05/20/2017 02:33 PM

This week's Book of the Week is Catherine Chidgey's exquisitely written novel The Wish Child, which has just won the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

>> Read Stella's review

>> Read an excerpt

>> Wrestling with her inner critic

>> Two births in one year

>> A night at the Ockhams in a not-very-good seat

05/13/2017 11:55 AM
This week's Book of the Week is My Father's Island by Adam Dudding (published by Victoria University Press).
Adam Dudding's book is a memoir of his father, Robin Dudding, a foremost literary editor of his time, catalyst to a generation of New Zealand writers, resolute bohemian, devoted but flawed father and husband.

>> Read Stella's review.

>> The book has been short-listed for the General Non-Fiction section of the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

>> An extract from the book.

>> An interview with Adam.

>> Adam Dudding chats with Kim Hill.

>> An obituary for Robin Dudding, groomed by Charles Brasch as editor of Landfall and founder of the literary journal Islands.

05/06/2017 07:39 AM

This week's Book of the Week is Colm Tóibín's House of Names. In retelling the legendary clusters surrounding Clytemnestra, Orestes, Electra and Iphigenia, Tóibín re-evaluates received notions, reassesses characters and motivations, and gives these ancient Greeks and their stories a vitality and urgency that speak directly to the modern reader.

>> Read Stella's review

>> Toibin "endows Clytemnestra with a hybrid voice that sounds both strangely modern and ancient."

>> "He loves long nights, sing-songs and money but is deadly serious about his writing."

>> Toibin and cat

>> The Oresteia

>> Some other recent novels reclaiming viewpoints of suppressed or vilified female characters. 
Bright Black Air by David Vann (Medea, Jason) 
The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes (Oedipus, Antigone)

- The Story of Antigone by Ali Smith 

04/29/2017 12:30 PM
This week's Book of the Week is The New Zealand Project by Max Harris (published by Bridget Williams Books). Is this the book to transform political discussion in New Zealand into a tool fit for the social and environmental crises that lie ahead?

>> "Young, gifted and political."

>> On Universal Basic Income.

>> Rethinking prison.

>> "A visionary worth following."

>> With Kathryn Ryan on Radio NZ National.

>> Bringing values back to politics.

>> Would civics education result in better political participation from the young?

>> On the politics of love.

>> He blogged.

04/22/2017 02:22 PM

Our Book of the Week this week is Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. It features 100 one-page biographies of inspiring women from all times and all places, each with a full-page illustration by one of 60 artists (who just happen to all be women), including New Zealander Sarah Wilkins.

>> A quick survey of our shelves revealed them to be loaded with books that have feisty, adventurous girl protagonists who take their destinies into their own hands. Here's a small selection - recommended reading for children and young adults of all genders

>> We found to our delight that the gender-bias assessment undertaken in this video did not apply to the books on our shelves (if anything, the reverse!). We would also contend that it is not only girls who need books with girl protagonists - boys can enjoy them too. 

Our featured Rebel Girls this week: 
Monday: Policarpa Salavarrieta
Tuesday: Wang Zhenyi
Wednesday: Grace O'Malley
Thursday: Zaha Hadid
Friday: Lakshmi Bai

04/15/2017 08:58 AM

This week's Book of the Week is Bill Manhire's first poetry collection for seven years: Some Things to Place in a Coffin

>> Read Thomas's review

>> Manhire's reading life.

>> The title poem is Manhire's eulogy to his friend Ralph Hotere.

>> Also new from Manhire: Tell Me My Name, a book of poetic riddles (with a CD by Hannah Griffin and Norman Meehan, and photographs by Peter Peryer). 

>> Bill reads a poem

>> Manhire at the Curioseum

>> In the poetry archive

>> "I've eaten Kentucky Fried Chicken and quite liked it."

