When once you have tasted flight: New fiction

New York Nyc GIF by Vintage 3D

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When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.

– Leonardo DaVinci

Welcome to this month’s selection of recently acquired fiction titles. To make this month’s choices we have employed a broad and panoramic approach, picking titles that convey the wide variety of subject matters, literary styles and approaches present in all our new intake books.

This month’s collection of titles includes a new historical fiction novel by Sara Ackerman called The uncharted flight of Olivia West, inspired by the Dole Air Race of 1927. This is a gripping story, based on true events, about a young pioneering aviator participating in the race. Literary legend Isabel Allende has released a new novel, called The wind knows my name. We have two highlights from Aotearoa, an outstanding collection of new short stories from the iconic Aotearoa author Patricia Grace, titled Bird child & other stories, and the much-anticipated debut novel from Olive Nuttall called Kitten. There’s also The Tearsmith by Erin Doom, which is currently being adapted into a Netflix series. To round things off in style, we have the Booker shortlisted and winner of the An Post Irish Book of the Year, The Bee Sting by Paul Murray.

Links to all these titles, and a few others, can be found below.

The uncharted flight of Olivia West / Ackerman, Sara
“This extraordinary novel, inspired by real events, tells the story of a female aviator who defies the odds to embark on a daring air race across the Pacific. 1927. Olivia “Livy” West is a fearless young pilot with a love of adventure. She yearns to cross oceans and travel the skies. When she learns of the Dole Air Race–a high-stakes contest to be the first to make the 2,400 mile Pacific crossing from the West Coast to Hawai’i–she sets her sights on qualifying. But it soon becomes clear that only men will make the cut. In a last-ditch effort to take part, Livy manages to be picked as a navigator for one of the pilots, before setting out on a harrowing journey that some will not survive.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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“Mirror of the King”: New fiction on our shelves

Cover for The Vanishing Point, spotlighted against a backdrop of a museum gallery

Book cover: The vanishing point by Andrea Hotere

“Mirror of the King.”

Our recently acquired general fiction titles feature a number of wonderful and diverse New Zealand / Aotearoa titles which you can view below. One which caught our particular attention was The vanishing point by Andrea Hotere.

The vanishing point revolves around just a few of the mysteries surrounding one of the world’s most famous paintings — Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, or ‘The Ladies-in-Waiting’, sometimes referred to as ‘Mirror of the King’.

The painting itself hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and is one of the most enigmatic, mysterious and most talked about works of art of all time. It is superbly painted with almost photographic detail, featuring numerous objects and a large cast of figures in its composition — a true masterpiece. Many of these elements and details raise questions in themselves, however it is the questions it raises about reality and illusion and the relationship between the figures in the composition and outside viewers that has fascinated admirers and writers on art for centuries. As if that weren’t enough, there is also fierce speculation that the mathematics used in its composition are in fact actually a secret code by the artist.

In The Vanishing Point, Andrea Hotere takes some of the fascinating factual mysteries surrounding the painting and runs with them, creating a brilliant literary puzzle in a similar vein to Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The vanishing point / Hotere, Andrea
“Set against the backdrop of London in 1991 and Madrid in 1656 the novel follows the lives of two women, Alex Johns and the Infanta Margarita, who are connected by a quest to unravel the enigmatic secrets within an iconic painting.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook – The Vanishing Point

What you are looking for is in the library : a novel / Aoyama, Michiko
“What are you looking for? So asks Tokyo’s most enigmatic librarian. For Sayuri Komachi is able to sense exactly what each visitor to her library is searching for and provide just the book recommendation to help them find it. A restless retail assistant looks to gain new skills, a mother tries to overcome demotion at work after maternity leave, a conscientious accountant yearns to open an antique store, a recently retired salaryman searches for newfound purpose. In Komachi’s unique book recommendations they will find just what they need to achieve their dreams. What You Are Looking For Is in the Library is about the magic of libraries and the discovery of connection. This inspirational tale shows how, by listening to our hearts, seizing opportunity and reaching out, we too can fulfill our lifelong dreams. Which book will you recommend?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook – What you are looking for is in the library

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The Friday Night Club: a new novel about Hilma af Klint

‘Every time I succeed in finishing one of my sketches, my understanding of humanity, animals, plants, minerals, or the entire creation, becomes clearer. I feel freed and raised up above my limited consciousness.’ Hilma af Klint

The newly-acquired general fiction title we would like to focus on this month is The Friday Night Club by Sofia Lundberg, a fictionalised account of the real-life group of women artists formed by Hilma af Klint at the start of the twentieth century .

