Iris and Me: Philippa Werry in conversation

“Be for once a white boat adrift, in debt to no lighthouse.”
― Robin Hyde

Iris Guiver Wilkinson, aka Robin Hyde, was one of the most remarkable and talented writers Aotearoa New Zealand has ever produced. A great writer who left behind a remarkable body of work.

Her adult life was marked by many challenges  – physical disability, mental illness, the difficulties of being an unmarried mother in the male-dominated, misogynistic society of the time.  There was another side to her life as well; her bravery, amazing drive, perseverance, determination and also her deep need to travel and journey and explore both in the physical sense and as a person.

Philippa Werry’s latest novel Iris and Me looks at Robin Hyde’s entire life, touching on her both her childhood and her final days, but the book is primarily focussed on her time in China and her journey there, including her time as a war correspondent during the Sino-Japanese War.

When Philippa offered us the opportunity to interview her about  Iris and Me and the life and times of Robin Hyde, we jumped at it.

We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Philippa for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing such an illuminating insight into both her work and the life and world of Robin Hyde. We would also like to thank The Cuba Press for arranging the interview.

You can watch the video below, or on our YouTube channel. You can borrow Philippa’s previous books from the library; see a small selection below.

Iris and Me / Werry, Philippa
Philippa Werry’s  latest novel Iris and Me looks at Robin Hyde’s  entire life touching on her both her childhood and final days , but the book is primarily focussed on her time in China and her journey there. Including her time as a War correspondent during the Sino-Japanese War.” ( Adapted from catalogue)


Armistice Day : the New Zealand story : what it is and why it matters / Werry, Philippa
“At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year New Zealanders remember the end of the First World War. Armistice Day, Philippa Werry’s new book for children, commemorates the day when fighting stopped in Europe. Partnered with best-selling Anzac Day, it makes an excellent reference for the whole family. Kiwi soldiers returned home to a terrible influenza epidemic, as the population grieved for the loss of life. Memorials were erected and families sought to return to the battlefields overseas to visit graves of their loved ones. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Harbour Bridge : Auckland, 1958-59 / Werry, Philippa
“Auckland in the 1950s: a time of rock’n’roll, milk bars, bodgies and widgies and teenage rebellion. The Auckland Harbour Bridge is under construction. Simon likes watching the bridge being built, and talking to his uncle and his mates about what’s happening on site. Meanwhile, Simon’s best friend Marty is obsessed with the Space Race and younger sister Jo can’t stop worrying about the fate of the dogs and monkeys that are the world’s first space travellers. Everyone says that life on the North Shore will change once the bridge is finished …but what does that mean for Simon and his family?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Lighthouse family : coastal New Zealand, 1941-42 / Werry, Philippa
“For Frances and her family, living on a lighthouse, the war is both far away and scarily close. There are rumours of submarines in the Pacific. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, taken Singapore and bombed Darwin, so what’s to stop them invading New Zealand next? But soon Frances, the only girl on the island, will have more to worry about than the threat of a Japanese invasion”–Publisher’s information. Includes brief factual information about World War two, Japanese in New Zealand and lighthouses.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The New Zealand Wars / Werry, Philippa
“The story of the 19th century New Zealand Wars, a part of New Zealand’s history that many people wish they knew more about. The book describes how the wars came about, where and when they were fought, who was involved, and how they affected women and children. It explains the emergence of Kīngitanga or Māori King movement, the land confiscations and the story of Parihaka. Other chapters look at war memorials, graves and monuments, the work of the Waitangi Tribunal, how the wars have featured in New Zealand art, music and literature, and how they are being remembered today, including new ways of working towards understanding and reconciliation.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Enemy at the gate / Werry, Philippa
“It’s December 1936 when the first polio cases are suspected. Soon a polio epidemic is sweeping the country. Schools are closed, swimming pools and movie theatres banned to children, and travel is restricted. Tom is the best runner in the school, but you can’t outrun polio, and nobody knows when it will strike next.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Waitangi Day : the New Zealand story : what it is and why it matters / Werry, Philippa
“Reviews the historic events behind the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 and charts the celebrations, tensions and protests witnessed in the years that followed, concluding with a summary of the Waitangi Day events held around the country on 6th February today.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Quarantine / Werry, Philippa
“”Being in quarantine sounds like being in prison”, I said, shivering. Lily nodded.” A bit like that. Except that the prison is your own home”. It might sound familiar in 2021, but this is New Zealand in 1936-37. The disease is infantile paralysis, or polio, and nobody knows where it will strike next. When even the adults are afraid, Tom finds refuge in his dream-to run in the Olympics like his hero, Olympic champion Jack Lovelock.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This Friday! Author Talk & Book Launch: Renée, Jennifer Lane & Anne Harré

Nefarious Novels at Newtown

A rare opportunity to hear three of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most outstanding  crime writers: Renée, Jennifer Lane and Anne Harré in conversation with Louise Dowdell, and help us launch Renée’s new book Blood Matters.

