Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Recent Books

Bark Skins (May 2024)

By Annie Proulx

June 5, 2024

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a ‘seigneur’, for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters- barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulex tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years – their travels across North America, to Europe, China and New Zealand, stunningly brutal conditions; the revenge of rivals; accidents; pestilence; Indian attacks; and cultural annihilation.

The Secret Life of Sunflowers (May 2024)

By Marta Molnar

June 4, 2024

When Hollywood auctioneer Emsley Wilson finds her famous grandmother’s diary while cleaning out her New York brownstone, the pages are full of surprises. The first surprise is, the diary isn’t her grandmother’s. It belongs to Johanna Bonger, Vincent van Gogh’s sister-in- law.

Johanna inherited Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. They were all she had, and they weren’t worth anything. She was a 28 year old widow with a baby in the 1800s, without any means of supporting herself, living in Paris where she barely spoke the language. Yet she managed to introduce Vincent’s legacy to the world.

The inspiration couldn’t come at a better time for Emsley. With her business failing, an unexpected love turning up in her life, and family secrets unraveling, can she find answers in the past?

A History of Silence (May 2024)

By Lloyd Jones

June 4, 2024

A Memoir

As Christchurch lies in ruins after the catastrophic earthquake of February 2011, Lloyd Jones begins a search that takes him through childhood memories of puzzling events to Pembroke Dock in Wales, and finally to the discovery of a devastating court transcript.

On this extraordinary journey, he pieces together the fragments of a story that has been buried in his family for a lifetime. A mother who gave up her daughter, a naval captain drowned at sea, a marriage to save a child.

And a truth that changes everything.

Oh Miriam! (May2024)

By Miriam Margolyes

June 4, 2024

Oh Miriam! has been a constant refrain in my life, said in all kinds of tones- laughs, surprised gasps and orgasmic sighs (I’m hoping for all of those from you as you read on!) – that it had to be the title of the book. And with a cast list that stretches from Churchill to DiCaprico, Dahl to Dietrich, Princess Margaret to Maggie Smith, I’ve so much more to tell you and so much more to say.

My chapters range from ‘How to Stay Married’ to ‘Don’t let the Bastards Get You Down’. Discover how to break the thickest conversational ice; why swearing is actually good for you (though not on the Today programme); the unexpected things I learned at school and what my Spice Girl name would be. Not to mention my Tale of the Unexpected and my very own Vagina Monologue.



Rambling Man My Life on the Road (April 2024)

By Billy Connolly

April 24, 2024

When Billy set out from Glasgow as a young man he never looked back.

He played his banjo on boats and trains, under trees and on top of famous monuments. He danced naked in snow, wind and fire. He slept in bus stations, under bridges and on strangers’ floors.  He travelled by foot, bike, ship, plane, sleigh- even piggy- backed – to get to his next destination.

A Bird in Winter (April 2024)

By Louise Doughty

April 24, 2024

One minute, she’s in a meeting in her office in Birmingham- the next, she’s walking out on her job, her home, her life. It’s a day she thought might come, and one she’s prepared for – but nothing could have prepared her for what happen next. As she flees north using multiple disguises, Bird has to work out who exactly is on her trail, and who- if anyone- she can trust.


Like many people, Bird has fantasised about escape for a long time, but now it’s actually happening if her greatest fear that she will be hunted down, or that she will never be found?

Wavewalker (April 2024)

By Suzanne Heywood

April 24, 2024

Aged just seven, Suzanne Heywood set sail with her parents and brother on a three-year voyage around the world.  What followed turned into a decade-long way of life, through storms, shipwrecks, reefs and isolation, with little formal schooling. No one else knew where they were most of the time and no state showed any interest in what was happening to the children.


Suzanne fought her parents, longing to return to England and to education and stability. This memoir covers her astonishing upbringing, a survival story of a child deprived of safety, friendships, schooling

and occasionally drinking water. . . At seventeen Suzanne earned an interview at Oxford University and returned to the UK.

Landed (April 2024)

By Sue McCauley

April 24, 2024

It’s the late 1980’s, in Timaru, and Brewer Howland has killed himself.  His wife, Briar, is left stranded in a rapidly changing world.  The future she took for granted has been obliterated and she must invent a new one.  But how does a sixty-something widow go about creating a future for herself in a world she struggles to comprehend?

The government has taken a sharp turn into unfamiliar territory, and everything seems to be rapidly changing; values, language, telephones, families, race relations, gadgets.  Amid this tsunami of ‘progress’ Briar must decide how and where to live out her life. If her children and grandchildren had turned out to be lovingly bonded family cluster she’d hoped to raise, they might have been future enough.  But her children are scattered and disputatious. . . .



Everyone on this Train is a Suspect (April 2024)

By Benjamin Stevenson

April 24, 2024

When the Australian Mystery Writers’ Society invited me to their crime-writing festival aboard the Ghan, the famous train between Darwin and Adelaide, I was hoping for some inspiration for my second book.  Fiction, this time: I needed a break from real people killing each other.  Obviously, that didn’t pan out.

The program is a who’s who of crime-writing royalty:

The debut writer [me!]

The forensic science writer

The blockbuster writer

The legal thriller writer

The literary writer

The psychological suspense writer

But when one of us is murdered, six authors quickly turn into five detectives.  Together, we should know how to solve a crime.

Or commit one.

Written in Bone (March 2024)

By Sue Black

March 15, 2024

Our bones are the silent witness to the lives we lead.  Our stories are marbled into their marrow.

Drawing upon her years of research and remarkable experience, the world-renowned forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black takes us on a journey of revelation.  From skull to toe, via the teeth, spine, chest, arms, hands, pelvis and legs, she shows that each part of us has a tale to tell.  What we eat, where we go, the things we do – all these leave a trace, a message waiting for a forensic anthropologist to decipher it.

Limb by limb, case by case – some criminal, some historical, some unaccountably bizarre – Sue Black reconstructs with intimate sensitivity and compassion the stories hidden in what we leave behind.

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