Tomorrow I’m flying from Manchester, England, to Wellington, New Zealand, and stopping off in Sydney, Australia, on the way. I’m visiting my daughter and family – and you can imagine how excited I am about seeing them on the other side of the world..!
Here are some of the sights I’m looking forward to seeing while I’m there (all images courtesy of Pixabay):
Besides being massively excited about seeing my family, I’m also looking forward to the flight (this will not sound bonkers to anyone who loves books as much as I do!)
New Zealand has some of the most dramatic landscape in the world, as well as a fascinating history. The country is the setting for some brilliant novels, and I’m taking six of the best of them to read on my flight.
My New Zealand choices are:
Cemetery Lake, by Paul Cleave
Paul Cleave writes thrillers set in Christchurch. I’ve read great reviews of his books – thriller writer Tess Gerritsen is a big fan – and so I’m looking forward to checking him out.
Blurb: What began as a routine exhumation of a suspected murder victim quickly turns complicated for private investigator Theodore Tate…
Theo Tate is barely coping with life since his world was turned upside down two years ago. As he stands in the cold and rainy cemetery, overseeing the exhumation, the lake opposite the graveyard begins to release its grip on the murky past.
When doubts are raised about the true identity of the body found in the coffin, the case takes an even more sinister turn. Tate knows he should walk away and let his former colleagues in the police deal with it, but against his better judgement he takes matters into his own hands.
With time running out and a violent killer on the loose, will Tate manage to stay one step ahead of the police? Or will the secrets he has buried so deeply be unearthed?
The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
I love the premise of this novel and have been wanting to read it for ages. It’s quite long (850 pages) but since I’ll be stuck on a long-haul flight that’s no problem :)
Blurb: 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 and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.
Mr Pip, by Lloyd Jones
I came across this book when I was looking for fiction set in New Zealand. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before – it sounds just the sort of book I’d love. It’s set on a South Pacific island, rather than NZ, but the culture of the islands is vital to New Zealand, and if I had more time there I’d love to explore them.
Blurb: ‘You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames.’
Bougainville, 1991. A small village on a lush tropical island in the South Pacific. Eighty-six days have passed since Matilda’s last day of school as, quietly, war is encroaching from the other end of the island.
When the villagers’ safe, predictable lives come to a halt, Bougainville’s children are surprised to find the island’s only white man, a recluse, re-opening the school. Pop Eye, aka Mr Watts, explains he will introduce the children to Mr Dickens. Matilda and the others think a foreigner is coming to the island and prepare a list of much needed items. They are shocked to discover their acquaintance with Mr Dickens will be through Mr Watts’ inspiring reading of Great Expectations.
But on an island at war, the power of fiction has dangerous consequences. Imagination and beliefs are challenged by guns. Mister Pip is an unforgettable tale of survival by story; a dazzling piece of writing that lives long in the mind after the last page is finished.
The Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera
I watched the film of the same name one Christmas and was absolutely blown away. It’s a beautiful and moving story, and the scenery in the film was just stunning. I’m really looking forward to reading the book.
Blurb: A mystical story of Maori culture. he birth of a daughter – Kahu – breaks the lineage of a Maori tribe. Rejected by her grandfather, Kahu develops the ability to communicate with whales, echoing those of the ancient Whale Rider after whom she was named. This magical and mythical novel tells of the conflict between tradition and heritage, from the perspective of Kahu’s grandfather, and Kahu’s destiny to secure the tribe’s future.
Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge
Elizabeth Goudge’s The Little White Horse is one of my favourite books ever. I can’t believe I haven’t actually read Green Dolphin Street yet. This is one book that’s definitely on my NZ reading list.
Blurb: Vivid, exciting tales ― earthquakes, shipwreck, encounters between New Zealand settlers and the indigenous Maori people ― are paired with fascinating details of 19th-century life, from sailing ships and steamboats to women’s fashions and the natural beauty of the British seacoast and the mountains and forests of New Zealand.
When Marianne LePatourel meets William Ozanne in the 1830s on an island in the English Channel, she sets her heart on him. However, her sister Marguerite falls in love with him too. And so begins this sweeping novel that takes the characters on dramatic adventures from childhood through old age, on land and at sea, and from the Channel Islands to China to the New Zealand frontier.
When William’s naval career is cut short, he settles in New Zealand and writes to Mr. Le Patourel to ask for Marguerite’s hand in marriage ― but in his nervousness he pens the wrong name in his letter. It is Marianne who arrives aboard the ship The Green Dolphin, and William’s gallant decision not to reveal his mistake sets in motion a marriage that is difficult, but teaches them both that steadfast love which is chosen is stronger than the passion of love at first sight.
The Colour, by Rose Tremain
I love Rose Tremain’s writing. I think she’s such a gifted writer and her novels deal with an amazing variety of subjects, settings, and periods in history. I haven’t read this particular novel. It looks just as great as all her others, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Blurb: Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate from Norfolk to New Zealand in search of new beginnings and prosperity. But the harsh land near Christchurch threatens to destroy them almost before they begin. When Joseph finds gold in the creek he is seized by a rapturous obsession with the voluptuous riches awaiting him deep in the earth. Abandoning his farm and family, he sets off alone for the new gold-fields over the Southern Alps, a moral wilderness where many others, under the seductive dreams of ‘the colour’, are violently rushing to their destinies.
By turns both moving and terrifying, The Colour is about a quest for the impossible, an attempt to mine the complexities of love and explore the sacrifices to be made in the pursuit of happiness.
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Six brilliant novels – so now you can see why I’m looking forward to the journey. I expect my enjoyment might pall after the first thirteen hours but at least I’ll have had a lot of fun reading!
Have you read any of the novels on my list? Have you ever been – or do you come from – Australia or New Zealand? What’s the longest journey you’ve ever taken, and what did you do to keep yourself entertained?
If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!