Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Books Archive

Month: February 2023

Horse (February 2023)

By Geraldine Brooks

February 28, 2023

A discarded painting in a roadside clean-up, forgotten bones in a research archive, and Lexington, the greatest racehorse in US history.  From these strands of fact, Geraldine Brooks weaves a sweeping story of spirit, obsession and injustice across American history.

Kentucky, 1850.  An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South, even as the nation reels towards war.  An itinerant young artist who makes his name from paintings of the horse takes up arms for the Union and reconnects with the stallion and his groom on a perilous night far from the glamour of any racetrack.

New York City, 1954.  Marcha Jackson, a gallery owner celebrated for taking risks on edgy contemporary painters, becomes obsessed with a nineteenth-century equestrian oil painting of mysterious provenance.

Washington, DC, 2010.  Jess a Smithsonian scientist from Australia, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian, find themselves unexpectedly connected through their shared interest in the horse – one studying the stallion’s bones for clues to his power and endurance, the other uncovering the lost history of the unsung Black horsemen who were critical to his racing success.

The Autumn of the Ace (February 2023)

By Louis de Bernieres

February 28, 2023

Is it ever too late to change your story?

Daniel Pitt was an RAF fighter in the First World War and an espionage agent for the SOE in the Second.  Now the conflicts he faces are closer to home: Daniel’s marriage has fractured beyond repair and his relationship with his son, Bertie, has been a failure.

A sudden family tragedy spurs Daniel to leave England for a while, but some bonds are hard to break…

Daniel and Bertie soon find that their different experiences of war, although devastating, may bring with them the opportunity to reconnect.

If only they can find a way to move on from the past…

The Boys from Bloxi (February 2023)

By John Grisham

February 28, 2023

For most of the last hundred years Biloxi was known for its beaches, resorts, and seafood industry.  But it had a darker side.  It was also notorious for corruption and vice, everything from gambling, prostitution, bootleg liquor, drugs … even contract killings.  The vice was controlled by a small cabal of mobsters, many of them rumoured to be members of the Dixie Mafia.

Keith Rudy and Hugh Malco grew up in Biloxi in the sixties and were childhood friends.  But as teenagers, their lives took them in different directions.  Keith’s father became a legendary prosecutor, determined to ‘clean up the Coast.’  Hugh’s father became the ‘Boss’ of Biloxi’s criminal underground.  Keith went to law school and followed in his father’s footsteps.  Hugh preferred the nightlife and worked in his father’s clubs.  The two families were headed for a showdown, one that would happen in a courtroom.

Rich with history and with a large cast of unforgettable characters, The Boys from Biloxi is a sweeping saga of two sons of immigrant families who grew up as friends, but ultimately find themselves in a knife-edge legal confrontation in which life itself hangs in the balance.

The Night Man (February 2023)

By Jorn Lier Horst

February 28, 2023

When a severed head is displayed on a stake in the quiet town of Larvik, Chief Inspector William Wisting is sent to investigate.

This is a calling card from a dangerous killer.  And it isn’t long before another body is found.

As the media closes in on the biggest story of the year, the truth is slowly uncovered as Wisting discovers a criminal network has lodged itself deep in the roots of the city.

Their leader – known only as The Night Man – holds the city in a vice-like grip and it’s up to Wisting to hunt him down.

But it’s all too easy for the hunter to become the prey.  And soon the case comes closer to home than Wisting ever thought possible…

A Gentle Radical: The Life of Jeanette Fitzsimons (February 2023) – Athenaeum Book Club 2023

By Gareth Hughes

February 28, 2023

Jeanette Fitzsimons was a visionary, a pioneer and a radical.  This is the story of someone who battled National and Labour’s lock on parliament and had the courage to challenge political sacred cows.  She was the co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand from 1995 to 2009, and a member of parliament from 1996 to 2010.

Highly regarded by all, she was the first (and until recently, the only) Green MP to win an electorate seat.  She died very suddenly and unexpectedly in 2020.  Fitzsimons is a unique figure in our political history yet someone whose personal story is still unknown.

How did a girl from a conservative rural family get to the front lines of radical political thought and then into the front benches of parliament?

How did she become the first Green MP in the world to win an electorate seat?

How did she survive the brutal world of politics and get through the death of her co-leader Rod Donald?

How did the world’s first national Green Party form in New Zealand, and what was Jeanette’s role?

What can we learn from her politics and what did she think of the Green Party that followed her?  Fitzsimons lived a fascinating life, filled with moments of high political drama, and her example of how to navigate politics, adversity and triumph is more important than ever.

Klara and the Sun (February 2023)

By Kazuo Ishiguro

February 28, 2023

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside.  She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

A Winter Grave (February 2023)

By Peter May

February 28, 2023

A young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station discovers the body of a man entombed in ice.

The dead man is investigative reporter, George Younger, missing for three months after vanishing during what he claimed was a hill-walking holiday.  Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow detective, volunteers to be flown north to investigate Younger’s death, but he has more than a murder enquiry on his agenda.  He knows the time has come to face his estranged daughter who has made her home in the remote Highland village.

Arriving during an ice storm, Brodie and pathologist Dr. Sita Roy, find themselves the sole guests at the International Hotel, where Younger’s body has been refrigerated.  But evidence uncovered during his autopsy places the lives of both Brodie and Roy in extreme jeopardy.

Set in the year 2051, when warnings of a climate catastrophe have been ignored, A Winter Grave is May at his page-turning passionate and provocative best.

The Axe Woman (February 2023)

By Hakan Nesser

February 28, 2023

Sweden 2012

When Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti returns to work after a terrible personal tragedy his boss asks him to investigate a cold case, hoping to ease him back gently into his police duties.

Five years previously a shy electrician, Arnold Morinder, disappeared from the face of the earth – the only clue his blue moped abandoned in a nearby swamp.

At the time his partner, Ellen Bjarnebo, claimed that Arnold  had probably travelled to Norway, never to return.  But Ellen is one of Sweden’s most notorious killers, having served eleven years in prison after killing her abusive first husband and dismembering his body with an axe.  And when Barbarotti seeks to interview Ellen in relation to Arnold’s disappearance she is nowhere to be found …

But without a body and with no chance of interviewing his prime suspect, Barbarotti must use all the ingenuity at his disposal to make headway in the case.  Still struggling with his personal demons, Barbarotti seeks solace from God, and the support of his colleague, Eva Backman.  And as he finally begins to track down his suspect and the cold case starts to thaw, Barbarotti realizes that nothing about Ellen Bjarnebo can be taken for granted …

We all want impossible things (February 2023) – Athenaeum Book Club 2023

By Catherine Newman

February 28, 2023

Edi wants an obscure Italian lemon cake.

Ash wants hot sex in a cupboard.

Edi wants to see the stars.

They both want the woman down the hallway to stop singing Fiddler on the Roof.

Edi wants time to go backwards.

And Ash?
Ash just wants a miracle…

Edi and Ash have been best friends for over forty years.  Since childhood they have seen each other through life’s milestones: stealing vodka from their parents, the Madonna phase, REM concerts, unexpected wakes, marriage, children, break-ups and breakdowns.  As Ash notes, ‘Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.’

So when Edi is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ash’s world reshapes around the rhythms of Edi’s care, from chipped ice and watermelon cubes to weird music therapy; from snack smuggling to impromptu excursions into the frozen winter night.  Because life is about squeezing the joy out of every moment, about building a powerhouse of memories, about learning when to hold on, and when to let go.


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