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Posts from the ‘Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2019’ Category


#Ockham NZ Awards MY CHOICE winner Fiona Kidman

  • Author: Dame Fiona Judith Kidman DNZM OBE (1940)
  • Title: This Mortal Boy
  • Published: 2018
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly reading plan
  • #AWW2019 
  • @AusWomenWriters
  • Trivia: 2019 Winner of The New Zealand Booklovers’ Prize for Fiction
  • Trivia: 2018 Shortlisted for the NZ Heritage Book Awards
  • Trivia: 2019 Shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
  • #TheOckhams will be awarded 14 May 2019.
  • @PenguinBooks_NZ



  1. On 05 December1955
  2. …New Zealand’s second-last execution occurred.
  3. The victim was a young Irishman,
  4. Albert (Paddy) Black…a bog-trotter.
  5. He knifed a man, Johnny McBride…bit of a rough diamond,
  6. in a bar-room brawl 26 July 1955
  7. …called the “juke-box murder”.
  8. Public revulsion at his execution was a major force
  9. abolishing the death penalty in 1961.
  10. Black was convicted of murder and executed.
  11. Yet there were clear signs that his trial
  12. …was a severe miscarriage of justice.
  13. Main characters:
  14. Albert (Paddy) Black Irish, aka Shaun Donavan (killer)
  15. Alan Keith Jacques English, aka Johnny McBride (victim)
  • Setting change: 1955 Belfast Ireland
  • Flashback: Belfast, parents, childhood, WW II, sailing to life in NZ
  • Setting: NZ Aukland, Wellington, Auckland Parliament House
  • Mt Eden Prison NZ (arrested awaits trial),
  • Ye Olde Barn cafe (crime scene)
  • Setting: Station Hotel Aukland NZ (where jury is staying during trial)
  • Setting: Aukland Court house – jury’s decision (ch 19)
  • Setting: Mount Eden Prison…execution



  1. This story is based on facts that are in no way
  2. sentimentalized by the author.
  3. This Mortal Boy reads like a Greek Tragedy
  4. …we know what is going to happen in the last act.
  5. The platform on the gallows will actually be a trapdoor.
  6. The book is a stark report about a young boy who
  7. made a mistake and paid the ultimate price, his life.


  1. Strong point:
  2. Research
  3. Dame Fiona Kidman has studied the trial transcripts
  4. …read copies of Albert Black’s letters to friend his Peter
  5. ..and visited Ireland to research the public records in Belfast
  6. (births, marriages, deaths).
  7. Chapter  27  is and eyewitness report  of the execution by J. Young.
  8. (…a very confronting read)
  9. Trial witnesses, lawyers and members of the jury are fictional.


  1. Strong point:
  2. Kidman examines history with a fine tooth comb.
  3. She supports her story with references
  4. to Australian politicians, The Mazengarb 1954 (report on moral delinquency)
  5. …and  the hanging of Fred Foster July 1955 for the ‘Milk Bar Murder’.


  1. Strong point:
  2. The jury
  3. In chapter two Kidman takes time to
  4. …introduce the reader to the 12 men on the jury.
  5. At first I thought Kidman was being too detailed.
  6. But later I realized  why it is important to know the
  7. social class (job, education) of these men.
  8. Only then can we understand the decision making
  9. process about Albert Black:
  10. guilty or not guilty.
  11. Three jurors add doubt to the arguments for guilty.
  12. I was captivated and drawn in as these jurors  try to
  13. remain staunchly against a guilty verdict.
  14. You will read what happened
  15. ….that pushed the verdict to guilty!


  1. Weak point of audio book:
  2. The singing!
  3. I’d rather read that someone is humming or singing a song
  4. …than to actually hearing it. #Distracting.


  1. Strong point:
  2. Ch 14 –  Oliver Buchanan, lawyer
  3. We imagine that the case is open and shut but…
  4. Buchanan works tirelessly to help his client
  5. …avoid the death penalty.
  6. There is something missing  in this case
  7. …but he cannot find the piece.
  8. Buchanan is interested in
  9. what happened before Paddy stabbed Johnny
  10. …that can prove that this crime was based on an accident.
  11. Buchanan quotes Thomas Hardy:
  12. “…for every bad..there is a worse.”