If you were lucky enough to see the recent exhibition of her work at City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi, you will be familiar with her extraordinary work. And her real life was as revolutionary as her art.

The  art world has long been male-dominated and controlled the narrative for the story of art, claiming that the first modern abstract paintings were created by male artists such as Malevich or  Mondrian. However, the mystic visionary Swedish artist Hilma af Klint should actually receive the credit. Inspired by mystic visions, she created her own abstract visual language years before these artists.

Hilma worked at a time when creative freedoms for women were rare and limited. Yet from this reality she created a huge body of abstract work that predated Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian or, indeed, any of the other male artists credited as inventing modern abstract art.

Hilma af Klint’s  body of work has only relatively recently been given the praise it so richly deserved, and it is clear that her work at that time rewrites the history of modern art. Hilma knew her abstract work was way ahead of its time and at her death she left instructions that her work be kept secret until at least twenty years after her death, when she hoped that society would have changed enough to accept her work.

You can access our non-fiction collection of works about Hilma af Klint here.

The Friday Night Club / Lundberg, Sofia
” Early 1900s: The world belongs to men, and the art world in Stockholm, Sweden, is no different, until Hilma af Klint brings together a mysterious group of female painters and writers-Anna, Cornelia, Sigrid, and Mathilda-to form their own emotional and artistic support system. … Over a century later, an associate curator at the Guggenheim Museum, Eben Elliot, brings the Hilma af Klint show to New York where he uncovers questions about the Five and how the modern day art world is funded, which puts him in a precarious position both emotionally and professionally, as he witnesses how history can be manipulated. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Chain-gang all-stars / Adjei-Brenyah, Nana Kwame
” Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom. In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Retrospective / Vásquez, Juan Gabriel
“The Colombian film director, Sergio Cabrera, is in Barcelona for a retrospective of his work. It’s a hard time for him: his father, famous actor Fausto Cabrera, has just died; his marriage is in crisis; and his home country has rejected peace agreements that might have ended more than fifty years of war. In the course of a few intense days, as his films are on exhibit, Sergio recalls the events that marked his family’s unusual and dramatic lives: especially his father’s, his sister Marianella’s and his own. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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Number, please?: Recently acquired new fiction

National WWI Museum and Memorial black and white military footage historic GIF

Image via Giphy

There is a cornucopia of fabulous newly acquired fiction in this month’s selection of new titles, including two new Aotearoa gems Arms & legs by Choe Lane and The Wellington alternate by Oliver Dace (which is a debut work).

A book that caught our particular attention this month was Switchboard Soldiers by Jennifer Chiaverini. Switchboard Soldiers is a fictionalised account of an overlooked aspect of World War One that broke new ground in gender issues, smashed workplace glass ceilings and contributing greatly to the Allies victory.

When the American General John Pershing arrived in France in 1917 to lead the American forces there, he found that communications with soldiers in the front-line combat zone were in a very poor state. He knew almost immediately that he urgently needed highly experienced telephone operators fluent in English and French who wouldn’t be phased by pressure and were used to be being discreet in the extreme. He knew exactly where to source the best telephone operators in the World, but the problem was that they were all women and at that point in time women weren’t allowed to enlist in the American army. In the end, a recruitment drive was held and these brave individuals were the amongst the first women to be sworn into the U.S. military. Many served on, or close to, the front lines and faced possible death from enemy fire or the Spanish Flu pandemic that swept across the continent at the time. Their efforts are now attributed as playing a vital role in securing the eventual allied success.

