Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature by Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature Books

Reviews of select reads for the season from our City of Literature collection

Kalimpong Kids. Jane McCabe
Jane McCabe has written this compelling and little-known New Zealand history about how, in the early 20th century, 130 Anglo-Indians came here in an organised immigration scheme from Kalimpong in the Darjeeling district of India. Their settlement in New Zealand was the initiative of the Rev Dr John Anderson Graham, a Scottish Presbyterian missionary. He made it his life’s work to ‘rescue’ mixed race offspring of British tea planters and local Indian women. The future for these children would be uncertain when their fathers were repatriated as interracial relationships were beyond the bounds of social acceptability at the time. His work provided a solution for tea planters who desired an education and a respectable future for their children.

Adding to the charm of this story are the wonderful photographs accompanying the text provided by descendants of the original ‘Kalimpong Kids’. Highly recommended.

Landmarks Grahame Sydney, Brian Turner, Owen Marshall
Twenty-five years after their last love letter to Central Otago, Timeless Land, this new offering is a stunner of a book. Sydney’s eerie landscapes haunt and Brian Turner’s poetry adds to the mysticism and vastness of the images. Added to the mix are rural family stories by Owen Marshall. It is clear the three collaborators hold the landscape and place in high regard, and this message is evident through their chosen mediums.

The writings complement the images so well that it is easy to get lost in the pages. This lavish new volume from these three long-time friends showcases a rich selection of their subsequent work, including recently written, unpublished pieces. Beautifully produced with a Foreword by Fiona Farrell, this is a wonderful book to dip in and out of. Sure to be a favourite for a long time to come, check it out!

Songs from the WaterKirstie McKinnon
Kirstie McKinnon lives, writes and surfs in East Coast, Otakou. She is inspired by the ocean and its creatures. This little book of poems is divided into three sections titled ‘Source’, ‘Flow’ and ‘Encounter’. The beach and sea and the energy of the water are beautifully described in the book and I could almost smell the salty air when reading some of the poems.

parched in dark ice
the emperor penguin wheels
first light like water

The cover artwork and chapter heading images are paintings of fossils from the Foulden Maar site, Middlemarch, Otago by Vivienne Robertson (Kirstie’s mother), and are beautifully rendered additions to the book. A little treasure!

What Sort of ManBreton Dukes
Set mostly in Dunedin these short sharp stories by Breton Dukes explore masculinity, vulnerability and precarity. The stories focus on nine people who have been, whether in one sudden life event, like the birth of a child or conversion to a new religion, displaced from those around them. They’re isolated, but often not physically. These stories contain spot-on attention to detail and just when you think you are safe in a domestic setting, they quickly morph into another zone, like in a high-paced thriller.

All his subjects are displaced either from society or themselves, and the way he writes about the tiny tragedies and disappointments and the effect these have on their lives, is powerful.

A potent collection of stories that goes head-to-head with the crisis of contemporary masculinity, this is not for the faint-hearted.