If you haven’t read Elizabeth McCracken before, then you’re in for a treat. Reading McCracken’s prose is like looking at the world through a new, slightly sunnier, lens. I enjoyed her stories – the ones about weddings, puffins, puppets, and a wistful, whimsical trip through Amsterdam (remember when we could travel in such a fashion?) - but I think McCracken could write about any subject and make it packed full of punchy, joyful wit. McCracken is a writer for people who like to enjoy writing at the sentence level – each one is neatly-wrapped present. But her stories are probably a good salve for anyone in our pandemic times – they’re very human in that precise way of McCracken’s, but there is plenty to find pleasing.
Imagine living in isolation for about 40 years – not because of a pandemic – but for the cause of love and freedom.
When Annie and Chaffey met and fell in love in Timaru in 1908, Annie was in an abusive marriage and had two sons and Chaffey was divorced from his first wife. In 1913, they chose to hide away in Asbestos cottage, a very basic, small hut, isolated in the remote backcountry of Northwest Nelson where they would be living for about 40 years.
Jennifer Beard, Monica Cantwell, Heidi Paakkonen, Mallory Manning, Grace Millane … just some of the women’s names we in Aotearoa know because they died brutally at the hands of men. Their names are all most of us do know about these women – that and the circumstances of their deaths. Jacqueline Bublitz has framed Before You Knew My Name around this sad fact - and the fact that women develop “Self-preservation as a replacement for instinct”.
Jake and Emily were childhood friends and neighbours. Now in his early twenties, Jake returns to Dunedin from Auckland, where he has been studying after failing to get into medical school. Jake will finally start his medical training, which Emily started a few years before. Emily is now in a relationship with a first-year doctor. Jake and Emily have an enduring attraction. The scene is set for a medical romance. However, Jake and Emily share a secret – one that continues to both bind them together and push them apart - the scene is also set for a harrowing novel about the cruelty of fate and the despair of those at its mercy.
Kayte Nunn is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and her latest offering The Last Reunion continues to delight! As she has done previously, Kayte skillfully weaves the stories of several significant characters while also skipping back and forward in time; despite this potentially confusing construction the story is easy to follow and relatively fast paced for an emotional read.