Scoop Review of Books

Archive for August, 2017

‘super woman’

Book Review
Hot Flush, by Rosy Fenwicke (Wheelers, paper; e-book via Amazon)
Reviewed by Wendy Montrose


hotflux_coverIn Hot Flush, ordinary Euphemia Sage, 53-year-old wife, mother and business consultant acquires special physical powers, super powers if you like, as she goes through menopause. “I can see better, hear better and smell better than any human – better than any dog, which is saying something…”

It should be ridiculous but it’s such fun and it’s written well enough to keep the pages turning. In fact Hot Flush was hard to put down, and the suspense and unexpected twists make up for any failings.

We follow Euphemia’s adventures as she comes to grips with ‘Rachel’s Switch’, a genetic phenomenon triggered by the menopause and passed down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter through the generations in her family. Euphemia had heard the stories but, like any right minded 21st-century woman, was sceptical until that first hot flush triggered not only the ‘Switch’ but also a series of increasingly bizarre events.

Overnight, she is thrust into the world of loan sharks, thick-necked heavies in cheap suits and gratuitous violence. Faced with uninvited callers, kidnap at gun point and a knife-wielding plumber bent on murder, Euphemia is forced to put her powers to the test.

Hot Flush is good light entertainment, and Rosy Fenwicke writes with skill. Euphemia is an entirely believable and likeable character, flawed as we all are but essentially a good, honest, down to earth super woman (“two words, lower case”). The villains are perhaps a little too slap-stick — more comic, evil mastermind than genuinely bad — but Jane, the ‘friend’ from school who’s financial woes get Euphemia in trouble is brilliant, and I loved Petal, the pug and I’m not even a dog person. There is enough back story to give the characters substance and Fenwicke even proffers a plausible enough explanation for Rachel’s Switch to give it some credibility. Perhaps that’s her medical background coming through.

Rosie Fenwicke is a doctor, writer and mother of three adult children. This is her first novel, she suggests the first of a series, and is a fine effort, if perhaps a little unpolished in places — not quite the right word here, or a little too much tell instead of show there. For all that, the narrative moves along, its good pace and humour making Hot Flush a most enjoyable read.  I look forward to the next one.

Release: Nina’s Phantom Friend

Nina’s Phantom Friend
Written and Illustrated, by Andy Conlan

nina-front-cover-hr-170223Andy Conlan, award-winning feature film director, editorial cartoonist and author, is pleased to announce the release of his latest work, an illustrated book for young readers, Nina’s Phantom Friend.

Published by Duck Creek Press, David Ling’s imprint for children, the book follows the eponymous character as she embarks upon an adventure to the underworld to retrieve the body of her cat, who disappeared a year ago. This is not a solo trip though, her travelling companion is the ghost of that very cat, who guides her towards his remains. On the way, she passes through a landscape reminiscent of the Paris Catacombs, drifts down a Styx like River with a Charon like Ferry man, and encounters a creature who has morbidly hoarded the bones of thousands of cats. Without the correct answer to the requisite Greek Mythology-style riddle, Nina’s attempt to retrieve her friend’s earthly remains will be lost in administrative red tape.

The whole thing is lushly illustrated in a mid 20th-century style, with European looking linework, Edward Gorey-esque characterisations, and a colour palette that can only be described as “Dark Dr. Seuss.” The book is a modern day production in a vintage styled package, and is a significant departure from anything commonly seen in children’s literature today.003-ninas-phantom-friend

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On the Move

Book Review | BWB Texts
Fair Borders? Migration Policy in the Twenty-First Century,
edited by David Hall (BWB Texts, paper $14.99; e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan

fairborders-001This is a thought-provoking, timely collection of essays by a diverse range of New Zealanders, most of whom are academics here or abroad.  Their varied perspectives, political, economic, social and cultural are all loosely connected to the theme of fairness.

In his introductory essay, David Hall from AUT analyses the concept of fairness and questions how genuine the supposed impacts of immigration on housing, employment, infrastructure and social welfare are.

Tahu Kukutai and Arama Rata, both from the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis at the University of Waikato, consider issues from a Maori perspective which they point out has been ignored in the immigration debate.  They consider the relationship between today’s immigration and the mass immigrations of  nineteenth-century colonisation which swamped the tangata whenua.  New citizens are required to pledge allegiance to the Queen but what about to the Treaty of Waitangi? Kate Macmillan, from Victoria University Politics department, acknowledges there are inherent contradictions between what is fair to the would-be arrivals and to those already here. New Zealand has one of the world’s most liberal regimes with regard to voting rights, introduced in 1975 when most immigrants were from Britain.  In 2015-16 the largest number of migrants came from India and China, (then UK and the Philippines).  Immigrants with the right of residence can vote here after one year – which exemplifies the principle of no taxation without representation, but is it fair to our citizens to give such recent arrivals a say in how our country is run?

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Q&A: Hard To Find Books

Hard to Find Books: Fundraiser

An email asking for help showed up in our in-box this week from Hard to Find Books, so we reached out to the owner, Warwick Jordan, to ask him what’s up.

Q. Can you give us some background about Hard to Find Books, like when you started up, why and what you do?
outsideA. The bookshop began as a hobby in a garage back in 1983, a real bookstore in 1984, and found its present home in Onehunga, Auckland, in 1988. It was founded on my passion and obsession for books of all kinds, and I believe we have created a store with an essence of magic, pleasure and surprise, a repository of learning, knowledge and entertainment. The books in the shop are complemented by the store itself — a several storey 19th-century chaotic shambles of a timber building with well-worn wooden stairs and original wallpaper still hanging (just) from the walls. It is both a cultural icon and an economic anachronism with a unique bookish atmosphere available to all incomes and tastes.

Q. You’ve recently started a fundraising campaign. What’s the reason for that? Read more »

Release: A Found Mansfield

Fascinating find of a ‘lost story’ by the young Katherine Mansfield

[Read Howard Davis’s review at Scoop.]

otago638551The discovery of the story ‘His Little Friend’ is at the heart of a new book on the life of the young Katherine Mansfield by Wellington author and historian Redmer Yska, who made the find while researching in the archives of the Wellington City Library.

Previously unknown to Mansfield’s modern readers and scholars, the short story, by the 11-year old Kathleen M. Beauchamp (her given name), was published on the Children’s Page of the New Zealand Graphic on 13 October 1900. It is reprinted in full in Yska’s new book, A Strange Beautiful Excitement: Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington 1888–1903, published by Otago University Press.

Yska describes the story, about the friendship between a lonely, elderly man and an impoverished child, as showing the young Mansfield ‘grappling with harsh, bleak truths at a young age, paving the way for much of what was to come’. The literary discoveries didn’t end there: Yska also found in the Graphic the writer’s first two known published letters.

A Strange Beautiful Excitement works to locate Mansfield in the rickety colonial capital of the 1890s; the sights, sounds and smells of her Thorndon and Karori childhood. Read more »