Sunday, 10 June 2012

Book of the Week - Emily Perkins, The Forrests

The Forrests is Emily Perkins’ fourth novel, a family saga set in New Zealand where she grew up and currently lives, teaching creative writing at The University of Auckland and hosting TV New Zealand’s book programme The Good Word.  Perkins grew up in Auckland and Wellington. She left school to act in the TVNZ drama Open House, and trained at the New Zealand Drama School. However, her acting career did not take off and she subsequently studied creative writing at Victoria University. In 1994 she moved to London, where Picador published her first book in 1996. Her novels Leave Before You Go and The New Girl followed. As well as fiction, book reviews and personal essays she wrote a long-running column for the Independent on Sunday. She returned to New Zealand in 2005 and currently lives in Auckland with her husband, artist Karl Maughan, and their children.

The Forrests may be Perkins’ breakthrough novel and has received very positive notices. I have not seen signed copies of the UK edition yet, but she has been at Hay this week and I would expect these to appear soon.  Paperback only in the UK, with French Folds. Look out for this one on the literary prize lists later in the year.

“Dorothy Forrest is immersed in the sensory world around her; she lives in the flickering moment. From the age of seven, when her odd, disenfranchised family moves from New York City to the wide skies of Auckland, to the very end of her life, this is her great gift and possible misfortune.Through the wilderness of a commune, to falling in love, to early marriage and motherhood, from the glorious anguish of parenting to the loss of everything worked for and the unexpected return of love, Dorothy is swept along by time. Her family looms and recedes; revelations come to light; death changes everything, but somehow life remains as potent as it ever was, and the joy in just being won’t let her go.

In a narrative that shifts and moves, growing as wild as the characters, The Forrests is an extraordinary literary achievement. A novel that sings with colour and memory, it speaks of family and time, dysfunction, ageing and loneliness, about heat, youth, and how life can change if ‘you’re lucky enough to be around for it'”.

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