Last thoughts:

  1. Capital punishment…is such a contentious issue.
  2. While reading this book I was forced to think
  3. about the consequences of this policy.
  4. #Heartwrenching
  5. MY CHOICE to win Ockham 2019 for Fiction.



  1. Juror – Arthur university lecturer discusses… life? or death ?
  2. “…are you all so far beyond reproach
  3. that you have a right to make this decision?
  4. I’m not sure that I am.”


#Ockham NZ Awards poetry Therese Lloyd


Poem:  “no title”

  1. Just 64 words, no title, no punctuation, no capital letters.
  2. But this poem  had the
  3. …emotional impact of fear and hope.
  4. Fear moves one away from something a feeling
  5. “common and strangely comfortable.”
  6. Hope moves one towards something a feeling
  7. that starts with “a voiceless wish”.
  8. The heightened image of a ‘pinned down moth”
  9. who wants to fly home is beautiful.
  10. A moth where the ‘hot glass ceiling” (of specimen drawer)
  11. “reflected only her calm, resolute gaze.”
  12. How often do we feel ‘pinned down’?
  13. Conclusion: excellent poem to kick-off this collection
  14. it will linger in your mind.


Prose poem:   On Looking at Photographs in High School Yearbooks

Appears as prose (anecdotes about school chums and her mother)
Reads like poetry (…not really, no pattern, rhythm, rhyme)
No line breaks (…just paragraphs)

What can I find ‘poetic about it?
No much, no elaborate metaphors
but I did find one symbol: eclipse and
repetition of the word ‘lack’ to help me pinpoint
the core message of the prose poem.

Narrator: “…hated myself” for the “..lack of shimmer, the confusion
The yearbooks “brought a swift eclipse of 28 years.” (Re: symbol)
“There is always more lack waiting” and
it fell like a shadow (Re: phase of eclipse) over her life.
Now the yearbooks have shone light on her memories (Re: phase of eclipse)
and she discovers the faces of those girls (Re: in yearbooks)
“All naked and plain. We all had it.”


Poem: Y2k

  1. Y2K  (2 long stanzas) felt like to distinct poems.
  2. stanza 1:  What is humanness….what does it feel like?
  3. stanza 2:  NZ feels high-esteem “… That lovely conceit of time”
  4. …because in 2000 Gisbourne NZ felt the first rays of sunshine
  5. …in the new millennium.
  6. Conclusion: average poem with no emotional impact for me.


Poem:  On Metaphysical Insight  (metaphysical = ‘after the physical’)

  • It took me an hour to read 10 lines!
  • That attests to the Therese Lloyd’s talent.
  • She walks creatively into a painting by Ed Hopper
  • ….but the reader must discover
  • …which painting it is from the clues in the poem.
  • Lloyd opens the poem:
  • “Night-time alone suffocates colour.”
  • Now the reader must see the
  • …thick black oils, smeared yellow lights
  • and a frowning bowl of fruit
  • …to help  one to unlock this poem.
  • Conclusion: Chef d’oeuvre, master work!
  • I saw things in  Ed Hopper’s painting after reading
  • …this poem that I never saw before.


Most difficult section to comprehend:

Pg 34-43

  1. Lloyd wants to illustrate that poems echo
  2. and reecho against each other.
  3. ‘They cannot live alone anymore than we can”.
  4. Five poems and than five second drafts of these poems
  5. …were difficult  appreciate.
  6. I just do not have the poetic savvy
  7. to see connections or disjunction between the poems.
  8. Sigh.


Update:   I found the connections!      Now you try!


Best selection…..absolutely amazing.

