Celebrating New Zealand’s Ockham Book Awards 2019

 

This week I had the honour of attending the NZ Ockham Book awards. The awards promote excellence in and provide recognition for, the best books published annually in New Zealand. We are a country rich in literary talent and I hope you will buy one of these books and support New Zealand literature.

The LONGLIST 

The SHORTLIST

The WINNERS

The audience erupted in applause when Fiona Kidman, was announced as the winner of the 2019 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, the richest prize in New Zealand literature $53,000, for This Mortal Boy, she had tough competition from the  extraordinary Vincent O’Sullivan, Lloyd Jones and Kate Duignan.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, the Acorn Foundation, the Royal Society Te Apārangi, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, MitoQ and the Auckland Writers Festival.

Next week I will be reviewing my personally signed copy of ‘This Mortal Boy’ my congratulations to Dame Fiona Kidman.

 

Beyond the Sea – Paul Lynch

Beyond the Sea – Paul Lynch Beyond the Sea by [Lynch, Paul]

This review is based on an advance copy of Beyond the Sea provided with thanks from the author Paul Lynch , Netgalley and Oneworld publications.

Sometimes a book stands out and arrives at the moment that you need it. When I began reading Beyond the Sea I was immediately transported into the world of Bolivar, a Fisherman and his panga boat Camille. Hector joins the South American fisherman and together they face the challenge of survival. But it isn’t only about survival it is an exploration of what it means to be human. It is choices and consequences, thoughts and actions, reality and the hallucinations we create to make meaning.

Paul Lynch weaves words in a way that mesmerises and I was in awe of the way each sentence held its place in this richly woven epic sea adventure. Its simplicity and brevity rich in detail, with writing that captures the movement of the sea. Starting first in the small village where we explore the ordinary world of Bolivar, the fishing village, rich with vivd imagery. Getting to know Bolivar a simple fisherman was like meeting a new friend, with wisdom that resonated and thoughts that caused me to reflect on life, its meaning and its meaning for Bolivar. Hector added a new dimension and their interchange and exploration was both pleasant and haunting. Then the sea and the way it came to life swallowing everything in its path, and its challenges even in stillness.

“How an hour becomes a life.”

Beyond the Sea is one of those special stories that sit with you long after you put the book down.

5 Stars for Beyond the Sea, Paul Lynch  

Book Review by Lisa Bell

PRE-ORDER / ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY

 

The Light Keeper; Cole Moreton

 

Lightkeeper

This review is based on an advance copy of The Light Keeper provided with thanks from the author, Netgalley and Marylebone House. This novel is strong on deeply emotional triggers around infertility, abuse, rape, suicide, death and depression.

The Light Keeper is a story with many interlinking threads all based around a lighthouse and its Keeper teetering on the edge of a bold and dramatic landscape that provide the setting for the many stories in this book. The stories weave around the lives of those lost and broken some of whom come to end their lives at Beachy Head. We meet Jack whose wife Sarah has gone missing and we meet a cast of characters in his search for her including the lighthouse keeper.

In the copy I received there were a range of formatting and copy issues which made it difficult for me to fully immerse myself in the story. This definitely affected my initial impressions and also detracted from the flow of the book.

The premise of the story is good and there was some prose that I enjoyed very much. At times the characters did not feel fully developed and their actions and reactions were at odds with the impression’s I built over time getting to know them. There were moments I wanted more details to really take me into the current lives, and there were times that unnecessary and repetitive reflections and backstory detracted from the pace of the novel.

There were opportunities to develop and fine tune the Guardians so they didn’t seem so disjointed from the story, and without giving any spoilers there was scope to heighten tension and create a sense of urgency around the reason why there were so many suicides. The mystery surrounding them conflicted with the search for Sarah and was confusing.

Overall I liked the premise of the book and aspects of it were strong, however the plot at times did not feel connected and some chapters felt like short stories within the setting and not part of the overall plot.

If you enjoy darker fiction and you have the frame of mind to explore daring subject matter then this thought provoking novel may be worth reading.

3 Stars for The Light Keeper by Cole Moreton

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY

The Bookshop

 

The-Bookshop-2018

I went to see the ‘The Bookshop’ preview this week with thanks to the Time Out Bookstore at the Rialto Cinema in Newmarket.

 

Florence Green is played well by Emily Mortimer moving to a quaint old English town with the dream of turning an old house into a bookshop. The English town full of all the stereotypes of village life in the fifties, some scenes were a bit cliche, particularly the gossip with town folk and reactions to Florence’s new business in a closed conservative class concious community.

Florence has an uphill battle with Mrs Gamart who wants to turn the old house into an Arts Centre. Florence was played superbly by Patricia Clarkson and perfected the art of upperclass control in a way that made my blood curdle. She will stop at nothing to take control of the old house.

1250075_the-bookshop-h_2017

Florence receives a strange request to send books to an old recluse Mr Brundish who she has seen walking the marshes. Mr Brundish comes alive with the awkward acting of Bill Nighy. The references to Ray Bradbury and Mr Brundish’s love of his novels were humorous and gave some light relief to the story. Watching their friendship develop is enjoyable and we are all hoping for a happy ending between the two.

Without giving to much away about the film there were aspects that were enjoyable and if you are interested in books there will be some fond reminiscing as familiar titles are drawn into the plot. The film plays on human complexities and confused relationships made even more convoluted by the culture of the community.  After a light start, the challenges become more grim and even darker still moving to the ending.

IMG_4163

 

 

Flashback to 1994

 

 I Remember The Resthouse

Today I drifted back to a wonderful memory when I acted on stage in the play by Syed Alwi ‘I Remember… the Resthouse” at the National Theatre in Kuala Lumpur in December 1994.

I touched the program, a good luck note from Syed and read through the yellow tinged newspaper reviews remembering the play. The audition, getting the part, the long and intense rehearsals and of course the production itself. Nostalgia has a way of being selective as you transport yourself back in time.

The preparation is what I remember most. The dream and the intense self directed learning that I undertook to be taken seriously enough to make my debut role with the National Theatre. I was auditioning for the the only part a European lady could have, the Manager of the Resthouse who seduces young boys. I have a series of handwritten performance notes on how I can improve each scene.

Many happy memories of the production come to mind and as the years have gone on I am surprised at the little things I can and can’t remember. I remember being intensely afraid and nervous both at the audition and the opening night. The rehearsals, were long and arduous and I was among many seasoned and experienced actors feeling totally out of place. We had great camaraderie and a Director and playwright who was so passionate about what he had pictured in his imagination and the way it should be represented.

We opened to a full house and the Deputy Prime Minister was front and centre. The performance was well received with the Sun saying the cast had put up a commendable performance with a lasting impact.

IMG_4161

Syed had wanted to present history in a personal way, through family, kampung and social history before the war. Of course the play was deeply personal as he looked within himself and where he was when so much had happened to his family and it was largely autobiographical. How he remembered the war days, the Japanese, the British and the way families were torn apart with so many aspects of confrontation. The story successfully portrays Malaysia’s colonial past finely woven in the social, political and cultural threads from different perspectives that bring the Resthouse together.

I have not saved the original script for which I am disappointed. I would have enjoyed reading through each of the scenes all these years later with a different perspective.

Although my memories are fragmented, I remember…. The Rest House.