Switchboard soldiers : a novel / Chiaverini, Jennifer
“June 1917. Arriving in France, General John Pershing found himself unable to communicate with troops in the field. Pershing needed operators who could swiftly and accurately connect multiple calls, speak fluent French and English, remain steady under fire, and be utterly discreet. Well-trained American telephone operators were women– who were not permitted to enlist. But the U.S. Army Signal Corps promptly began recruiting them. Grace Banker of New Jersey, Marie Miossec, a Frenchwoman, and Valerie DeSmedt, a Pacific Telephone operator from Los Angeles, were sworn in to replace male soldiers. For these The switchboard soldiers worked as bombs fell around them– as was the threat of a deadly new disease: the Spanish Flu. Not all would survive. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sojourn / Chaudhuri, Amit
” It is the fall of 2005; it is getting colder in Berlin; riots have broken out in Paris; and the protagonist is beginning to feel his middle age, to feel that the new world of the twenty-first century, with its endless array of commodities from all over the world and no prospect, it seems, of any sort of historical transformation, exists in a perpetual present, a state of meaningless and interminable suspense. Now the narrator meets Birgit, and soon she is playing a part in his life. Now he begins to miss his classes. People are worried about him, especially after he blacks out in the street. “I’ve lost my bearings – not in the city; in its history,” he thinks. “The less sure I become of it, the more I know my way.” But does he? ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our wives under the sea / Armfield, Julia
“Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah may have come back wrong. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home. To have the woman she loves back should mean a return to normal life, but Miri can feel Leah slipping from her grasp. Memories of what they had before, the jokes they shared, the films they watched, all the small things that made Leah hers, only remind Miri of what she stands to lose. Living in the same space but suddenly separate, Miri comes to realise that the life that they had might be gone.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The bohemians : a novel / Darznik, Jasmin
“To take a truly good picture you have to learn to see, not just look.” In 1918, a young and bright-eyed Dorothea Lange arrives in San Francisco, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking Chinese American with a complicated past, gives Dorothea entrée into Monkey Block, an artists’ colony and the bohemian heart of the city. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with the brilliant but troubled painter Maynard Dixon. With a cast of unforgettable characters including cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frida Khalo, Ansel Adams, and D.H. Lawrence. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Arms & legs / Lane, Chloe
“In a Florida almost claustrophobic with life, New Zealand-born Georgie’s marriage has stagnated. But there’s no room to attend to it, as dangers small and large crowd in: teeth break, her son can’t find his words, there’s something in her husband’s eye, termites swarm the neighbourhood, and she finds a dead boy in the burning woods.And then – there’s Jason.As the repercussions of her discovery of the body, and her affair, come to land, Georgie digs deep, examining the undercurrents of her actions with curiosity, humour and cutting emotional intelligence. Arms & Legs is a deliriously insightful excavation of love, desire, parenthood and relationships at their best, and worst.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Wellington alternate / Dace, Oliver
“Ever since an egg had devoured her, Eighteen-year-old Merinette Dace Nadean wants to escape her destiny. She longs to be an academic instead of continuing in her family’s century-old position in maintaining the various surreal entities called Fiction. She would become only a glorified maintenance worker. That life is a chore. So Merinette, as stubborn as she is, refuses, eager to prove that she is more than the talents she was born with. She wants to turn her love for books into an alternative way to help her family rather than confronting Fiction head-on. And, when an opportunity arises in a dingy car park, Merinette will do anything to achieve her goal. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Diary of a void : a novel / Yagi, Emi
“When thirty-four-year-old Ms. Shibata gets a new job in Tokyo to escape sexual harassment at her old one, she finds that, as the only woman at her new workplace-a company that manufactures cardboard tubes-she is expected to do all the menial tasks. One day she announces that she can’t clear away her colleagues’ dirty cups-because she’s pregnant and the smell nauseates her. The only thing is . . . Ms. Shibata is not pregnant. Before long, though, the hoax becomes all-absorbing, and the boundary between her lie and her life begins to dissolve. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow / Zevin, Gabrielle
“On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fiction predictions: Novels to watch for in 2022

If I’m remembered 100 years from now, I hope it will be not for looks but for books. – Dolly Parton

So, with 2022 now well and truly started, we find ourselves at the perfect juncture in time to dust off our crystal ball to ascertain what fictional treasures may be in store for 2022. To get you in the mood for these titles, we have listed some of the previous works by the authors discussed at the end of this piece. Of course, there are many titles to be published that aren’t yet announced or on publisher’s schedules. Our crystal ball advises that you should check our fiction blog regularly for more fantastic fiction predictions.