6.30pm Friday 18 November
at Newtown Library

Secure your spot for free on Eventbrite

We have a very special (and FREE!) event in store for fans of all Aotearoa fiction, and especially for fans of mystery and crime fiction.

We will be launching two stunning crime novels from our own fair shores; featuring the multi-award winning authors Renée (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Jennifer Lane, who will be talking about their new books Blood Matters and Miracle, respectively, as well as debut crime-writing sensation Anne Harré, whose novel The Leaning Man was released last year to huge critical acclaim.

Registration is not required, but highly suggested. This is likely to be a well attended event and we may need to turn people away if Newtown Library reaches full capacity. Secure your spot for free here via Eventbrite.

Author Photo Credit: (C) Doug Lilly.

Iconic New Zealand author Renée was born in 1929 in Napier and has so far written over twenty highly acclaimed plays — many of them works that humanise and centre working-class people and feature women in leading roles. She has also published (so far) ten fiction works including The Wild Card, which was shortlisted for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards. Her latest work  is Blood Matters.

The novel’s central character Puti is a runner, but she  doesn’t feel safe anymore – especially when she discovers her grandfather has been murdered with a Judas mask on his face and another biblical mask has gone missing. She’s also the guardian of ten-year-old Bella Rose, who wants to be a private investigator when she grows up. Puti and Bella Rose try to solve the murders and find out who took the mask.

Jennifer Lane’s debut novel, All Our Secrets, established her as an author to keep a close eye on; quickly gaining rave reviews, the book went on to win the much-coveted Best First Novel Award at the Ngaio Marsh Awards in 2018. Find more info on Jennifer Lane here. Her second novel Miracle has just been released.

The novel, set in small-town Australia, centres around events at a crematorium. The book’s central teenage character “Miracle” is a fabulous creation; funny and totally believable and who also has a colourful family  in tow. A compelling and enjoyable crime mystery read that will be enjoyed by both young adults and adults alike.

Author Photo Credit: Jane Harris.

Anne Harré’s debut novel The Leaning Man is a gripping, suspenseful page-turning thrill ride of a book (you are very likely to stay up very late to see what happens next). It is set in our very own windy Wellington and in some respects is a love letter to the city with its perfectly visualised, vivid, and evocative descriptions of the capital. And to top it all, one of the locations in the book is our very own Te Awe Library, with accompanying fictional librarian. The book gathered glowing reviews from the likes of  The Listener and The Dominion Post, as well as RNZ.

Renée, Jennifer Lane and Anne Harré will be interviewed by our very own Louise Dowdell. This is a rare opportunity to hear three of the best crime writers in the country talk about their latest crime novels and their work. This is an opportunity not to be missed by anyone interested in New Zealand literature.

We wish to extend our most heartfelt thanks to authors Renée, Jennifer Lane, Anne Harré and Cuba Press for making this very special and totally unmissable event happen .


Blood Matters / Renée
“Puti loves to run, but she  doesn’t feel safe anymore – especially when she discovers her grandfather has been murdered with a Judas mask on his face  and another mask has gone missing. She’s also  the guardian of ten-year-old Bella Rose, who wants to be a private investigator when she grows up.  Puti and Bella Rose try to solve the murders and who took the mask.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)


Miracle / Lane, Jennifer
“Born in the middle of Australia’s biggest-ever earthquake, Miracle is fourteen when her world crumbles. Thanks to her dad’s new job at Compassionate Cremations — which falls under suspicion for Boorunga’s spate of sudden deaths — the entire town turns against their family. She fears for her agoraphobic mother, and for her angelic, quake-damaged brother, Julian. When Oli plays a cruel trick on Miracle, he sets off a chain of devastating events. Then her dad is arrested for a brutal attack. How can she convince the town of her dad’s innocence?” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