04/15/2017 08:57 AM

Some Things to Place in a Coffin by Bill Manhire    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The proximity of death can be noticed not so much in our thinking about death as in the effect it has on the qualities of our thinking about everything else. Why is it that some particulars, either small details of the present or instances from often far in the past, unexpectedly present themselves with a clarity and a grain that familiarity has robbed us of the capacity to see or has prevented us from noticing? Or is it that the intensity of this nothingness bends the light as it drags everything towards it, uprooting these particulars from their quotidian sockets and causing them to be seen with strange clarity as they are drawn towards a point of dissolution, whereas other particulars are shucked of urgency and released into a new inconsequence. In the face of that of which the mind cannot conceive the senses speak with urgency, we experience simultaneously a grasping and a relinquishment, a change in contrast and in texture, if we may call them that, a new sense of purpose indistinguishable from resignation. In this book, Bill Manhire’s first collection in seven years, language dances as death presses at it from behind, agency flees into objects, images draw themselves together on the brink of their own dissolution, small things become final containers for the large. Wearing his art so lightly as at times to resemble artlessness, Manhire tests the strengths of finer and finer threads to very subtle effect. The book is arranged in four sections: firstly a set of poems through the progression of which poetry itself is pared away and memories grasped with the effect of grasping at water, drawing us through a beauty indistinguishable from sadness, a thinness like the distinct threads of gauze that remain after the pile has been worn off fabric. Each line marks the move towards silence: There is a thin, high scraping./ Then no noise of any sort at all. The second section was commissioned to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme and is an achingly beautiful sequence about loss at simultaneously the most specific and most universal scales. The third section is more linguistically playful, sometimes almost desperately so, and includes some pieces with the texture of songs, textures in which chasms open up to underlying voids, and also the title poem, written as an elegy to Manhire’s friend Ralphe Hotere. In the fourth section, ‘Falseweed’, small particles of poetry, dissolved already into the medium which bears them towards silence, converge and recombine in unexpected ways, squeaking out most affectingly before being redissolved. The final poem ‘The Lake’ is a farewell to language and to poetry and to the resisting of the pull to dissolution: Rapture. Quiet canoe. / I am defeated, done with speaking.


04/08/2017 08:02 AM

This week's Book of the Week is Nicola Galloway's eagerly anticipated new cookbook HOMEGROWN KITCHEN, which is beautifully presented and full of accessible delicious recipes and the best advice for those who want to eat delicious, healthy, natural, nourishing food every day.

>> Read Stella's review

>> We will have signed copies available

>> The Homegrown Kitchen's on-line recipe journal

>> The joys of growing and making your own food from scratch

>> Yoghurt and Honey Panna Cotta with Roasted Strawberry

>> Nicola's lovely Instagram gallery

04/08/2017 08:00 AM


Homegrown Kitchen by Nicola Galloway    {Reviewed by STELLA}
Nicola Galloway’s much-awaited cookbook Homegrown Kitchen is definitely worth the wait. A gorgeously presented book, the cover is enticing with its simple elegance, the photography conveys a feeling of comfort and pleasure in food. Thoughtfully ordered, the book opens with an introduction to Galloway’s philosophy of food and cooking and some preliminary notes about the recipes and your pantry, including information about gluten-free ingredients, sugars and their alternatives, and alternatives to dairy (nuts, seeds, coconut) - approachable and sound nutritional advice that doesn’t get bogged down in particular diet fads. For those that like to have all the essentials at their fingertips, this is a wonderful cookbook - almost half the book is dedicated to processes and recipes that will fill your household with all the nutritional goodness you and your family will need for eating well. There is a weekly kitchen planner to keep everything on track with your making of yoghurts, broths and stocks, sour-doughs, preparations for grains, seed and nut milk, and on preserving and fermenting. The recipes for preserving fruit, making sauces and chutneys look particularly tempting at this time of year when you want to fill the cupboards with bottles of beautifully coloured fruits, giving warmth and nutrition in the coming cooler months. Galloway’s instructions for fermenting are straightforwardly reassuring, and recipes include sauerkraut, lacto-fermented beetroot pickle and  kombucha. And then the recipes, headed up under the categories of Morning, Day, Evening and Sweet, are predominately everyday, interlaced with treats for special occasions. From porridge to poached eggs with a lime hollandaise on a roastie hash, there’s a breakfast that will appeal, the dips all look delicious and there are quick and healthy snack and lunch choices, and the evening dinners are tasty treats made from seasonal ingredients and combining nutritional value alongside the pleasure of food. And Galloway’s book is a pleasure which reflects her interest in nutrition, wellness and the goodness of eating and enjoying food.