  1. The Facts (pg 44-52)
  2. Listen to a broken heart….
  3. …it is sounds more like a confession.


Poem: Funeral Playlist  (pg  68)

  1. Never read a poem with a playlist before!
  2. With Spotify I listened to Lloyd’s selections.
  3. I tried to find the line(s) in the lyrics that would
  4. reveal the emotions Lloyd has hidden in this poem
  5. #Inventive
  6. Playlist:
  7. Into  My Arms (Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds)
  8. Here’s Where the Story Ends (The Sundays)
  9. Avalon (Brian Ferry, Roxy Music)



  1. I reviewed a few of the poems in this book.
  2. There are 32 poems divided into groups:
  3. Time — Desire — Absence.
  4. Lloyd writes 3 poems with reference to
  5. 3 paintings by Ed Hopper: Office at Night
  6. Western Hotel and Eleven a.m.
  7. If you place the image of the painting from Google images
  8. in front of you and then read these poems
  9. …it is an unique poetic experience!
  10. The Facts is MY CHOICE  to win
  11. Ockham NZ Book Award 2019 for poetry.
  12. It is the ONLY collection I could get my hands on
  13. before 14 May 2019.
  14. Will one of the other nominees win?
  15. …only the jury can tell us
  16. …and I will see if I agree after 15th of July
  17. when my books arrive!


Last thoughts:

  1. I think of reading  poetry in terms of Zen:
  2. Trying new things reminds us
  3. …that it’s ok to take small steps,
  4. to make a little progress each day.
  5. It’s ok to feel inept  at something at first.
  6. The goal is learning, not perfecting.

#Ockham NZ Awards shortlist Lloyd Jones


Why did I read this book?

  1. The Cage is shortlisted for Ockham Book Awards (New Zealand)
  2. I wanted to see why the jury selected this book.


Why after reading 20% of the book I was ready to call it quits?

  1. Usually a book starts out slowly and gets better and better.
  2. This book did exact the opposite.
  3. I slogged through chapters 1-8. (20%)
  4. The reader is presented a bizarre hotel that
  5. decides two strangers are too ‘other’ and should
  6. be caged in the backyard of the hotel.


What did I do differently after ch 8?

  1. I realized if I stop short I’ll risk missing something incredible.
  2. Resisting the impulse to stop midway also teaches the reader strength.
  3. I read the book as a fable
  4. Forget the bazaar framework of a hotel
  5. …and it’s eccentric owners who have caged two guests.
  6. Look for the observations that Lloyd Jones is making
  7. …to teach us a moral lesson.
  8. He wants us to see
  9. …strangers (refugees) from another perspective
  10. ….not just staring or gazing at them  on a TV screen.
  11. He uses animals that mimic human traits
  12. …and humans that treat others as animals


Strong point:

  1. Lloyd Jones uses the
  2. ….fable, a literary device.
  3. The author made lets animals teach a moral lesson.
  4. There are some  powerful images in the book:
  5. Narrator compares strangers to sheep:
  6. Sheep: spectacular single-mindedness
  7. …they eat in response to coming famine
  8. during the day they hardly know what to do with themselves
  9. Strangers: (refugees …like sheep)
  10. look forward to each new day
  11. it may bring release.
  12. It passes.
  13. There is another endless night to get through.


Strong point:

  1. Observations…and there were many excellent
  2. descriptions of the plight of refugees...
  3. that will pierce your soul.
  4. Once your soul has been pierced then you are able to help others.
  5. Example observation:
  6. Pressed around their eyes is a bruising confusion.
  7. They stand mesmerized by their circumstances
  8. …where just a moment ago, in their minds at least,
  9. they were in their kitchen at home.
  10. Example observation:
  11. Strangers (refugees) pace…
  12. they do it to alleviate a feeling of
  13. ..helplessness when rain is falling.
  14. They do not wish to be cooperative like grass
  15. …or submissive like mud.
  16. Example observation:
  17. Trustee (authority) Mr Bennett:
  18. “They are not incarcerated, they are temporally caged.”
  19. Viktor (cook in the hotel): “And the difference?”