The leaning man / Harré, Anne
“Wellington. The land dips and rolls, the wind has a life of its own. It’s Saturday night down on the wharf. Celebrations are in full swing for the Westons’ fortieth wedding anniversary. Their daughter Stella has returned from London to attend. She’s now a private investigator in London, reduced to filming errant husbands for court cases. She doesn’t want to be home. Later that night her best friend Teri is found dead in a lane in the central city. Her phone is missing. It looks like suicide, but Stella won’t believe it. The race is on between those who want the phone, the homeless man who’s pocketed it, and Stella.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The wild card / Renée
“Ruby Palmer has been dealt a rough hand. She was left in a kete at the back door of the Porohiwi Home for Children when she was a baby, and then at seven she discovered that Betty – who stopped the bad stuff happening to Ruby at the Home – has drowned. Now in her thirties, Ruby suspects her friend was murdered – her only lead is a notebook that uses the symbols on playing cards to tell a story she can’t understand, but there are other clues too. As Ruby goes deeper into the mystery of Betty’s death she starts to find answers to questions about herself that she hadn’t dared ask before.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All our secrets / Lane, Jennifer
“A girl called Gracie. A small town called Coongahoola with the dark Bagooli River running through it. The River Children – born in the aftermath of the infamous River Picnic. They begin to go missing, one after another. Gracie Barrett is the naively savvy spokesperson for her chaotic family, for the kids who are taken, for the lurking fear that locks down the town and puts everyone under suspicion. Coongahoola is where hope and fear collide, where tender adolescence is confronted by death, where kindness is a glimmer of light  in the dark.”(Adapted from Catalogue)

These two hands / Renée
“Renee Paule lives in Otaki and teaches her Your Life, Your Story and her Poem a Week workshops there. This is just one version of her life, her story, told in patches, like a quilt.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)



Wednesday to come : trilogy / Renée
“‘Wednesday to come’ (a play for 6 women and 2 men) shows the effect of the Great Depression on four generations of women from the same family. In ‘Pass it on’ (a play for 3 women and 3 men) the teenager Jeannie from ‘Wednesday to come’ is now a young woman in her 30s dealing with the 1951 Waterfront Lockout. The final play in the trilogy goes back in time to life in Victorian Dunedin: ‘Jeannie once’ (a play for 6 women and 3 men) looks at this world through the eyes of Jeannie’s great-grandmother, Granna in ‘Wednesday to come’.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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)

“One of the most exciting books I’ve ever read”: New Fiction

Up until very recently Jessica Hansell (more commonly known under her rap nickname Coco Solid) has best been better known as a rapper, artist, actor and video director. Coco’s hugely popular style of  disco, rap, hip pop music has meant that Coco’s albums have been in the New Zealand top ten albums lists for almost every year one has been released. Coco also created the fabulous Māori cult adult animated comedy series Aroha Bridge, and is currently developing a forthcoming science-fiction series called Jupiter Park.  In 2019 Coco was made  a national Arts Laureate by The Arts Foundation NZ, and now the multimedia artist and musician has added best selling fiction author to her growing list of achievements.

How to Loiter in a Turf War is Coco’s debut fiction work and is loosely based on Coco’s own past in Auckland, and has been described as a hybrid novel with poetic rap elements amongst others woven into the narrative. The plot revolves around three friends who with wit and razor-sharp humour navigate the urban world they live in. The book  is also about a community experiencing dramatic change caused by gentrification. Coco’s voice throughout the novel is strong and clear and underpinned by this polymath’s fierce intellect.

It isn’t surprising that Pip Adam described the book thus “ This is one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read”.

No matter what medium Coco is working in she strives to prioritise Oceaniac narratives, wāhine, and LGBTQIA+ expression. You can borrow How to Loiter in a Turf War, along with a very small selection of our recently acquired fiction titles, below.

How to loiter in a turf war / Coco Solid
“It’s a day in the life of three friends beefing with their own city, Tamaki Makaurau. With gentrification closing in and racial tensions sweltering, the girls must cling to their friendship like a life raft, determined not to let their neighbourhood drift out to sea. Fast, ferociously brilliant, crack-up funny and unforgettably true. ‘This book paints a picture of the Auckland I grew up in – when waiting for the 025 to town was a gamble, and the answer to the question ‘where are you from?’ was an essay, not a sentence.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Also available as an Audiobook.

Love marriage / Ali, Monica
“Yasmin Ghorami has a lot to be grateful for: a loving family, a fledgling career in medicine, and a charming, handsome fiancée, fellow doctor Joe Sangster. But as the wedding day draws closer and Yasmin’s parents get to know Joe’s firebrand feminist mother, both families must confront the unravelling of long-held secrets, lies and betrayals. As Yasmin dismantles her own assumptions about the people she holds most dear, she’s also forced to ask herself what she really wants in a relationship and what a ‘love marriage’ actually means. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Violeta : a novel / Allende, Isabel
“Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first girl in a family of five boisterous sons. The ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth. As the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known, Violeta’s family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. She tells her story in the form of a letter to someone she loves above all others, recounting devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Pensioned off : baby boomers out to pasture / Dawson, Sue
“Retirement – is it a wasteland or a wonderland? Ruth, Trudy and some other baby boomers they meet along the way are about to find out. Drawn together by a love of music, they form a ukulele band which takes them on a journey far beyond their original intention of giving free concerts in nursing homes.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Slow down, you’re here / Gnanalingam, Brannavan
“Kavita is stuck in a dead-end marriage, and is juggling parenting two small kids while also being the family’s main breadwinner. When an old flame offers a week away in Waiheke, she agonises but decides to accept. When she steps onto the ferry she knows she has left her family behind – but she’s not sure for how long.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Puripāha : Te Pane Kaewa / Ihimaera, Witi
“A te reo Maori translation of Witi Ihimaera’s award-winning novel about two rival Maori families on the East Coast, Bulibasha.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.