04/01/2017 12:08 PM

This week's Book of the Week is Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton, a novel based on the completely extraordinary life of 17th century aristocrat, philosopher, poet, scientist, fiction-writer, and playwright Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

>> Read Stella's review

>> "A small miracle of imaginative sympathy."

>> "Prickly, shy, arrogant, imaginative, contradictory, curious, confused, melancholic, ambitious, restless."

>> A Description of the New World, Called the Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish (which inspired The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt).

>> The philosophy of Margaret Cavendish.

>> And now in PowerPoint.

>> A sampler of Margaret Cavendish's works

>> Danielle Dutton: "One of the most original and wonderfully weird prose stylists of our time".

>> Dutton is also a publisher at the very excellent The Dorothy Project.

04/01/2017 12:06 PM

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton     {Reviewed by STELLA}
Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of New Castle, was a poet, philosopher, essayist and ​playwright in the 17th century. Eccentric, erratically shy but desiring of fame, she was both shunned and celebrated by the aristocracy and the thinkers of the time. I kept picking up this slim volume with its attractive cover and its attractive turn of phrase, and insights into a woman’s lot in the 17th century. “One morning I woke to find I’d stained my sheets and thought I’d split in two. There followed a quiet clamor: new linens, removal from the nursery, and no one explaining why. Until a maid, in secret, provided useful counsel: Inscribe veronica in ink on the ball of your left thumb, to decrease the irksome flow. Stunned I fled to my room, only to find that my mother awaited me inside. 'You must wear chicken-skin gloves on your hands each night.'” And with those chicken-skin gloves, I was hooked. This is a fascinating fictional view of Margaret Cavendish, who courted fame and won it. Taken seriously by some, ridiculed by others, she was both shy and flamboyant (her fabulous outfits had London gossiping). The book opens with her childhood in the country estate of a royalist family. As trouble brews – Cromwell and the Civil War- Margaret goes into exile as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria. In Paris she is courted by William Cavendish, and in their early married life they mix with European thinkers and other exiled intellectuals. Margaret is not content to be a wife and bystander and, encouraged by William, begins on a series of plays and novellas. Some are treatises on being female, philosophical treatises, discussions about science, while others are fantastical stories – the most famous of these being The Blazing World, which is seen by some academics as the forerunner to science fiction. Danielle Dutton captures Margaret and all her complexities and inconsistencies perfectly. The first part of the book often reads like diary entries giving us an intimate portrayal of her state of mind, her frustrations and fascinations. In the later parts, which take us back to England (the royal family back in the seat of power), Dutton changes her writing style and we look upon Margaret with all her foibles - her egocentric nature, knack of offending with her arrogance, bouts of doubt and sense of isolation - as well as allowing us a glance at how she was viewed by others. Known as ‘Mad Madge’, she courted attention - at times London society couldn’t get enough of her – whether for her ideas or just titillation. And while she was viewed as a peculiarity, she was also the first woman to attend the Royal Society, and in her 49 years published 21 volumes of work, some of which garnered serious attention. Dutton’s fictional account of this fascinating character is lively and absorbing. 


03/25/2017 07:03 AM

This week's Book of the Week is Sarah Bakewell's At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and apricot cocktails, a chatty guide to mid-twentieth century Continental philosophy and the intellectuals who ignited social revolution from their café tables.

>> Read Thomas's review

>> An excellent series of enjoyable videos about existentialist and related philosophers

>> A guide to Simone de Beauvoir.

>> A guide to Jean-Paul Sartre

>> A crash course in existentialism

>> Sartre and Beauvoir "screener".

>> Beauvoir interview

>> Still being judged on her looks.

>> Camus vs. Sartre.

>> Jean-Paul's flower truck

>> Existentialist apricot cocktail recipes.  

>> The phenomenology of the cocktail

>> Are you experienced?

