images on Shutterstock
Stories to explore New Zealand, from Christchurch to the South Island
By Tina Hartas, Founder, TripFiction
New Zealand is a very rural and bucolic country and sheep are everywhere.
In fact, there are 9 sheep per person in New Zealand, making it the highest ratio in the world. Several of the chosen books reflect the small town isolation that is prevalent across the two islands.
1. Remember Me by Charity Norman
Ruahine Range, North Island
They never found Leah Parata. Not a boot, not a backpack, not a turquoise beanie. After she left me that day, she vanished off the face of the earth.
A close-knit community is ripped apart by disturbing revelations that cast new light on a young woman’s disappearance twenty-five years ago.
After years of living overseas, Emily returns to New Zealand to care for her father who has dementia. As his memory fades and his guard slips, she begins to understand him for the first time – and to glimpse shattering truths about his past.
Are some secrets best left buried?
Editor’s note: “Remember Me” has been chosen as the October book in the JourneyWoman book club. Learn more here!
Winner of the Booker Prize in 1985, The Bone People is the story of Kerewin, a despairing part-Maori artist who is convinced that her solitary life is the only way to face the world. Her cocoon is rudely blown away by the sudden arrival during a rainstorm of Simon, a mute six-year-old whose past seems to hold some terrible trauma. In his wake comes his foster-father Joe, a Maori factory worker with a nasty temper.
The narrative unravels to reveal the truths that lie behind these three characters, and in so doing displays itself as a huge, ambitious work that tackles the clash between Maori and European characters in beautiful prose of a heartrending poignancy.
3. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Hokitika, South Island
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.
The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement for someone still in her mid-20s, and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.
Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.
Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.
What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…
As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…
A mix of poetry and prose, this compilation by New Zealand’s Fiona Ferrell is simultaneously a memoir, a meandering travel book, and a poetry collection. Demonstrating how a natural disaster can turn a life upside down in an instant, this book consists of four essays about walking, interrupted by poems about the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath.
Funny, timely, and deeply personal, it will resonate with a wide range of readers due to its references to France, Dunedin, Christchurch, Robert Louis Stevenson, Katherine Mansfield, and Voltaire.
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