Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Recent Books

The Dressmaker

By Rosalie Ham

March 1, 2016

In the 1950’s Tilly Dunnage returns to a small Victorian town to care for her mad old mother.  The townspeople drove her away many years ago, and she became an expert dressmaker in Paris.  Now she earns her living by making them exquisite frocks, while planning revenge.

The Dressmaker, a much loved Australian story you’ll never forget.  Now a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet.

Summer at Mount Hope

By Rosalie Ham

March 1, 2016

“A quirkily engaging comedy of small-town manners.  Set on a Victorian family vineyard in 1894, it’s the sort of provincial novel you might expect if Pride and Prejudice met Steele Rudd’s On Our Selection…
While it’s the social and romantic intrigue that carries the story, it’s Ham’s wickedly black humour and finely researched social observation that deliver the real joy of the book.”
The Australian

“Rosalie Ham’s second novel is as unforgettable and unputdownable as her first, the quirky The Dressmaker…  Ham is a gifted storyteller.  Her ideas are fresh, unusual and entertaining, and result in a marvellous story steeped in an Australia at once recognisable but also new.  There’s not a cliche within cooee.”
The Sun Herald

“Ham introduces an Austenesque cast of captivating characters… Summer at Mount Hope is a passionate tender story because it takes place in a world where sex is not fully described or admitted…”
Australian Book Review

The House on Cold Hill

By Peter James

March 1, 2016

Evil isn’t born it’s built …

Moving from the heart of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade.  But when they view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion – Ollie is filled with excitement.  Despite the financial strain of the move, he has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and he sees Cold Hill House as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, the perfect base for his web-design business and a terriffic long-term investment.  Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being separated from her friends.

Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents of the house.  A friend of Jade’s is the first to see the spectral woman, standing behind her as the girls talk on FaceTime.  Then there are more sightings, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house.  As the haunting becomes more malevolent and the house itself begins to turn on the Harcourts, the terrified family discover Cold Hill House’s dark history, and the horrible truth of what it could mean for them …

The Witness

By Simon Kernick

March 1, 2016

I had a simple choice.  Stay here, and almost certainly be discovered or get up and run!

The Witness
When Jane Kinnear sees her lover being murdered, she finds herself in extreme danger.  Taken to an anonymous police safe-house, it soon becomes clear that her lover was an MI5 informant with important information about an imminent terrorist attack.

The Detective
DI Ray Mason of Counter Terrorism Command is a man with a controversial past, but his effectiveness at getting results means that he’s now been given the task of preventing the attack from taking place.  But can he be trusted, and does he know more about the attack than he’s letting on?

The Killer

In the safe-house, Jane is trying to piece together a description of her lover’s killer.  But what she doesn’t know is that the killer has already found out who she is, and where she is hiding.

And now he is coming for her

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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