03/25/2017 07:01 AM

At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being and apricot cocktails by Sarah Bakewell  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
Not only a chatty and enjoyable introduction to mid-century Continental philosophy from phenomenalism to existentialism and beyond but also a source of anecdotal gossip about the personalities, relationships, foibles, diets, hairstyles and other eccentricities of the group of writers and philosophers clustered either physically or thematically around Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s Parisian café table (or should that read: Not only a source of anecdotal gossip about the personalities, relationships, foibles, diets, hairstyles and other eccentricities of the group of writers and philosophers clustered either physically or thematically around Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s Parisian café table but also a chatty and enjoyable introduction to mid-century Continental philosophy from phenomenalism to existentialism and beyond), At the Existentialist Café is pointy-headed enough to satisfy your curiosity about what these thinkers thought and pointy-nosed enough to satisfy your curiosity about how these thinkers lived. Indeed, either integral or coincidental to the existentialist project was the drawing closer of life-as-lived and life-as-thought-about, and Sarah Bakewell manages to pleasantly reassert the importance of whichever half of the equation you may have neglected (with respect to your knowledge of the existentialists, anyway) or to advance both halves for your general education and amusement. She seems to know when to linger in the company of one intellectual so as to grasp the fundamentals of her or his thinking and when to stand up and move on to the table of another, and she demonstrates the ongoing relevance of phenominalist and existentialist approaches to the ordinary lives of ordinary people (who may or may not have realised that they are adopting phenominalist or existentialist approaches). By the time you have read this book you will be on chatting terms with (or at least about) Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger (though you may not wish to sit at his table), Albert Camus, Raymond Aron, Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, Karl Jaspers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and others, and you will certainly have enhanced your rating as a conversationalist in whatever café you frequent.
>> This is this week's Book of the Week. Click here for information, links and amusements.  


03/19/2017 07:58 AM

This week's Book of the Week is Ashleigh Young's phenomenally interesting personal essay collection, which has just won a 2017 Windham-Campbell prize for non-fiction and been short-listed for the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

>> Can you tolerate Thomas's review?

>> Can you tolerate 'Bearded Ladies'?

>> Not all strange e-mails come from Nigeria.

>> You can easily tolerate Ashleigh Young's blog.

>> A very tolerable review by Holly Hunter on Radio NZ.

>> Some poems by Ashleigh Young.

>> Grab a copy of the book before the third print run sells out!

03/19/2017 07:55 AM

Can You Tolerate This? By Ashleigh Young   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
Like some sort of contrast medium, Ashleigh Young’s prose penetrates the fissures and fine vessels of her experiences so that when the reader turns their attention to her texts, subtleties and depths and dimensions hitherto unsuspected yet somehow deeply familiar are revealed and remain imprinted upon memory. The medium flows particularly into areas of ordinary damage (her personal sadness, discomfort, awkwardness, anxiety) and resolves here into twenty-one personal essays which lucidly yet with an almost tender subtlety picture the shared concerns (time, family, memory, the body, love, loss) with which we must constantly contend if we are to be aware of something we take to be ourselves. There is a certain lightness to Young’s touch, and often a concomitant humour, that allows her to describe and circumnavigate the heavy without snagging herself or us upon it, to treat delicately with subjects about which most writing is clumsy through its attempts to be profound. The essays that I remember most are those that acknowledge the dimensions of ambivalence that exist around their subject: the tangle of love and irritation around a childhood dog, her meditations on the hair on her lip, or her growing dislike for Katherine Mansfield in the midst of general adulation during her tenure at the Birthplace in Tinakori Road. The best pieces are those in which Young knows she does not need more than a few pages to be succinct, insightful and good company.
This book has just been awarded a 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction and is a finalist in the 2017 Ockham Book Awards.

03/11/2017 12:06 PM

Our Book of the Week this week is George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo. Is this The American Book of the Dead? Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie died of typhoid in 1862. This inventive novel from the author of the Folio Prize-winning Tenth of December has a president, "freshly inclined toward sorrow," driven by grief into communion with the disembodied spirits of the dead in what becomes a meditation on the force of death in personal and collective histories, notably the American Civil War. 

>> Read Stella's review.

>> Read an extract!!

>> Read the review in The New York Times

>> And the review in The Guardian

>> Saunders inside Lincoln's head

>> The sadly shortened life of Willie Lincoln. 

>> George Sanders the novelist talks with Dana Spiotta the novelist

>> Saunders speaks.