To kick off January, we have The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, a story of bookshops and ghosts from the Pulitzer-winning author. For February, we have a new novel from author Monica Ali; Love Marriage, billed as a study of contemporary society, follows a wedding that brings together two families and their cultures.

Marian Keyes’ new book  Again, Rachel is a sequel to Rachel’s Holiday, set twenty-five years after the first book. Also in February, the pleasures of beauty and the senses are celebrated by a writer in Christos Tsiolkas’ 7 ½

March sees the release of one of the books we are very excited by (which incidentally is accompanied by its own tie-in album). The wonderful iconic, immortal of country music Dolly Parton releases her first ever novel called Run, Rose, Run in conjunction with James Patterson, who recently also teamed up with US ex-president Bill Clinton to release a joint novel; the  thriller is reportedly about a young singer-songwriter. On a slightly different vein we have Marlon James’ second book that celebrates African mythology called Moon Witch, Spider King and the purchase of the Holy Grail by an elderly woman is the premise of the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran called Chivalry.

April sees the follow up to the Booker prize winning Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart called Young Mungo, about the dangerous love between two Glaswegian men. Also, in April we have Companion Piece by Ali Smith and a new novel from the Station Eleven author Emily St John Mandel called Sea of Tranquility a tale of parallel worlds, time travel and pandemics.

In May we have a darkly humorous novel of revenge, murder and love set in pandemic Australia from Steve Toltz called Here Goes Nothing.

And finally, for the end of this first instalment for 2022 in June we have the following  Ghost Lover by Lisa Taddeo, Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh about medieval fiefdom, occult forces, and cannibalism, Sandra Newman’s The Men (about a parallel world where every male person suddenly vanishes) and Fight Night by Canadian writer Miriam Toews, about an eccentric and fierce household of women.

Keep your eyes peeled on our social media for part two coming soon.

The night watchman : a novel / Erdrich, Louise
“It is 1953. Thomas Wazhushk is a prominent Chippewa Council member, trying to understand a new bill that is soon to be put before Congress. The US Government calls it an ’emancipation’ bill; but it isn’t about freedom – it threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land, their very identity. How can he fight this betrayal? Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Pixie – ‘Patrice’ – Paranteau has no desire to wear herself down on a husband and kids. She works at the factory, earning barely enough to support her mother and brother, let alone her alcoholic father. But Patrice needs every penny if she’s ever going to get to Minnesota to find her missing sister Vera.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Brick lane : a novel / Ali, Monica
“Nanzeen, married off to an older man, moves from her Bangladeshi village to live with him in London in the 1980s and 1990s, where she raises a family, learns to love her husband, and comes to a realization that she has a voice in her own life.” ( atalogue) Also available as an eBook.


Rachel’s holiday / Keyes, Marian
“The fast lane is too slow for twenty-seven-year-old Rachel Walsh, who has a fondness for recreational drugs and good-looking men. And New York City is the perfect place for a young Irish female to overdo…everything! But then the merry-go-round stops short. In quick succession, Rachel loses her job, her best friend, and the boyfriend she adores…and wakes up in a hospital emergency room, having overindulged…” (Adapted from  atalogue) Also available as an eBook. 


Damascus / Tsiolkas, Christos
“‘They kill us, they crucify us, they throw us to beasts in the arena, they sew our lips together and watch us starve. They bugger children in front of fathers and violate men before the eyes of their wives. The temple priests flay us openly in the streets and the Judeans stone us. We are hunted everywhere and we are hunted by everyone. We are despised, yet we grow. We are tortured and crucified and yet we flourish. We are hated and still we multiply. Why is that? You must wonder, how is it we survive?’ ” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The president is missing / Clinton, Bill
“The White House is the home of the President of the United States, the most guarded, monitored, closely watched person in the world. So how could a U.S. President vanish without a trace? And why would he choose to do so? An unprecedented collaboration between President Bill Clinton and the world’s bestselling novelist, James Patterson, The President Is Missing is a breathtaking story from the pinnacle of power.” (catalogue) Also available as an eBook.


