The 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlist has just been announced and what a fabulous, rich and diverse list it is. Ranging from The Man Who Would Not See by Rajorshi Chakraborti to Caroline’s Bikini by Kirsty Gunn, from The New Ships by Kate Duignan to All This by Chance by Vincent O’Sullivan, the judges are going to have a hard time selecting an overall winner. It’s great to see how healthy and flourishing the New Zealand fiction world is. May the best book win!
The 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for fiction (Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize) longlisted titles are:
The man who would not see / Rajorshi Chakraborti.
“As children in Calcutta, Ashim and Abhay made a small mistake that split their family forever. Thirty years later, Ashim has re-entered his brother’s life, with blame and retribution on his mind. It seems nothing short of smashing Abhay’s happy home will make good the damage from the past. At least, this is what Abhay and his wife Lena are certain is happening. A brother has travelled all the way from small-town India to New Zealand bearing ancient – and false – grudges, and with the implacable objective of blowing up every part of his younger brother’s life. Reconciliation was just a Trojan horse. But is Ashim really the villain he appears to be, or is there a method to his havoc?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The new ships / Kate Duignan.
“Peter Collie is adrift in the wake of his wife’s death. His attempts to understand the turn his life has taken lead him back to the past, to dismaying events on an Amsterdam houseboat in the seventies, returning to New Zealand and meeting Moira, an amateur painter who carried secrets of her own, and to a trip to Europe years later with his family. An unexpected revelation forces Peter to navigate anew his roles as a husband, father and son. Set in Wellington after the fall of the Twin Towers, and traversing London, Europe, the Indian subcontinent.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Mazarine / Charlotte Grimshaw.
“When her daughter vanishes during a heatwave in Europe, writer Frances Sinclair embarks on a hunt that takes her across continents and into her own past. What clues can Frances find in her own history, and who is the mysterious Mazarine? Following the narrative thread left by her daughter, she travels through cities touched by terrorism and surveillance, where ways of relating are subtly changed, and a startling new fiction seems to be constructing itself.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Caroline’s bikini : an arrangement of a novel with an introduction and some further materials / Kirsty Gunn.
“Art needs a sense of lack to bring about its own effects; where there is no feeling of need to make up a shortfall, there will be no work. Alright’ I said, ‘I’ll try…’ This is how Emily Stuart opens the intricately involved account of a classic love affair that becomes Caroline’s Bikini: a tale of hope, passion, and the power of the imagination. For they say, the story of love – or, rather, falling in love – is timeless, and that unrequited love is the most passionate of all. It’s certainly a narrative that is, in its own curious and enticing way, as old as Western literature itself.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The cage / Lloyd Jones.
“Two mysterious strangers appear at a hotel in a small country town.
Where have they come from? Who are they? What catastrophe are they fleeing?
The townspeople want answers, but the strangers are unable to speak of their trauma. And before long, wary hospitality shifts to suspicion and fear, and the care of the men slides into appalling cruelty.
Lloyd Jones’s fable-like novel The Cage is a profound and unsettling novel about humanity and dignity and the ease with which we’re able to justify brutality.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The Ice Shelf / Anne Kennedy.
“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.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
This mortal boy / Fiona Kidman.This Mortal Boy
“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?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The imaginary lives of James Pōneke / Tina Makereti.
“The tale of James Poneke- orphaned son of a chief; ardent student of English; wide-eyed survivor. All the world’s a stage, especially when you’re a living exhibit. But anything can happen to a young New Zealander on the savage streets of Victorian London. When James meets the man with laughing dark eyes and the woman who dresses as a man, he begins to discover who people really are beneath their many guises. Although London is everything James most desires, this new world is more dark and dazzling than he could have imagined.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
All this by chance / Vincent O’Sullivan.
“If we don’t have the past in mind, it is merely history. If we do, it is still part of the present. Esther’s grandparents first meet at a church dance in London in 1947. Stephen, a shy young Kiwi, has left to practice pharmacy on the other side of the world. Eva has grown up English, with no memory of the Jewish family who sent their little girl to safety. When the couple emigrate, the peace they seek in New Zealand cannot overcome the past they have left behind. Following the lives of Eva, her daughter Lisa and her granddaughter Esther, All This by Chance is a moving multi generational family saga about the legacy of the Holocaust and the burden of secrets never shared, by one of New Zealand’s finest writers.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Due in the library shortly and already highly regarded is Majella Cullinane’s The Life of De’Ath set in Otago and the battlefields of France during World War I. It’s a searing read about deserters during the War I, and a young man struggles to find himself and break free of the social and family pressures to conform.