>> c.f. Bardo Thodol, The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

>> Cheese

03/11/2017 12:03 PM


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders   {Reviewed by STELLA}
This is the most original and enjoyable novel to cross my path in recent times. George Saunders is an astounding writer whose gift for story-telling makes Lincoln in the Bardo a pleasure to read and thoroughly absorbing. Using first-hand accounts and a cacophony of voices (from the spirit world) this is predominately a dialogue-driven novel. The year is 1862, an eleven-year-old boy - Willie Lincoln - has a fever and the Civil War rages in America. The book opens with a stately dinner during which the President and his wife venture upstairs at intervals to check on their cherished son. The fever doesn't break and young Willie dies. Lincoln is inconsolable and this is the story of his grief and his visits to the young boy's grave. The historical details from recorded histories, letters, reports and observances create a wonderfully accurate picture of the time and a truthful account of what happened - Saunders cleverly arranges this information to become a readable script ,building visual scenes in the reader's mind. Interspersed are the sections in the Bardo - the Bardo (from Tibetan Buddhist tradition) is a place of transition, a place between death and life, where those stuck in this world are tormented by demons and biding time until the next world. The array of characters Saunders creates are both grotesque and humorous. Unwilling to depart this world, they live in hope for a way back to their loved ones and out of their 'sick-boxes'. Willie is in the Bardo and it is here that his father comes, stricken with grief, to cradle his son one more time. In this place, the cacophony of voices telling this story and their fascination with the living one who enters their world, are intriguing. Not only do these voices give an insight into the times, but their stories of woe are both tragic and entertaining. Saunders gets the pitch just right. A story of grief and familial love against a backdrop of tragedy and crisis, Lincoln in the Bardo is a gem for its stylistic endeavours and the interplay between lightness and dark.


03/04/2017 07:06 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is Hand-Coloured New Zealand: The photographs of Whites Aviation by Peter Alsop
From 1945, Whites Aviation began producing exquisitely hand-coloured detailed aerial photographs of New Zealand which are prized not only as a record of the country in a different time but for their aesthetic and nostalgic qualities. This is a stunning and desirable book. 

>> An introduction to the book

>> Watch this short film about a woman who was a Whites colourist

>> Look through the Whites Aviation archive and the National Library of New Zealand

>>> Get one of these framable Whites Aviation prints courtesy of publishers Potton & Burton when you purchase a copy of the book!!

02/25/2017 12:29 PM

Our Book of the Week this week is Maurice Gee's wonderful fantasy adventure, THE SEVERED LAND. We are giving away a useful map of the severed land (courtesy of Penguin Random House) with every book by Gee (until we run out of maps).

>> "A thoughtful, fast-paced adventure with a wonderful heroine."  Read Stella's review.

>> Maurice Gee gives a rare interview.

>> Read some other excellent books by Maurice Gee.

>> Maurice talks about writing The Halfmen of O. 

>> Watch out for Wilberforces (at least they dress well).

We have a signed copy of The Severed Land to give away (also courtesy of Penguin Random House). To go in the draw, just let us know which book by Maurice Gee is your favourite (and, if you like, why).

02/18/2017 06:41 AM

Our book of the week this week is THIS IS THE PLACE TO BE by Lara Pawson.

Lara Pawson was for some years a journalist for the BBC and other media during the civil wars in Angola, and on the Ivory Coast. In this book, her experiences of societies in trauma, and her idealism for making the 'truth' known, are fragmented (as memory is always fragmented) and mixed with memory fragments of her childhood and of her relationships with the various people she encountered before, during and after the period of heightened awareness provided by war.

"Lara Pawson’s lucid, sudden and subtle memoir unpicks the spirals of memory, politics, violence, to trace the boundaries and crossing points of gender and race identity." – Joanna Walsh

>> Read Thomas's review

>> An interview with the author

>> We're featuring the publications of CB Editions, who published this book. 

>> Lara Pawson and some other CB Editions authors read at Shakespeare and Company, Paris

>> Pawson's book In the Name of the People, on Angola's 1977 forgotten massacre. She talks about this here

>> She also has a blog.

02/13/2017 11:07 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop.

