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Dame Fiona Kidman OBE, Legion d'honneur, is a leading contemporary novelist, short story writer and poet. Her writing career spans over 30 books in over 50 years. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
Albert Black, known as Paddy, and later as the “jukebox killer”, was the penultimate person to be hanged in New Zealand at the age of twenty-five. Paddy came to New Zealand from Ireland, a sparky young man seeking a new life in a new land. Then, after killing another young man during a fight, a weighted court case sees him sentenced to death for murder. The events that led to the fatal stabbing are told from the engrossing and varied viewpoints of multiple witnesses, both on the stand and in real time. The lives of the jurors are explored too, their backgrounds, what makes them tick, how they’re biased against, or in favour of, the accused regardless of evidence or fact, from the “He’s an Irishman. Taking our girls,” comment of Wayne the gas fitter, to the sympathetic butcher who points out that “if someone’s not like you, you don’t want to know”. The ethics of the death penalty are explored too. As one juror remarks, “I cannot believe we’ve earned the right to decide who should live and who should die”, as is political history, the social history of Irish migrants forging new lives as ten-quid Poms, and the personal plight of Paddy’s mother back home who starts a petition and writes to the New Zealand High Commissioner and the Queen. As the case progresses (with prejudice against outsiders deftly explored and powerfully prescient), the novel lays bare how some individuals stand firm in their convictions while others crumble, and how anyone’s convictions might crumble when circumstances collude and collide. A love story unfolds too, which takes an unexpected and deeply poignant turn. Author Fiona Kidman is a highly-regarded recipient of many literary awards and honours in her native New Zealand and this affecting novel more than showcases her exquisite talent.
Fiona Kidman, a poet, is a beautiful writer. --The Times In 1952, war widow Irene takes her young daughter to start a new life in New Zealand's tobacco fields. But tragedy forces her into the arms of Jock, whose actions will haunt the lives of the couple's future children--though strong-willed Belinda will carve her own path through a changing world and seize a second chance. Dame Fiona Kidman OBE has published over thirty books, including novels, poetry, nonfiction, and a play. She is one of the most highly acclaimed writers in New Zealand.
The experience of working for Violet Trench in her small-town cafe in the summer of 1963 shapes the lives of a group of women including Jessie Sandal, who follows Violet's influence as far as Cambodia.Fiona Kidman explores family relationships and the difficult journey to female independence.
After breaking records and becoming an international icon in the 1930s, Batten suddenly slipped out of view, disappearing to the Caribbean with her mother and eventually dying in obscurity in Majorca, buried in a pauper's grave.The compelling behind-the-scenes story of 'the Garbo of the skies' is a fascinating insight into the early days of flying, of mothers and daughters, fame and secrecy.
Acclaimed by critics as 'beautifully written', 'innovative' and 'profoundly moving', this novel is about the ways we are influenced in early life and can connect to others through shared experience.A woman rows across a lake with a small part-Asian child. The woman is Violet Trench, who in future years will run the Violet Caf, with an iron will. Those who work in her caf, come from a diverse range of backgrounds, but each with their own troubles and each affected by working for this enigmatic woman. Her influence takes Jessie Sandal on dangerous journeys to the Far East, and to another stretch of water to be crossed with a small part-Asian child.Although the characters go their separate ways, they never forget the flavour of that summer working at the caf,, like the secret, surprising allure of the truffle that infused the food there.
An engrossing collection of short stories from one of New Zealand's most distinguished writers.Fiona Kidman first wrote short stories in the 1960s and has continued to publish them in books, magazines and journals ever since. Her style has evolved as she has explored different forms over the years, but her piercingly vivid realisations of everyday people have remained a characteristic of her striking work. This is a collection of the best of her stories from the first thirty years of her writing career, including many old favourites from her acclaimed collections, Mrs Dixon and Friend, Unsuitable Friends and The Foreign Woman. She has gone on to write many more prize-winning books - including further stories, poetry, novels and memoir - but these stories stand the test of time and are testament to the quality and lasting appeal of her work.
A superbly written novel offering an intriguing interpretation of one of the world's greatest aviators, the glamorous and mysterious Jean Batten. Jean Batten became an international icon in the 1930s. A brave, beautiful woman, she made a number of heroic solo flights across the world. The newspapers couldn't get enough of her; and yet she suddenly slipped out of view, disappearing to the Caribbean with her mother and dying in obscurity in Majorca, buried in a pauper's grave. Fiona Kidman's enthralling novel delves into the life of this enigmatic woman, exploring mysteries and crafting a fascinating exploration of early flying, of mothers and daughters, and of fame and secrecy.
A serious but also blackly funny short story about old friendships, love and formaldehyde by one of New Zealand's most distinguished writers.Now middle-aged, the one-time teenage rebels live staid, safe lives, while their friend Jan, who had been the good one of their pack, is now locked up in prison. With Jan's mother just dead, there is no one to organise the funeral except for her two old class mates. They agree to help, but Jan's request for a special dress for the corpse leads to a moral dilemma.
A classic, prize-winning novel about an epic migration and a lone woman haunted by the past in frontier Waipu.In the 1850s, a group of settlers established a community at Waipu in the northern part of New Zealand. They were led there by a stern preacher, Norman McLeod. The community had followed him from Scotland in 1817 to found a settlement in Nova Scotia, then subsequently to New Zealand via Australia. Their incredible journeys actually happened, and in this winner of the New Zealand Book Awards, Fiona Kidman breathes life and contemporary relevance into the facts by creating a remarkable fictional story of three women entangled in the migrations - Isabella, her daughter Annie and granddaughter Maria. McLeod's harsh leadership meant that anyone who ran counter to him had to live a life of secrets. The 'secrets' encapsulated the spirit of these women in their varied reactions to McLeod's strict edicts and connect the past to the present and future.First published in 1987, this book has been in print ever since - a continual classic and perennial favourite.