Black leopard, red wolf / James, Marlon
“Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter – and he always works alone. But when he is engaged to find a child who disappeared three years ago, he must break his own rules, joining a group of eight very different mercenaries working together to find the boy. Following the lost boy’s scent from one ancient city to another, into dense forests and across deep rivers, Tracker starts to wonder: Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And most important of all, who is telling the truth and who is lying?” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

American gods / Gaiman, Neil
“Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Shuggie Bain / Stuart, Douglas
“Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good-but under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be.” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an eBook

Summer / Smith, Ali
“In the present, Sacha knows the world’s in trouble. Her brother Robert just is trouble. Their mother and father are having trouble. Meanwhile, the world’s in meltdown–and the real meltdown hasn’t even started yet. In the past, a lovely summer. A different brother and sister know they’re living on borrowed time. This is a story about people on the brink of change. They’re family, but they think they’re strangers. So: Where does family begin? And what do people who think they’ve got nothing in common have in common? Summer.” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Station eleven / Mandel, Emily St. John
“One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

Quicksand : a novel / Toltz, Steve
“Liam, a policeman and aspiring author, looks for inspiration to his best friend, Aldo, a hapless criminal with a knack for misfortunes who is trying to win back his ex-wife.” (Adapted from catalogue)



Animal / Taddeo, Lisa
‘”I drove myself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of me. He was a gluttonous man and when his blood came out it looked like the blood of a pig. That’s a cruel thing to think, I know. He did it in a restaurant where I was having dinner with another man, another married man. Do you see how this is going?” At thirty-six, Joan knows more than most of the price of pleasure, the quotidian horror of being a woman at the mercy of a man. She knows men, too – their penchant for cruelty, the violence she has absorbed over decades that now threatens to burst from her own hands.” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Death in her hands / Moshfegh, Ottessa
” While on her normal daily walk with her dog, our protagonist comes across a note. Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body. Our narrator is deeply shaken. She is new to this area, and she knows very few people. Her brooding about this note quickly grows into a full-blown obsession, and she begins to devote herself to exploring the possibilities of her conjectures about who this woman was and how she met her fate.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The heavens / Newman, Sandra
“A young man, Ben, meets a young woman, Kate — and they begin to fall in love. From their first meeting, Ben knows Kate is unworldly and fanciful, so at first he isn’t that concerned when she tells him about the recurring dream she’s had since childhood. In the dream, she’s transported to the past, where she lives a second life as Emilia, the mistress of a nobleman in Elizabethan England. But for Kate, the dream becomes increasingly real and compelling until it threatens to overwhelm her life.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Women talking / Toews, Miriam
“Between 2005 and 2009, in a remote religious Mennonite colony, over a hundred girls and women were knocked unconscious and raped, by what many thought were ghosts or demons, as a punishment for their sins. As the women tentatively began to share the details of the attacks-waking up sore and bleeding and not understanding why-their stories were chalked up to ‘wild female imagination.’ Women Talking is an imagined response to these real events. Eight women, all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their colony and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in, meet secretly in a hayloft with the intention of making a decision about how to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Natural histories and disasters: Newly acquired fiction titles

Image of Awake by Harald Voetmann

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[Pliny the Elder] used to say that “no book was so bad but some good might be got out of it.” ― Pliny the Younger

The recent dramatic volcanic eruption just off the coast of Tonga has been a tragic reminder of the power of nature over our lives. It is perhaps a good point in time to reflect that such events have occurred before and have been documented. One of the books in this month’s recently acquired fiction list, Awake by Harald Voetmannhe, features a fictionalised account of Roman’s Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger (his nephew). Pliny the Elder died during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius whilst organising a rescue mission for survivors of the eruption, whilst Pliny the Younger provided the only eyewitness account of the event from a boat in the bay of Naples. Pliny the Younger, in his letters, describes the eruption of the volcano; the huge resulting cloud, immense waves, as well as the lightning caused by the eruption and the resulting general widespread devastation. Pliny the Younger’s writing is widely regarded as the first volcanological report of such an event.