We have a lovely hardcover copy to give away, courtesy of
Gecko Press. To go in the draw, just tell us your favourite book by Cowley and/or Bishop.

02/11/2017 01:15 PM

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop
Snake and Lizard are back, negotiating their life together and finding out what the world has to offer. Cowley's wry, warm tales about the give-and-take nature of friendship, beautifully illustrated by Bishop, are perfect for reading aloud or as an early chapter book. 

>> Read Stella's review.

>> You will like the other 'Snake and Lizard' books, too!

>> An interview with Joy Cowley (which includes her reading a Snake and Lizard story). 

>> Sing along to the Snake and Lizard song

>> When things go wrong

>> We have a copy of Helper and Helper to give away, courtesy of Gecko Press. To go in the draw, just e-mail us the title of your favourite book by Gavin Bishop and/or Joy Cowley.

02/11/2017 01:00 PM


Helper and Helper ('Snake and Lizard' #3) by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop - our BOOK OF THE WEEK!   {Reviewed by STELLA}
Another wonderful 'Snake and Lizard' collection from the talented duo Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop.  Helper and Helper is the third collection of tales about the desert dwellers Snake and Lizard. Snake, as charming and deviously clever as ever, and kind, sometimes gullible, Lizard are up to their usual excellent antics. Lizard discovers democracy, not that it helps much to thwart Snake's plans; the Grey Rabbit steals their clients with his special healing abilities until Lizard has a cunning plan; Snake becomes an honorary lizard family member, which entails fifteen aunts making themselves at home in the burrow; and the good friends, our helpers, need to visit Wise Tortoise for a dose of help. These stories, with best friends Snake and Lizard, will delight young and old. Cowley's engaging storytelling allows children to explore big ideas and what really matters with humour and compassion. Gavin Bishop's illustrations are the icing on the cake, or, in the case of Snake, a particularly good quail's egg or, for Lizard, a breakfast of many fat blue flies.

02/04/2017 04:49 AM

BOOK OF THE WEEK! : 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
Is this Auster's four-fold masterpiece?
Come and get yourself a copy and become immediately enmeshed in the four possible strands of the life of its protagonist. Only fiction can provide this ability to live alternative lives. 

>> Read Stella's review.

>> 4-3-2-1-0! Auster reads an extract.

>> and another extract.

>> "A sprinting elephant."

>> "Auster has always been interested in those chance events that send a person whose life was running smoothly on one track careening off in some unexpected direction."

>> An interesting interview with Auster

>> He may not own a computer but he does have an interesting FaceBook page

>> "America does not resemble the country I grew up in."

>> Auster is "very frightened and very angry."

>> But what keeps Auster awake at night?

02/04/2017 03:59 AM


4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster - our BOOK OF THE WEEK!    {Reviewed by STELLA}
From page one, I knew this was going to be splendid. When a writer tells a subtle joke and makes you laugh within the first few moments of reading, you know that you're onto a winner. Paul Auster’s first book in seven years, 4 3 2 1, follows the life of Archibald Isaac Ferguson born March 3, 1947. It’s not one life though: this Jewish boy born in Newark has 4 lives. Auster tells the story in parts - four strands - in sliding door style. In each part a fateful event at Archibald's father’s business (a burglary, a fire, a tragic accident and a buy-out) leads to a change in circumstances for the family, and Archie’s life is determined by how his immediate family respond. The minutiae of each of Ferguson’s lives are delightfully told and, despite the variations in his circumstances, his characteristics, along with those of his immediate family, keep the four strands linked together. Auster keeps many things the same, the characteristics, likes and dislikes, interests and talents of the main characters are constant. Circumstance dictates the roles they take and the choices they make.The extended family play their roles like bit actors, adding substance and colour to the novel and giving Auster room to articulate the social strata and political opinions of the time, and to bring in (or, conversely, to leave out) players that add to the sweeping saga of Ferguson’s life. This is excellent writing, taking you into the mind of one life in all its fragmented realities, and capturing a time and place - the American mid-twentieth-century - in all its tumultuous glory. If you enjoy Donna Tartt,Jonathan Franzen or Jonathan Safran Foer you will enjoy this.