An internationally acclaimed novel, the Kirkus Reviews wrote, 'Shrewdly balanced between earthy tenderness and the dreadful trauma of disillusionment: a grave yet limber narrative-and a very welcome import.' In a strange old building referred to as Paddy's Puzzle, Clara Bentley endures the fears of wartime and awaits the arrival of her lover, Ambrose. He's an American Marine. And he's black. Having grown up in suburban Hamilton, her move to Auckland marks an escape from the dreariness and restrictions of her childhood. In this building, full of an odd assortment of people, she waits, not just for Ambrose, but for the air-raid siren, for the culmination of her illness and for the sister to whom she dreads having to explain her new life in the Puzzle.The novel was shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards. The San Francisco Chronicle commented: 'The supple flow of Kidman's language is a pleasure to read. She's particularly alive to the sudden swelling of emotion just below the surface of a carefully worded conversation. And she tosses off startlingly true images in the most offhand manner.'
A collection of six compelling stories linked by a central issue in the lives of the main characters, the defining incident that shapes their futures: the disappearance of a brother; an illegitimate child born to a young girl; a traumatic court case; a woman caught between the deep friendship of two men; a lost lover; a betrayal. They are generally stories about country women, whose children have grown up and moved away to the cities, while they have remained surrounded by tight communities and an enfolding countryside. The central story is of a woman who has a drifting sewing-machine in her body. Every time she thinks she has composed her life, she is reminded of something that happened in her past and feels as if the needle is 'passing through her heart'.'She has a rare ability to capture a sense of place and time . . . [Her] stories remind me of Alice Monro.' - Booksellers News
A bestselling and influential novel, this compulsive story examines women's changing lives. 'One thing she had learnt was that she and Leonie belonged to a breed of women who were indestructible. They were survivors.'Taking risks is something Harriet seems driven to do as she struggles to retain her identity as a woman in the face of opposing demands from society. Through her adolescence in rural New Zealand, two marriages and a television career, she steadfastly maintains her quest. But, in the end: What has she won? What had she lost?'Tautly written, often poetic, and dramatic . . . a first-class novel.' - Sydney Morning Herald
A beautiful collection of stories by a pre-eminent writer, shortlisted for major awards.Fiona Kidman has a genius for peeling back the lives of ordinary people to reveal their hidden passions and complexities. In this brilliant new collection, she explores - with her customary subtlety and insight - how we are all touched and sometimes scarred by the flames of emotion - whether it be the impossible love of a pregnant woman for a married man, grief for a dead baby or loss of a young woman in mysterious circumstances. Ranging in time from the colonial period to the present day, these stories by one of New Zealand's foremost writers are beautifully crafted, intriguing and evocative. '[Her] stories remind me of those of Alice Munro. Though they are very much of a time and place they have a universal dimension.' - Booksellers NewsShortlisted for the NZ Post Awards and the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award.
An evocative memoir about the emergence of a pre-eminent writer in a changing world'What I have to tell is largely a personal narrative about how I came to inhabit a fictional world' This absorbing memoir explores the first half of writer Fiona Kidman's life, notably in Kerikeri amid the 'sharp citric scent of orange groves, bright heat and . . . the shadow of Asia' - at the end of Darwin Road. From the distance of France, where Kidman spent time as the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton, she reconsiders the past, weaving personal reflection and experience with the history of the places where she lived, particularly the fascinating northern settlements of Kerikeri and Waipu, and further south the cities of Rotorua and Wellington. Her story crosses paths with those of numerous different New Zealanders, from the Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana, to descendants of the migration from Scotland led by a charismatic Presbyterian minister, to other writers and significant friends. We learn of Kidman's struggles to establish herself as a writer and to become part of different communities, and how each worked their way into her fiction. At the End of Darwin Road is a vivid memoir of place and family, and of becoming a writer: 'I was certain that . . . I would continue to write, if possible, every day of my life.'
A prize-winning historical novel that has become a New Zealand classic.When Betty Guard steps ashore in Sydney, in 1834, she meets with a heroine's welcome. Her survival during a four-month kidnapping ordeal amongst Taranaki Maori is hailed as nothing short of a miracle. But questions about what really happened slowly surface within the ,lite governing circles of the raw new town of Sydney. Jacky Guard, ex-convict turned whaler, had taken Betty as his wife to his New Zealand whaling station when she was fourteen. After several years and two children, the family is returning from a visit to Sydney when their barque is wrecked near Mount Taranaki. A battle with local Maori follows, and Betty and her children are captured. Her husband goes to seek a ransom, but instead England engages in its first armed conflict with New Zealand Maori when he is persuaded to return with two naval ships. After her violent rescue, Betty's life amongst the tribe comes under intense scrutiny. Based on real events, this is the compelling story of a marriage, of love and duty, and the quest for freedom in a pioneering age.
A moving novel, with intelligent and compassionate insight into post-natal depression and the complexities of relationships. 'When Roberta falls pregnant her whole family is filled with joy.' Fallen is not exactly how Roberta would describe it, for she and Paul have planned the baby and it has been conceived at exactly the time that they chose. But the birth itself is not as anyone chooses and the circles that radiate from this crisis affect everyone involved and change Roberta's life, in particular, for ever. 'In her craft of her storytelling and in her compassionate gutsy tough expression of female experience, she is the best we have.' - NZ Listener