Plaudits just keep coming for Dame Fiona Kidman, one of New Zealand’s best known contemporary writers. Her latest collection of short stories The trouble with Fire has been short-listed for the 2012 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. This can be added to an impressive list of honours and awards that have already been accorded to her. Born in Hawera in 1940 she has worked as a librarian, writer, producer and critic, but it is for her ground-breaking novels that she is best known.
Dame Fiona will be the guest speaker at our Fiction Grab Event — on this Saturday night (June 30th) from 5.30-7.30pm (register for this event here!) — so we thought we’d take this chance to spotlight some of her fiction and short stories (as well as some of her non-fiction) below. The main focus of her fiction is depicting how outsiders navigate their way in a narrowly conformist society. Have a browse!
And come along on Saturday night (afterhours!) at the Central Library for your chance to meet Dame Fiona, relax with a complimentary glass of wine, take a look behind the scenes of the library, and grab brand new fiction before it makes its way to our shelves! Interested? Head over to our Registration Page (registration is essential for this event). We look forward to seeing you there!
A selection of Dame Fiona’s fiction:
The trouble with fire / Fiona Kidman.
(A Fiction finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards & also check out this review from The Listener)
“Fiona Kidman has a genius for peeling back the lives of ordinary people to reveal their hidden passions and complexities. In this brilliant new collection, she explores – with her customary subtlety and insight – how we are all touched and sometimes scarred by the flames of emotion – whether it be the impossible love of a pregnant woman for a married man, grief for a dead baby or loss of a young woman in mysterious circumstances. Ranging in time from the colonial period to the present day, these stories by one of New Zealand’s foremost writers are beautifully crafted, intriguing and evocative. [Her] stories remind me of those of Alice Munro. Though they are very much of a time and place they have a universal dimension” (Booksellers News)
The book of secrets / Fiona Kidman.
(Winner of the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction in 1988)
“In 1854, a group of settlers established a community at Waipu in the northern part of New Zealand. They were led there by a stern preacher, Norman McLeod. The community had followed him from Scotland in 1817 to found a settlement in Nova Scotia, then subsequently to New Zealand via Australia. Their incredible journeys actually happened, but Fiona Kidman breaths life and contemporary relevance into the facts by creating a remarkable fictional story of three women entangled in the migrations – Isabella, her daughter Annie and granddaughter Maria. McLeod’s harsh leadership meant that anyone who ran counter to him had to live a life of secrets. The ’secrets’ encapsulated the spirit of these women in their varied reactions to McLeod’s strict edicts and connect the past to the present and future.” (Synopsis from Fishpond)
The captive wife / Fiona Kidman.
(Joint winner of the Readers’ Choice Award — with Maurice Gee — at the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Read also this review by author David Hill in The Listener.)
“When Betty Guard steps ashore in Sydney, in 1834, she meets with a heroine’s welcome. Her survival during a four-month kidnapping ordeal amongst Taranaki Maori is hailed as nothing short of a miracle. But questions about what really happened slowly surface within the élite governing circles of the raw new town of Sydney.Jacky Guard, ex-convict turned whaler, had taken Betty as his wife to his New Zealand whaling station when she was fourteen. After several years and two children, the family is returning from a visit to Sydney when their barque is wrecked near Mount Taranaki. A battle with local Maori follows, and Betty and her children are captured. Her husband goes to seek a ransom, but instead England engages in its first armed conflict with New Zealand Maori when he is persuaded to return with two naval ships. After her violent rescue, Betty’s life amongst the tribe comes under intense scrutiny. Based on real events, this is the compelling story of a marriage, of love and duty, and the quest for freedom in a pioneering age.” (Syndetics Review)
(It should be noted that this is just a very small selection! Dame Fiona has published more than 30 books — novels, collections of short stories and non-fiction — and has been included in a number of New Zealand anthologies also. Browse more of her fiction on our catalogue!)
Interested in the author herself?
Here are both volumes of her autobiography. Also — come along on Saturday!
At the end of Darwin Road / Fiona Kidman.
“What I have to tell is largely a personal narrative about how I came to inhabit a fictional world’ This absorbing memoir explores the first half of writer Fiona Kidman’s life, notably in Kerikeri amid the ’sharp citric scent of orange groves, bright heat and . . . the shadow of Asia’ – at the end of Darwin Road. From the distance of France, where Kidman spent time as the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton, she reconsiders the past, weaving personal reflection and experience with the history of the places where she lived, particularly the fascinating northern settlements of Kerikeri and Waipu, and further south the cities of Rotorua and Wellington. Her story crosses paths with those of numerous different New Zealanders, from the Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana, to descendants of the migration from Scotland led by a charismatic Presbyterian minister, to other writers and significant friends. We learn of Kidman’s struggles to establish herself as a writer and to become part of different communities, and how each worked their way into her fiction. At the End of Darwin Road is a vivid memoir of place and family, and of becoming a writer: ‘I was certain that . . . I would continue to write, if possible, every day of my life.’” (Syndetics summary)
Beside the dark pool / Fiona Kidman.
“In her first acclaimed volume of memoir, Fiona Kidman described her background and childhood, evoking the places she lived in and the people she knew. It finished with the publication of her first, hugely successful novel. In this sequel, she explores further the influences that shaped her subsequent books, her championing of New Zealand writing and writers and the significant people she has met along the way. There are political protests, controversial stands, family quests and journeys overseas – to Europe, North America and the East – journeys that marked her hard-won independence. Beautifully written and thought-provoking this is an important record of the last twenty-five years.” (Syndetics summary)
Dame Fiona on the web
And here are some other places you can find information about Dame Fiona online:
- Her official website
- The New Zealand Book Council website
- You can find a complete bibliography and list of articles and books about Dame Fiona in her New Zealand Literature File entry
- And, Christchurch City Libraries wrote up their experience of attending An Audience with Dame Fiona at the 2012 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival
Enjoy — and we hope to see you on Saturday night! (Register here!)