Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Recent Books

Drawn Out – Athenaeum Book Club 2018

By Tom Scott

November 1, 2017

Riotous, ripping yarns from a polymath who can’t add or subtract but who has won awards for cartooning, print journalism, documentary film-making and writing dramas.

Drawn Out is a hilarious, heartbreaking, heart-warming account of Tom Scott’s tragicomic childhood, his manic student-newspaper days, his turbulent years stumbling through the corridors of power, his fallings out with prime ministers, his collaborations with comic legends John Clarke, A.K. Grant and Murray Ball, his travels to the ends of the earth with his close friend Ed Hillary, and more…

Decline & Fall on Savage Street – Athenaeum Book Club

By Fiona Farrell

August 1, 2017

An Athenaeum Book Club pick.

A house with a fanciful turret is build by a river.

Unfolding within its rooms are lives of event and emotional upheaval.  A lot happens.  And the tumultuous events of the twentieth century also leave their mark, from war to economic collapse, the deaths of presidents and princesses to new waves of music, art, architecture and political ideas.

Meanwhile, a few metres away in the river, another creature follows a different, slower rhythm.

And beneath them all, the planet moves to its own immense geological time.

With insight, wide-ranging knowledge and humour, this novel explores the same territory as its non-fiction twin, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire.  Writing in a city devastated by major earthquakes, Fiona Farrell rebuilds a brilliant, compelling and imaginative structure from bits and pieces salvaged from one hundred years of history.

A lot has happened.  This is now is might have felt.

The Dark Flood Rises – Athenaeum Book Club

By Margaret Drabble

December 1, 2016

Francesca Stubbs holds our hand as we take a walk through old age and death.  Fran brings us to drinks with her friends, dropping off suppers for her ex-husband, warm and cosy in his infirmity.  She visits her daughter, holed up as the waters rise in a sodden West Country, and texts her son in Lanzarote, as he deals with the estate of his deceased girlfriend.

The questions of what constitutes a good death preoccupy this glittering novel.  The Dark Flood Rises asks momentous questions as it entertains and enthralls.  In her beautifully imagined new novel, Margaret Drabble is at her incisive best, exploring the end of life with her trademark humour, composure and wisdom.

Billy Bird – Athenaeum Book Club Selection

By Emma Neale

September 1, 2016

Liam and Iris have one son: Billy, a bright ‘toddler puddling about like a penguin, leaving surrealist art installations all over the house – a tiny cow in a teapot in a hat on the doorstep, of course!  A stuffed crocodile in a silk camisole perched beside a woollen chick in a beanie on the bread-bin, why not!’

Just as they are despairing about being able to conceive another child, Jason comes into their family.  He arrives under fraught circumstances, but might just make a perfect sibling for Billy.  Jason is a ‘lovely, poor, sad, unfortunate, ordinary, annoying, delightful nuisance of a ratbag of a hoot of a kid’ and the boys grow close over the ensuring years.  But after a terrible accident, Billy turns into a bird.  He utterly believes it: and as his behaviour becomes increasingly worrying, Liam and Iris must find a way to stop their family flying apart.

All the Light We Cannot See -Athenaeum Book Club

By Anthony Doerr

August 1, 2016

‘Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.’

For Marie’Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes.  The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home.  The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History.  The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris.  And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mine until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.

In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds people try to be good to one another.

The Teddy Bear’s Ribbon & Other Tales – Athenaeum Special Event

By E.R. Nye

July 1, 2016

In this series of adventures Sherlock Holmes and his friend and chronicler Dr Watson solve not only the mystery of the homely teddy bear and it’s role as courier in a spy ring but a number of other crimes.  Thus the pair shed new light on an old grave robbery in seventeenth century Sweden.

Holmes takes on an unexpected role in outwitting a con man who sees Watson as a gullible victim for a plausible swindle.  They venture into international intrigue and the shadowy world of an Italia secret society as well as solving other puzzles, such as the terrible threat of the Giant Rat of Sumatra.

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

By Lionel Shriver

May 1, 2016

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

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

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 – Athenaeum Book Club

By Hakan Nesser

December 1, 2015

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?

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