Author(s): Shonagh Koea
A novel about the transporting power of the imagination, about overcoming your past, and about the beauty of a solitary life. Ellis sits in her house writing, looking out of her window, gardening and walking by the sea. While telling of her current life, she is slowly edging towards and away from her memories of moving to another city, the one she subsequently fled from. As we learn about Ellis' life, she mentions the man who invited her to his dinner parties and about how he took particular interest in knowing her biggest fear. Gradually she reveals what he did to her and how she survived ...
Shonagh Koea's notable writing career met with early success in a Woman's Weekly writing contest, in which (aged eight) she won two guineas. She went on to become a journalist and to win the Air New Zealand Short Story Award (1981), and more recently to write a number of short story collections as well as many novels and a memoir (2007). North and South commented that 'Shonagh Koea has a command of prose, an originality of expression, a sophisticated wit and a richness of imagery, which makes her writing a delight.' Of the novels, Sing to Me, Dreamer was a finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards (1995), and The Lonely Margins of the Sea was runner-up for the Deutz Medal for Fiction (1999). She has held the University of Auckland Fellowship in Literature (1993) and the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship (1997). Koea's territory is 'the contrast between domestic misery and various forms of withdrawal or escape' (The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature), and she has been described 'as addictive as nicotine or coffee with, perhaps, major withdrawal symptoms' (Nelson Evening Mail). Poet Alistair Paterson said of Staying Home and Being Rotten, 'This is not merely a good book, but a work of brilliance. It establishes Shonagh Koea as a leading New Zealand novelist and a writer of international significance.' The Kindness of Strangers: Kitchen Memoirs is a collection of Koea's memories from her various roles as daughter, wife, mother, journalist and novelist, and as such serves as a social history of New Zealand of the past 50 years. Reviewing it in The New Zealand Listener, Graeme Lay called it 'a truly delectable read'. The New Zealand Herald wrote: 'the ingredients in Shonagh Koea's writing among them a delicate yet incisive wit, keen perception, irony, and an abundance of sensuous imagery are good enough to stand alone. Still, the 25 plain and tasty very mid-century New Zealand recipes are skilfully interwoven with the episodic memories they give rise to, and slowly build up a fascinating portrait.'Sing to Me, Dreamer, originally published in 1994, was reissued in 2009. The new edition includes four short stories, an introduction, and a Question and Answer section about why and how the novel was originally written.