Testing the water: Picturing Canterbury

About to test the water
A summer Sunday outing February 1958 at the Waimakariri River.
Bain, Peter, Avis, Merle and Brenda preparing to float down the river for fun. They later realised the danger of the current and didn’t do it again.

Recent necrology, December 2012

A list of well-known people who have died recently:

Get Zombied at the library

“I never thought I could care so passionately for a zombie…” says Stephenie Meyer on the cover of Warm Bodies. And she’s right. R is a strangely compelling male romantic lead, even though he is dead and has no lips and can’t remember who he is – or was. He thinks he might have been some kind of office worker because he is wearing the remains of a suit. But like the other zombies drifting around the abandoned airport, the past is a blur of half memories that don’t stay still long enough to make any sense. They can only talk in sentences of one or two words and only feel pleasure when they eat the brains of the few still-human survivors they hunt down in the nearby wrecked city.

But something strange is happening to R. During a raid for food, he eats the brain of a young man and feels his overwhelming love for the girl cowering in the corner. So, instead of eating her, R takes her back to the airport smothered in the blood of her lover to distract the other zombies from eating her. Sounds gross – it is. But also oddly touching. And now R is in big trouble for keeping her, instead of making her his lunch.

This is the first novel of Isaac Marion who describes himself as “not married, has no children, and did not go to college or win any prizes.” Based on a short story, the novel is also about to be released as a feature film including John Malkovich in the cast.

Zombies at Christchurch City Libraries

Zombies are very popular in literature and on film these days, so we are running a holiday programme designed especially for children aged 10 to 14 years. On 10 January at Upper Riccarton Library you can have your face painted, listen to zombie stories, create a zombie poster and share a zombie feast. Just ring 941 7923 to register for lots of bloody fun.

Toby’s room is Pat Barker at her best

Pat Barker, famous for her World War I Regeneration series has returned to a similar theme with Toby’s room.

Elinor and Toby are brother and sister, they have an incredibly close bond with Elinor being the youngest and Toby the adored older brother. Early on we encounter a ‘situation’ between these two that affects the rest of their lives, and has a lasting impression throughout the book. Adulthood sees Toby starting training as a doctor and Elinor at art school. Neither are unscathed and both become unlikeable – but fascinating – adult characters.

Jumping to the outbreak of World War I, Toby volunteers and becomes a fearless medic leading his men into more and more dangerous situations, seemingly with little regard for his life. Elinor learns that he is missing, presumed dead, and this starts her obsession with finding out what happened. Her friend Kit from art school, who was in Toby’s regiment and has come home suffering dreadful facial scarring, seems knows what happened but refuses to tell Elinor. Why? The famous Queen Mary hospital that treated these returned soldiers for their horrendous facial trauma becomes a macabre backdrop from which the story now unfolds.

What makes this book so compelling are the main flawed characters, the descriptions of hospital and life for the men having returned with scars both physical and mental, and an increasing sense of intrigue and angst around Toby’s probable death. Stories of the First World War are always harrowing and this book is no different. It’s not a light holiday read, but it is enthralling and incredibly well written.