This week 28-year-old New Zealander Eleanor Catton became the youngest person to win the Man Booker Prize with her 2nd novel The Luminaries. I haven't read The Luminaries yet, but a reviewer on the BBC called it the "Kiwi Twin Peaks." This alone is sufficient to whet my appetite, but there's a lot to this book, in fact the longest Booker Prize winner ever clocking in at a staggering 848 pages. It follows the story of Walter Moody, who's come to work the goldfields in 1866 New Zealand who stumbles upon a series of unsolved (and possibly related?!) crimes including the disappearance of a wealthy man, the suicide of a prostitute and the discovery of a cache of money in the local drunk's house. I hugely can't wait to dig into this!
Right now it's spring in New Zealand, and if you're considering on taking a second summer for yourself in this beautiful archipelago, December would be a great time to jaunt away from New England and sip egg nog on the beaches of Auckland. If you're planning a trip on the sole basis of having an 848 page novel to read on your way there now, don't stop at Ms. Catton, the Kiwis have a magnificent array of beach reads to bring with you:
The Bone People by Keri Hulme. The 1985 winner of the Booker Prize, this is one of those books that has a huge cult following but sells steadily despite being a generally unknown book. Without giving too much away, it's basically the story of a woman artist in New Zealand and a young Maori boy who tries to steal from her one night but then returns and their interactions thereafter. It's a bit of a challenge but a rewarding one.
Katherine Mansfield is easily one of the greatest authors from New Zealand, and if you haven't read her yet put Alice Munro down for a sec and read some of the greatest short stories in English. She wrote around the time of H.D. and Virginia Woolf and she's definitely of their ilk though in a class of her own, of course. “The Garden Party” is really great.
And if you haven't read the book that serves as the basis for the amazing film The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, do it now! It draws on Maori myths and tells the beautiful story of a girl born to a patriarchal family who overcomes tradition to prove herself to her traditional grandfather by riding a whale along the coast (which in the Maori legend was done by a male).
Fall is the greatest time in New England, but we all know it's brief, so after the leaves change, come load up on Kiwi-fic and keep summer going year-round!