In Awake, a key part of the narrative is Pliny the Elder’s obsessive compulsion to categorise and understand everything. His book, Naturalis Historia (Natural History), became perhaps the first encyclopaedia and the template for future encyclopaedias to come. Unfortunately, many of the other works written by Pliny the Elder are now lost. Follow this like to borrow Pliny the elder’s Naturalis Historia.


Awake / Voetmann, Harald
“In a shuttered bedroom in ancient Italy, the sleepless Pliny the Elder lies in bed obsessively dictating new chapters of his Natural History to his slave Diocles. Fat, wheezing, imperious, and prone to nosebleeds, Pliny does not believe in spending his evenings in repose: No, to be awake is to be alive. There’s no time to waste if he is to classify every element of the natural world in a single work. By day Pliny the Elder carries out his many civic duties and gives the occasional disastrous public reading. But despite his astonishing ambition to catalog everything from precious metals to the moon, as well as a collection of exotic plants sourced from the farthest reaches of the world, Pliny the Elder still takes immense pleasure in the common rose. After he rushes to an erupting Mount Vesuvius and perishes in the ash, his nephew, Pliny the Younger, becomes custodian of his life’s work. But where Pliny the Elder saw starlight, Pliny the Younger only sees fireflies.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The fossil hunter / Cooper, Tea
“The Hunter Valley 1847  The last thing Mellie Vale remembers before the fever takes her is running through the bush as a monster chases her – but no one believes her story. In a bid to curb Mellie’s overactive imagination, her benefactors send her to visit a family friend, Anthea Winstanley. Anthea is an amateur palaeontologist with a dream. She is convinced she will one day find proof the ichthyosaur and the plesiosaur swam in the vast inland sea that millions of years ago covered her property at Bow Wow Gorge… ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The perishing : a novel / Deón, Natashia
“Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles, nearly naked and with no memory of how she got there or where she’s from, only a fleeting sense that this isn’t the first time she’s found herself in similar circumstances. Taken in by a caring foster family, Lou dedicates herself to her education while trying to put her mysterious origins behind her. She’ll go on to become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times, but Lou’s extraordinary life is about to become even more remarkable. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Matrix / Groff, Lauren
“Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease. At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her…” (Catalogue)

Fight night / Toews, Miriam
” Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma takes on the role of teacher and gives her the task of writing to Swiv’s absent father about life in the household during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In turn, Swiv gives Grandma an assignment: to write a letter to “Gord,” her unborn grandchild (and Swiv’s soon-to-be brother or sister). “You’re a small thing,” Grandma writes to Gord, “and you must learn to fight.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Burntcoat : a novel / Hall, Sarah
“In an unnamed British city, the virus is spreading, and like everyone else, the celebrated sculptor Edith Harkness retreats inside. She isolates herself in her immense studio, Burntcoat, with Halit, the lover she barely knows. As life outside changes irreparably, inside Burntcoat, Edith and Halit find themselves changed as well: by the histories and responsibilities each carries and bears, by the fears and dangers of the world outside, and by the progressions of their new relationship” (Adapted from Catalogue). Also available as an eBook

The matzah ball / Meltzer, Jean
“For a decade Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt has hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach. When her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration runs dry. Rachel is determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemy– Jacob Greenberg. Their grudge still glows brighter than a menorah, but as they spend time together Rachel finds herself drawn to Hanukkah– and Jacob.” (Catalogue)

A passage north : a novel / Arudpragasam, Anuk
“A Passage North begins with a message: a telephone call informing Krishan, newly returned to Colombo, that his grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has died in unexpected circumstances–found at the bottom of the village well, her neck broken. The news coincides with the arrival of an email from Anjum, a woman with whom he had a brief but passionate relationship in Delhi a few years before, bringing with it the stirring of old memories and desires. As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn northern province for the funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the soul of a country…” (Catalogue)