Strong point:

  1. Best chapter  for moral lessonCh 11 Setting:  Zoo
  2. Lesson: The animals (strangers, refugees) don’t hate us
  3. …they alternate between bewilderment and boredom.”
  4. Core message book Ch 21 Setting: Hotel backyard
  5. Trustees authorities)  no longer go down to the yard
  6. …the narrator must transcribe what he sees.
  7. The Trustees are only interested in the facts
  8. they don’t get the fuller story of life inside the cage”


Weak point:

  1. The book is too long!!  (43 chapter and just 263 pages)
  2. After reading 50 % of the book
  3. …my interest seriously wavered.
  4. Note: I noticed around chapter 22
  5. ….the narrative repeats itself 
  6. over and over
  7. with observations, food for the strangers at the feeding hole,
  8. narrator playing the clarinet,
  9. visits to a zoo, strangers pace in the cage,
  10. sit on log or huddle in the back against a stone memorial wall…
  11. relieving  themselves in a newly dug hole.
  12. The strangers, visitors or Trustees (owners of hotel)
  13. keep  asking “ Is there any news?


Weak point:

  1. Flashbacks that
  2. made no sense  to me in the narrative!
  3. Narrator…
  4. flies in a plane with his father
  5. travels on a particular road with his father
  6. visits a lighthouse with his mother
  7. recalls a snorkeling holiday!


Weak point:

  1. Strange threads in the narrative…
  2. Note: I don’t really understand the symbol of the narrator playing his clarinet all the time. Is it just to make music “to sooth the savage beast?” (strangers, refugees)
  3. Note: constant thread in the book: narrator is serving breakfast ( eggs, toast, jam, coffee etc) to strangers through a feeding hole.
  4. Note: woman in the hat…demented neighbor who visits the cage or a asylum representative or just a vision?


Weak point:  useless chapters…just useless ( filler?)

Ch 25  Stangers receive a plate warmer…Trustees celebrate with a sparkling glass of wine and the narrator plays a song on his clarinet. What is the point?

Ch 26 Descriptions of nightmares ( Mr. Bennett and the Mole), strangers attempt to stand on the plate warmer and  piling stones against the cage as a wall. Narrator brings the strangers some toilet paper…then he plays a song on his clarinet. What is the point?

Ch 27 Katie (little girl in hotel) wants to feed them (strangers).  Strangers asleep in the dirt. Strangers are encouraged to grow own vegetables – Katie and narrator visit zoo again. What is the point?



  1. Criticism should be like a rain
  2. … gentle  enough to nourish growth
  3. …without destroying the roots.
  4. I have found many strong points in this book
  5. …but I think the author could have trimmed
  6. his manuscript in ch 22 – 35.
  7. With a little less clarinet…wallowing in the dirty cage
  8. coffee, toast and eggs in the feeding hole
  9. …it would  give this book extra polish.
  10. #JustSaying
  11. Yes this book is confronting.
  12. No….unfortunately…not my choice
  13. for the Ockham NZ Book Award 2019.



#Ockham New Zealand Awards shortlist

  • My next shortlist:  Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2019
  • Kate Duignan
  • Lloyd Jones
  • Fiona Kidman
  • Vincent O’Sullivan
  • have all made the shortlist for the coveted $53,000 Fiction prize.
  • I won’t have much time to read them all because
  • the prize will be announced on 14 May 2019.
  • How many can I read before the deadline?
  • Today starts my Ockham Awards  read-a-thon!
  • My  POETRY predictions….will be late (pre-order books)



  1. The New Ships –  Kate Duignan – pre-order arrives 15 July!
  2. The Cage –  Lloyd Jones – READ (review)
  3. This Mortal Boy –  Fiona Kidman – READ (review)
  4. All This by Chance –  V. O’Sullivan – NOT reading…novel over 3 generations…not for me!



  1. Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love –  Joanne Drayton (no e-book yet…)
  2. Memory Pieces –  Maurice Gee – pre-order  arrives 08 Aug
  3. We Can Make a Life – C. Henry – READ
  4. With Them Through Hell  – Anna Rogers – NOT READING
  5. (only in hardcover and costs 68 euros! (...too expensive for me!)



  1. Are Friends Electric ? – H. Heath (Ockham NZ Award poetry 2019) – READ
  2. There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime – E.Kennedy – pre-order 15 July
  3. The Facts Therese Lloyd READ
  4. Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble – pre-order 15 July