The island of missing trees / Shafak, Elif
“Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Woman, eating : a novel / Kohda, Claire
“Lydia is hungry. She’s always wanted to try Japanese food. Sashimi, ramen, onigiri with sour plum stuffed inside – the food her Japanese father liked to eat. And then there is bubble tea and iced-coffee, ice cream and cake, and foraged herbs and plants, and the vegetables grown by the other young artists at the London studio space she is secretly squatting in. But, Lydia can’t eat any of these things. Her body doesn’t work like those of other people. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs’ blood in London – where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first time – is much more difficult than she’d anticipated…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Author interview: Cristina Sanders

Bestselling author of Jerningham, Cristina Sanders has a new historical fiction novel just out called Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant.

When a three masted sailing ship hits the cliffs of the Auckland Islands in 1866, only fourteen men and one woman survive . They struggle to live on this remote, freezing island and initially view the woman as a burden they could do without.

Cristina Sanders photo copyright Anna Ward

The novel is a vivid imagining of the story behind the enduring mystery of this early New Zealand shipwreck; a tale full of intrigue, mystery and gold. The story is based on historical fact, there have been numerous unsuccessful expeditions to find the wreck site location of the General Grant.

We were thrilled when Christina took time out from her very busy schedule to discuss Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant, and we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to her. For more information visit  Cuba press.

This interview was done in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin, the arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM. It was conducted by host Tanya Ashcroft. You can hear the interview, as well as find a selection of Cristina Sanders work that is available to borrow, below.


Mrs Jewell and the wreck of the General Grant. / Sanders, Cristina

” When a three masted sailing ship hits the cliffs of the Auckland Islands in 1866 only fourteen men and one woman survives . They struggle to survive on this remote, exposed, and freezing island and initially view the woman as a burden they could do without .” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Jerningham / Sanders, Cristina
“Edward Jerningham Wakefield was the wild-child of the Wakefield family that set up the New Zealand Company to bring the first settlers to this country. His story is told through the eyes of bookkeeper Arthur Lugg, who is tasked by Colonel William Wakefield to keep tabs on his brilliant but unstable nephew. As trouble brews between settlers, government, missionaries and Māori over land and souls and rights, Jerningham is at the heart of it, blurring the line between friendship and exploitation and spinning the hapless Lugg in his wake. Alive with historical detail, Jerningham tells a vivid story of Wellington’s colonial beginnings and of a charismatic young man’s rise and inevitable fall.” (Catalogue)

Greta and Valdin: Our latest eLibrary promotion

Greta and Valdin cover against a photo of Auckland City


The modern world is too much for me. I feel like I’m George of the Jungle. —Greta

At the moment, for personal reasons, I don’t like reading things about people being in love with each other. —Valdin

Since its release in 2021, Greta and Valdin by Rebecca K. Reilly has become one of the must-read New Zealand novels. Its ultra-modern intelligent humour, often delivered in a razor-sharp pointed fashion, makes for a totally compelling read. Now, thanks to Libby, we are excited to offer unlimited access to the eBook.

The plot revolves around the smart and slightly quirky brother and sister co-narrators Valdin and Greta. They share an apartment in Auckland where they dissect the modern world; its ups and downs but especially each other’s personal lives. Both are seeking love: Valdin is still in love with his ex-boyfriend, whilst Greta is in love with her fellow English tutor Holly. The resulting observations and dialogue are pure comic gold. As one critic put it, the novel reads like “the strange love child of Shakespeare and Tinder”. What is even more remarkable is that Greta and Valdin is Reilly’s debut novel, which went on to win the Hubert Church Prize for Fiction for Best First Book at the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Now is your chance to grab an electronic copy of the book and laugh and cry with Greta and Valdin! Simply login to Overdrive or Libby with your library card to access a copy. Unlimited copies of these eBooks will be available from Monday the 27th of June to Sunday the 10th of July.