This Reading Life with Rachel Kerr

11 December 2020

Wellington writer Rachel Kerr has just released her debut novel Victory Park, the story of single-mother Kara, who is caught up in a friendship with glamourous, mysterious Bridget, wife of a disgraced Ponzi schemer, "a rich, funny, compassionate exploration of care and carelessness" (Emily Perkins). Rachel caught up with ARTicle this week to share her literary loves and histories, including why you should always finish a book, and which lines have stuck with her.

The first books to capture my imagination were … Katy One Summer, text by Shona McRae and photos by Guy Mannering, about a four year old girl who lives on a farm in North Canterbury. It has full page black and white photos of her stuffing scones in her face and visiting fairies who live in tree stumps.

The Many Mice of Mr Brice, for its interactive features.

The books that saw me through my childhood were ... Lots of English fiction - Roald Dahl, Kenneth Grahame, Tolkien.

Tove Jansonn. Astrid Lindgren.

And I was obsessed with My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George.

My favourite book of 2020 is… I am a human being, by Jackson Nieuwland.

Funny, profound, light on its feet.

I am a human being and Nothing to See.png

The fictional character I’d most like to be is … Myself as a character in Pip Adam’s Nothing to See, so there’d be two of me. That would be enlightening.

The author I’m most likely to binge-read is … Natalia Ginzburg. I haven’t read her yet, but I like the sound of her - a fierce Italian moralist writing about family.

The book I am most likely to press on a friend is … Depends on the friend and the day. I bought and gave away several copies of Kerry Donovan Brown’s book Lamplighter because I love its quiet luminosity.

Sleeps Standing Moetū, by Witi Ihimaera, for anyone who’s learning Te Reo, because it has each page in Te Reo and then in English, and it’s an incredible story.

My favourite film adaptation of a book is … Rain, adapted from Kirsty Gunn’s novel.

Rain by Kirsty Gunn.png

The book I studied at school that has stayed with me most is … I’m not sure school English made much of an impact on me to be honest.

The character I’d most like to meet is … One of the women from Grace Paley’s stories.

A line or two of writing I can recite from memory is …

The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus.

Don Delillo - White Noise

The book I keep meaning to get around to reading but somehow never do is … Moby Dick. But I need a spare summer.

The book I have reread the most is … The Beginning of Spring, by Penelope Fitzgerald.

Bookmark, scrap of paper or turning down the corner of the page? Turning down the corner if it’s mine, scrap of paper if it’s borrowed. Bookmark if it came with one from the shop, like the pink ones from Food Court Books.

The first 50 pages or bust? Or always to the bitter end? Usually I finish books. If I hate them I want to have comprehensive reasons.

The books on my bed side table right now are …

How to be Happy though Human, Kate Camp

Specimen, Madison Hamill

2000 ft above Worry Level, Eamonn Marra

A Māori Reference Grammar, Ray Harlow.