Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Books Archive

Month: July 2015

The Villa at the Edge of the Empire – Athenaeum Book Club Selection

By Fiona Farrell

July 1, 2015

Where are we?  How did we get here?  Where do we go now?

From nineteenth-century attempts to create Utopias to America’s rustbelt, from Darwin’s study of worms to China’s phantom cities, this work ranges widely through history and around the world.  It examines the evolution of cities and of Christchurch in particular, looking at its swampy origins and its ongoing reconstruction following the recent destructive earthquakes.  And it takes us to L’Aquila in Italy to observe another shaken city.

Farrell writes as a resident caught up in a devastated city in an era when political ideology has transformed the citizen to ‘an asset, the raw material on which … empire makes its profit’.  In a hundred tiny pieces, she comments on contentious issues, such as the fate of a cathedral, the closure of schools, the role of insurers, the plans for civic venues.  Through personal observation, conversations with friends, and close readings of everything from the daily newspaper to records of other upheavals in Pompeii and Berlin, this dazzling book explores community, the love of place and, ultimately, regeneration and renewal.

Chappy – Athenaeum Book Club Selection

By Patricia Grace

July 1, 2015

A literary milestone.  Patricia Grace’s first novel in ten years.

Uprooted from his privileged European life and sent to New Zealand to sort himself out, twenty-one-year-old Daniel pieces together the history of his Maori family.  As his relatives revisit their past, Daniel learns of a remarkable love story between his Maori grandmother Oriwia and his Japanese grandfather Chappy.  The more Daniel hears about his deceased grandfather, the more intriguing – and elusive – Chappy becomes.

In this touching portrayal of family life, acclaimed writer Patricia Grace explores racial intolerance, cross-cultural conflicts and the universal desire to belong.  Spanning several decades and several continents and set against the backdrop of a changing New Zealand, Chappy is a compelling story of enduring love.

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