08 October, 2016

All Visitors Ashore by C.K. Stead

Melior Farbro is a gay artist, a little over fifty "like the century itself", a loner believing "there is nothing a man needs a woman for, nothing his pals can’t provide and make it better". He lives by the sea in Takapuna in a tiny studio full of books, arts and tomatoes. He makes art in the morning, grows vegetables during the day, and entertains his visitors with witty conversations at dinner.

Cecilia Skyways with her ginger-gold curls all around her face is a South Island girl and a would-be writer. With envious determination, she writes her memoirs and follows her own form of Zen Buddhism in Farbro's garden hut. Before living here, she spent nearly six years at the nunnery (or whatever it was). She is a little bizarre, like the rest of the characters; painfully shy and sensitive.

There is also Curl and Pat, a young artistic couple hanging out nearby. Curl's brilliant young head is "full of novels waiting to be unravelled and his trousers full of something much more irrepressible". 

It is the summer of 1951, the waterfront dispute is on, the harbour is full of cargo vessels, but the passenger ships continue to sail. One after another the characters depart from New Zealand in search of a new life and better opportunities somewhere else.

As one may guess, Farbro and Cecilia are and aren't Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame, the two New Zealand's iconic writers. Just as the professor Curl Skidmore, capturing his memories over a gap of thirty years, is and isn't C.K. Stead, the author. Whether or not one is able and willing to recognise the real people and true story behind fiction, the novel is a page-turner, funny, and masterly narrated. It's a gripping and hugely enjoyable read.

Title: All Visitors Ashore
Author: C.K. Stead

Recommended by Maria M, Central Library

Maria M believes reading is the best way to understand other people and places. She is an avid bilingual reader who is particularly interested in New Zealand fiction.

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