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Decline and Fall on Savage Street

Decline and Fall on Savage Street

Author: Fiona Farrell
$38.00(NZD)  inc GST
Available Stock: 1


In the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, Farrell produced two works of non-fiction, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire and The Broken Book- her response to these disasters. “I am normally a fiction writer, but in 2010-11 fiction felt irrelevant. What mattered was reality. What mattered were the factual narratives...” Both these important and exceptional books were short-listed for The New Zealand Book Awards. In a return to fiction, Decline & Fall on Savage Street is Fiona Farrell’s companion novel to The Villa at the Edge of the Empire. In her notes, Farrell says “…fiction has its role…it can go straight to the heart of things, into private and secret places… It gives shape to the random narrative of existence.” Opening in 1906, with the site of the house secured, we are introduced to the possibility of a growing nation, a developing city, a new place from which to see a prosperous future. A chapter later, two years on, the floor plans are ready and George is ready to put his stamp on the house. A grand yet comfortable home, not too big but with some quirks – a house that will entice several owners over the following decade, beguiled by its character. Farrell cleverly weaves a story about the home on Savage Street, the families that live and love there: their ups and downs introducing us to people both familiar and particular - their follies, weaknesses, strengths and loyalties to the each other and the house, and to the communities they are part of. In the first part of the novel, the chapters jump ahead in 2-year leaps, taking the reader through a potted New Zealand history of a developing city, of settlement through two world wars, the changing social mores of the 1950s and '60s, political upheavals of the '80s, economic booms and busts of the '90s, to just beyond the millennium. Part 2 focuses on the period of the earthquakes, starting just prior to the first quake in 2010 and concluding in late 2012. Focusing on one house is an ingenious way to structure this novel: as a reader, you follow the generations of families, see the house loved, let go, sold, change hands, change status as the suburbs grow and morph, get renovated and reinvigorated, and be torn asunder by the ground beneath it. Understandably there is a huge cast of characters: the founding family, the tenants (when needed as circumstances change), the community of idealists that co-own and rescue the house, the doer-uppers, the new blended family - all of whom call this place home. Farrell makes all their stories interesting and relevant to the main threads of the novel. While you often only glimpse their lives, you feel as though you know and understand them all – are a neighbour and confidante looking in through the windows. Interspersed between the chapters are short pieces which anticipate change, which represent the breathing in and out of time, of forces that can’t be controlled, of nature and what happens despite our human interventions and our best-laid plans.



A fascinating novel about a house with a fanciful little turret, built by a river.

Unfolding within its rooms are lives of event and emotional upheaval. A lot happens. And the tumultuous events of the twentieth century also leave their mark, from war to economic collapse, the deaths of presidents and princesses to new waves of music, art, architecture and political ideas.

Meanwhile, a few metres away in the river, another creature follows a different, slower rhythm.

And beneath them all, the planet moves to its own immense geological time.

With insight, wide-ranging knowledge and humour, this novel explores the same territory as its non-fiction twin, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire. Writing in a city devastated by major earthquakes, Fiona Farrell rebuilds a brilliant, compelling and imaginative structure from bits and pieces salvaged from one hundred years of history.

A lot has happened. This is how it might have felt.

'It's a work of incredible research and incredible scope and incredible feeling . . . it's really wonderful. It think we will look back at these two books (Decline and Fall on Savage Street and The Villa at the Edge of Empire) and think of them as being very important in our local literary history as marking time and place and moment and feeling; it's a wonderful piece of art.' - Louise O'Brien, Radio NZ
'It's so vast, it shouldn't work; but it does. Primarily this is because, rather than anchoring her text to dry, historical minutiae, Farrell chooses to ground it to people, particularly family. So, as well as the impressive detail made especially graceful thanks to the author's poetic skill, the narrative follows one house settled upon the titular street and its inhabitants, particularly one family, extended and diverse. As such, chapter by chapter are, like a relay team, an exercise in passing the chronological story along. . . . Wide-ranging yet intimate, poetic yet simple, of the singular home yet speaking to the complexities of city and nation, Decline and Fall on Savage Street is a remarkable read.' - Siobhan Harvey, Waikato Times

Author description

Fiona Farrell is one of New Zealand's leading writers, publishing work in a variety of genres. Her first novel, The Skinny Louie Book, won the 1993 New Zealand Book Award for fiction. Other novels, poetry and non-fiction books have been shortlisted for the Montana and New Zealand Post Book Awards with four novels also nominated for the International Dublin IMPAC Award.

Farrell's short fiction has appeared in the company of Alice Munro and Hanif Kureishi in two volumes of Heinemann's Best Short Stories (ed. Gordon and Hughes), while her poems feature in major anthologies including The Oxford Book of New Zealand Poetry and Bloodaxe's best-selling Being Alive. Her play Chook Chook is one of Playmarket New Zealand's most frequently requested scripts.

Farrell lives with her partner on Banks Peninsula and since 2011 she has published three non-fiction titles relating to the Christchurch earthquakes - The Broken Book, The Quake Year and in 2015, The Villa At the Edge of the Empire, the factual half of a two-volume work examining the rebuilding of a city through the twinned lenses of non-fiction and fiction.

Fiona Farrell is a frequent guest at festivals in New Zealand, and has also appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Vancouver International Writers' Festival. Fiona received an Arts Council Scholarship in Letters in 1991, and has held residencies in France (1995 Katherine Mansfield Fellowship to Menton) and Ireland (2006 Rathcoola Residency). Fiona was the 2011 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. In 2007 Fiona Farrell received the New Zealand Prime Minister's Award for Fiction.

Stock Information

General Fields

  • : 9780143770626
  • : Random House New Zealand
  • : Vintage
  • : July 2017
  • : 233mm X 155mm X 30mm
  • : New Zealand
  • : July 2017
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 368
  • : Fiona Farrell
  • : Paperback
  • : 1st Edition