Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Recent Books

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 – Athenaeum Book Club

By Lionel Shriver

May 1, 2016

Athenaeum Book Club pick for 2017

It is 2029.

The Mandibles have been counting on a sizeable fortune filtering down when their 97-year-old patriarch dies.  Yet America’s soaring national debt has grown so enormous that it can never be repaid.  Under siege from an upstart international currency, the dollar is in meltdown.  A bloodless world war will wipe out the savings of millions of American families.

Their inheritance turned to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment, but also – as the effects of the downturn start to hit – the challenge of sheer survival.

Recently affluent Avery is petulant that she can’t buy olive oil, while her sister Florence is forced to absorb strays into her increasingly cramped household.  As their father Carter fumes at having to care for his demented stepmother now that a nursing home is too expensive, his sister Nollie, an expat author, returns from abroad at 73 to a country that’s unrecognizable.

Perhaps only Florence’s oddball teenage son Willing, an economics autodidact, can save this formerly august American family from the streets.

This is not science fiction.  This is a frightening, fascinating, scabrously funny glimpse into the decline that may await the United States all too soon, from the pen of perhaps the most consistently perceptive and topical author of our times.

The Death of an Owl – Athenaeum Book Club

By Paul Torday with Piers Torday

May 1, 2016

Athenaeum Book Club pick for 2017

Andrew Landford is driving home one night along a dark country lane, when a barn owl flies into his windscreen.  It is an accident, nothing more.  However, Andrew is in line to be the country’s next prime minister.  And he has recently been appointed to a parliametary committee concerned with the Wildlife and Countryside Act.  Barn owls are a protected species, and it is a crime to kill one.  If Andrew acknowledges that he has killed the owl, he could be risking his political career.

With Andrew in the car is his old Oxford friend and political adviser, Charles Fryerne.  An expert in communications, Charles has just joined the team that is masterminding Andrew’s route to the Tory Party leadership, and from there to No. 10 Downing Street.  He has spent many years quietly building up a very successful career as a strategist.

But the death of the owl threatens to destroy not onlly Andrew’s career, but everything that Charles has worked for too.  Should they come clean, or hide the story and hope it goes away?

Twister – Athenaeum Book Club

By Jane Woodham

May 1, 2016

Athenaeum Book Club pick for 2017

Dunedin, in thegrip of an unseasonal flu, is a city under siege.  Then after five damaging days of rain, a twister rips through, exposing the body of a missing schoolgirl in Ross Creek.

Detective Senior Sergeant Leo Judd is the only one who can lead the investigation, depite unresolved sorrow over the disappearance of his own daughter nine years earleir.

Sultry weather broods over the beleaguered city as suspects are sifted and pressure mounts for Judd to solve the crime.  Meanwhile his wife, Kate, tries to find the courage she needs to tell him the secrets she’s been nursing for too long – including one about the disappearance of their belived Beth.

The Living and the Dead in Winsford (December 2018) – Athenaeum Book Club

By Hakan Nesser

December 1, 2015

Athenaeum Book Club pick for 2017

Winner of the Rosenkrantz Award for Best Thriller of the year.

There is nobody in the whole world who knows that we are here…

A woman arrives in the village of Winsford on Exmoor.  She has travelled a long way and chosen her secluded cottage carefully.  Maria’s intention is to outlive her beloved dog, Castor.  And to survive the torrent of memories that threaten to overwhelm her.

Weeks before, Maria and her husband Martin fled Stockholm under a cloud.  The couple were bound for Morocco, where Martin planned to write an explosive novel; one that would reveal the truth behind dark events within his commune of writers decades before.  But the couple never made it to their destination.

As Maria settles into her lonely new life, walking the wild, desolate moors, it becomes clear that Winsford isn’t quite the sanctuary she thought it would be.  While the long, dark evenings close in and the weather worsens, strange things begin to happen around her.  But what terrible secrets is Maria guarding?  And who is trying to find her?

The Children Act (August 2015) – Athenaeum Book Club

By Ian McEwan

August 1, 2015

An Athenaeum Book Club pick.

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court.  She is renowned for her fierce intelligence exactitude and sensitivity.  But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife.  There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes.  Time is running out.  Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith?  In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital – an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy.  Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

The Villa at the Edge of the Empire (July 2015) – Athenaeum Book Club

By Fiona Farrell

July 1, 2015

An Athenaeum Book Club pick.

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 (July 2015) -Athenaeum Book Club

By Patricia Grace

July 1, 2015

An Athenaeum Book Club pick.

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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