The Broken Book

Author(s): Fiona Farrell

New Zealand Non-Fiction | Literature | History

A mix of poetry and prose, this compilation by New Zealand's Fiona Ferrell is simultaneously a memoir, a meandering travel book, and a poetry collection. Demonstrating how a natural disaster can turn a life upside down in an instant, this book consists of four essays about walking, interrupted by poems about the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath. Funny, timely, and deeply personal, it will resonate with a wide range of readers due to its references to France, Dunedin, Christchurch, Robert Louis Stevenson, Katherine Mansfield, and Voltaire.

In preparation for my conversation with Fiona Farrell at the Mapua Literary Festival about her latest novel Decline and Fall on Savage Street, I’ve been reading The Broken Book. This was meant to be a book about travel, about her passion for walking and noticing. It was a step into the world of non-fiction, a collection of essays triggered by her time in Menton as the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in 1995 and the Rathcoola Residency in Ireland in 2006. Writing this in Dunedin in 2011 (as the recipient of the Burns Fellowship), this book became a very different one from the one intended. The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 changed everything. The essays are still there, three of them, entitled 'A Walk in the Cevennes', 'A Walk to the Winter Palace', 'A Walk to the Botanic Gardens', along with the fourth, 'A Walk on Shaky Ground'. Interspersed with these texts are 20 ‘earthquake’ poems, setting the scene for what is to come. It’s a disconcerting read, as we all know the impact of these earthquakes and how they continue (and will do so for several generations) to mark people’s lives, the landscape, and the psyche. When Farrell is walking the trails in France we walk alongside, carefree, taking the history, her stories of the past and present, in our stride - enjoying her meandering style walking-pace. Then we are thrown into self-doubt, into a shaken up world, as a poem presses itself between these jottings - with words like fractured, cracks, lost, broken, all prick and agitation. This displacement of the reader is cleverly arranged, making the book one that beguiles with places traveled and unsettled by the impending disruption of the earth quaking. The Broken Book was a nonfiction finalist for the New Zealand Book Awards in 2012 and, in 2016, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire (the companion work to her new novel) was just as well received. 


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Product Information

New Zealand Post Book Awards 2012 Finalist: Non-Fiction

Fiona Farrell is an award-winning novelist, playwright and poet. In 2006 she held the Rathcoola Residency in Ireland, where she wrote The Pop-Up Book of Invasions (Auckland University Press, 2007), a finalist at the Montana NZ Book Awards. Her most recent novels are Mr Allbones Ferrets (2007) and Limestone (2009), both shortlisted for the International IMPAC Award. Farrell received the New Zealand Prime Minister's Award for Fiction in 2007. She lives at Otanerito, Banks Peninsula, but is spending the year in Dunedin as recipient of the 2011 Robert Burns Fellowship.

Preamble -- A Walk in the Cevennes, September 2009 -- A Walk to the Winter Palace, Menton, September 2009 -- A Walk to the Botanical Gardens, Dunedin, May 2010 -- A Walk on Shaky Ground, Christchurch, September 2010/February 2011 -- Afterword: The Solitary Walker, Otanerito, May 201. Text interspered with 20 'earthquake' poems.

General Fields

  • : 9781869405762
  • : Auckland University Press
  • : Auckland University Press
  • : October 2011
  • : 210mm X 140mm
  • : New Zealand
  • : October 2011
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Fiona Farrell
  • : Paperback
  • : Reprint
  • : English
  • : NZ824.2
  • : 204