What We're Reading

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Neil

'Exterminate All The Brutes', by Sven Lindqvist (Granta 1997)

Sven Lindqvist, who died in 2019, was one of Sweden's most celebrated writers, mostly in non fiction, reportage and travel. This is perhaps his best known book in English, and is a history of European racism in the 19th Century. It examines European colonial actions in Africa and South and Central America, the military developments that allowed for it, and the philosophical and political justifications for the brutality that Joseph Conrad wrote about in Heart of Darkness.

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Neil

The Forgotten Coast, by Richard Shaw (Massey November 2021)

This third book in Massey's charming small memoir series is as surprising and unique as the first two. Like the others, it's at heart a family story, with secrets to be revealed. Shaw, now a professor, grew up not knowing that his family's privileged position came from ancestors farming land in Taranaki that had been confiscated from mana whenua and sold to his great grandfather, who was a member of the Armed Constabulary at the invasion of Parihaka in 1881.

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Neil

The Way of the World, by Nicolas Bouvier (Eland 2007, first published in 1963)

The Way of the World tells the story of two friends, the author and artist Thierry Vernet, drive in a Fiat Topolino from Geneva to the Khyber Pass in the 1950s. They had little money, and stopped off in towns along the way to teach, sell paintings, and play music to earn enough to continue. It's an epic journey, in the vein of Patrick Leigh Fermor, with vivid descriptions and illustrations of local people, landscapes and extreme weather, both hot and cold.

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Neil

The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene (Vintage 2019, first published 1951)

This is such a sad novel, a real classic, loosely based on an affair Graham Greene had in real life. The narrator is Maurice Bendrix, a rational but flawed and jealous man, a moderately successful novelist, who meets and starts an affair with a married woman, Sarah, during the Second World War. The main events in the novel are described 6 or so years later, when the affair has ended with significant impacts on both parties, and the novel also describes other tragic events that befall the characters.

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Neil

She's A Killer, by Kirsten McDougall (VUP October 2021)

This superbly inventive and clever thriller is set in near-future Wellington, with a climate crisis in play globally, and social and economic disruption in a New Zealand flooded with 'wealthugees'. The narrator is a genius slacker, who is anarchic and unreliable, but smart and well drawn. She behaves appallingly and hilariously, but the book isn't being played for laughs. It's deadly serious, tense, claustrophobic and exciting, and takes the reader places you won't expect. A brilliant and unsettling read, and too short at 400 pages.

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Neil

There There, by Tommy Orange (Vintage 2018)

Set mostly in Oakland, mostly amongst the urban Native American community, this powerful novel tells in alternating chapters the stories of a dozen or so disparate characters, who are destined to overlap in a tragic climax at the Bog Oakland Powwow. It's a darkly energetic novel, exhilarating and exciting as it drives the reader towards an inevitable, excruciating finale. The many characters are all convincingly drawn, and not regularly seen in American fiction. This is Orange's first novel, published when he was in his mid-thirties. He's one to watch, an exciting discovery.