This weekend I read two new novels by New Zealand authors – both are excellent: original, well-observed, clever and very different from each other.

Sarah Laing’s The Fall of Light (Vintage) is the tale of Rudy, a successful but frustrated architect obsessed with the light and space of buildings but not very good at people. I liked this character who, after a Vespa accident, is forced to recuperate at home and interact with others. His accident seems to have provoked unusual and vivid dreams which feed his creativity. I am a fan of novel additions to novels, like footnotes, end notes, maps and pictures, and Laing, who is also a cartoonist, has added some dreamy illustrations which work well with the plot. Laing’s writing is clear and simple, you have a sense that she is aware of manipulating her sentences in light and space just as Rudy places walls to showcase them.

Danyl McLauchlan’s Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley (Victoria University Press) is just a delight to read: Described on the cover as”a classic kiwi comic mystery erotic horror adventure novel“, it is clever, slightly silly but with a definite edge, very pleasing, if like me and many others throughout NZ you have ever lived in Wellington’s Aro Valley, and just a fun read on a sleety-showered Sunday afternoon. All the stereotypes of the denizens of Te Aro are allowed to fly free in their many splendored hippy or libertarian or new age or bohemian or satanist or communitarian glory. Yes, this is a satire but it is also a pretty good portrait of a beloved Wellington gem….


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