Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Books Archive

Month: April 2019

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker – Athenaeum Book Club 2019

By Jennifer Chiaverini

April 17, 2019

Athenaeum Book Club selection 2019

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini’s compelling historical novel unveils the private lives of Abraham and Mary Lincoln through the perspective of the First Lady’s most trusted confidante and friend her dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley.

In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave.  A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion.  A sweeping historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker illuminates the extraordinary relationship the two women shared, beginning in the hallowed halls of the White House during the trails of the Civil War and enduring almost, but not quite, to the end of Mrs. Lincoln’s days.

The Life of De’Ath – Athenaeum Book Club 2019

By Majella Cullinane

April 17, 2019

Athenaeum Book Club selection 2019

In this accomplished debut novel, the mysterious narrator recounts Theodore De’Ath’s life before and during the Great War.  After a family tragedy, Theodore moves to Otago to live with his grandparents.  Influenced by his scholarly grandfather he becomes fascinated by the Underworld, reading the Inferno, Paradise Lost and Faust.  When war breaks out in Europe, unlike his peers, Theodore is not swept up with the fervor to enlist, but when conscription comes in 1916 he is obliged to join the New Zealand Division in France.

Theodore, a shy man, is more an observer of life than participant.  Although expert on Hell in literature, it is not until confronted with the reality of war that he understands its true meaning.  Soon he has to survive as a deserter, risking court martial and a death sentence.

The Life of De’Ath draws on historical events: New Zealand military involvement at the Western front, anti-German sentiment here during World War I, and the New Zealand soldiers who were shot for desertion between 1916 and 1918.  At its heart, though, is the story of a young man going against the tide of social and family pressure, and struggling to express his feelings for Elizabeth Paterson before it’s too late.

Identity Crisis – Athenaeum Book Club 2020

By Ben Elton

April 17, 2019

Athenaeum Book Club selection 2020

Why are we all so hostile?  So quick to take offence?  Truly we are living in the age of outrage.

A series of apparently random murders draws amiable, old-school detective Mick Matlock into a world of sex, politics and reality TV – and a bewildering kaleidoscope of opposing identity groups.  Lost in a blizzard of hashtags, his already complex investigation is further impeded by the fact that he simply doesn’t ‘get’ a single thing about anything any more.

Meanwhile, each day another public figure confesses to having ‘misspoken’ and prostrates themselves before the judgement of Twitter.  Begging for forgiveness, assuring the public ‘That is not who I am.’

But if nobody is who they are any more – then who the F##K are we?

Ben Elton returns with a blistering satire of the world as it fractures around us.  Get ready for a roller-coaster thriller, where nothing – and no one – is off limits.

The Margaret Thatcher School of Beauty – Athenaeum Book Club 2019

By Marsha Mehran

April 17, 2019

Set in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War.  The Margaret Thatcher School of Beauty is the story of a group of displaced Iranian refugees living in a multi-level Beaux Arts building in the city centre.

The inhabitants of the building form an eclectic community: a poetry-loving ex-prisoner and his daughter, a promising medical student; a visionary beautician; a newlywed couple with a dark past; a young revolutionary; an eccentric pilgrim of Mecca; and at the heart of the group Zadi Heirati, a single mother struggling to make ends meet at the beauty salon she operates from her apartment.

Drawn together by a revolution in their homeland, they find solace in weekly poetry meetings.  The words they share inspire each to turn inward and discover beauty long buried.

As a new war unfolds in their adopted country, this group of disenchanted individuals begins to form a family.  At once familiar and extraordinary, this moving story weaves disparate lives together into a tapestry of unique grace, wit and lyricism.


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