Books Set In New Zealand: New Zealand Novels
Kia ora! This list of books set in New Zealand aims to capture the country in literature, with a range of titles including both fiction and memoirs alike. There is a little bit of everything; from literary classics through to contemporary fiction; with tales that explore the dramatic landscapes, fascinating history and unique cultures that define the islands.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Books Set In New Zealand: Introduction
Below you’ll find an extensive reading list, so here are just a few highlights – including the two Booker Prize Winners on this list. Keri Hulme was the first New Zealand author to be awarded the prize for The Bone People in 1985. Hulme is of English, Scottish, and Māori descent and her only novel is an unusual one that deals with some very difficult issues.
Eleanor Catton was the youngest winner of the Booker Prize for The Luminaries in 2013. I’m from a gold-mining town in Australia, so found this novel set in the New Zealand goldfields fascinating. The experimental form of the 800+ page book is also notable; it’s woven around astrological concepts. The characters are associated with signs of the zodiac and interact accordingly, while the chapter lengths decrease throughout the book mirroring the waning moon.
The first published Māori novelist was Witi Ihimaera. With a diplomatic background, his stories often explore the intersection of cultures in contemporary New Zealand. Some of his works below include Pounamu Pounamu, The Whale Rider and Bulibasha: King Of The Gypsies. His most widely-read novel The Whale Rider was adapted into a feature film.
Janet Frame is another notable New Zealand author who published many works, often based on her dramatic personal history. Some of her books below include the novels Owls Do Cry and Faces in the Water; along with the first two parts of her autobiography which are To the Is-land and An Angel at My Table.
And finally, if you happen to be looking for children’s picture books set in New Zealand, one of my personal favourites growing up was Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy!
Books Set In New Zealand: The Shortlist
If you’re short on time and want to skip the longer list below, these are my picks for books set in New Zealand:
- Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
- The Bone People by Keri Hulme
- The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
- The Colour by Rose Tremain
- The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Want one of these Books Set in New Zealand for free?
Try Amazon Audible free for 30 days and get a free audiobook which you can play on loads of devices. Ideal for listening while gazing out the window. Best of all, you can cancel at any time and you can keep your books forever!
Books Set In New Zealand
1. The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield, 1922
Innovative, startlingly perceptive and aglow with colour, these fifteen stories were written towards the end of Katherine Mansfield’s tragically short life. Many are set in the author’s native New Zealand, others in England and the French Riviera. All are revelations of the unspoken, half-understood emotions that make up everyday experience – from the blackly comic ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’, and the short, sharp sketch ‘Miss Brill’, in which a lonely woman’s precarious sense of self is brutally destroyed, to the vivid impressionistic evocation of family life in ‘At the Bay’.
2. Colour Scheme (Roderick Alleyn #12) by Ngaio Marsh, 1943
Often regarded as her most interesting book and set on New Zealand’s North Island, Ngaio Marsh herself considered this to be her best-written novel. It was a horrible death – Maurice Questing was lured into a pool of boiling mud and left there to die. Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn, far from home on a wartime quest for German agents, knew that any number of people could have killed him: the English exiles he’d hated, the New Zealanders he’d despised or the Maoris he’d insulted.
3. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge, 1944
When William Ozanne departs the British Channel Islands for a new life in the Royal Navy, he leaves behind sisters Marianne and Marguerite Le Patourel in the clutches of love and longing. A letter to their father finds its way back, requesting William’s beloved to join him in New Zealand, and the sisters are separated. It’s not until she arrives to marry him that William realizes he has asked for the hand of the wrong woman.
4. Died in the Wool (Roderick Alleyn #13) by Ngaio Marsh, 1945
Member of Parliament Florence Rubrick has the wool pulled over her eyes-quite literally. She’s been found dead, her body pressed into a bale of wool. When Inspector Alleyn pays a visit to her New Zealand country home, he meets two fine, handsome men and two lovely young women, all of whom have reason to be grateful to dear Flossie for saving their lives. But as Inspector Alleyn learns, there are secrets aplenty hiding in the floorboards of that sheep station, and one in particular conceals a murderous motive that has the look and smell of treason.
5. Return to Paradise by James A. Michener, 1947
James A. Michener, the master of historical fiction, revisits the scenes of his first great work, Tales of the South Pacific, the Pulitzer Prize winner that brought him international acclaim. In this sequel collection, Michener once again evokes the magic of the extraordinary isles in the Pacific—from Fiji and Gaudalcanal to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea—through stories that burst with adventure, charm, and local color.
6. Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame, 1957
Owls Do Cry tells the story of the Withers family: Francie, who is twelve and about to start work at the woollen mills, hard drudgery sweetened with the thrill of riding a bike to work; Toby, who would rather play at the dump than go to school, where the dark velvet cloak of epilepsy often wraps itself around him; Chicks, the youngest; and Daphne, whose rich poetic way of seeing the world leads to a heartbreaking life in institutions. Janet Frame writes of hardship, poverty and tragedy with beauty and a deep sensitivity.
7. Faces in the Water by Janet Frame, 1961
When Janet Frame’s doctor suggested that she write about her traumatic experiences in mental institutions in order to free herself from them, the result was Faces in the Water, a powerful and poignant novel. Istina Mavet descends through increasingly desolate wards, with the threat of leucotomy ever present. As she observes her fellow patients, long dismissed by hospital staff, with humour and compassion, she reveals her original and questing mind. This riveting novel became an international classic, translated into nine languages, and has also been used as a medical school text.
8. Two in the Bush by Gerald Durrell, 1966
Two in the Bush is a record of the six-month journey which took Gerald Durrell, his wife Jacquie, and two cameramen through New Zealand, Australia and Malaya. The object was, first, to see what was being done about the conservation of wild life in these countries, and, secondly, to make a series of television films for the BBC. They were introduced to many rare and remarkable animals – Royal Albatrosses, Tuataras, Duck-Billed Platypuses, Flying Lizards and Long-Nosed Bandicoots, as well as to some equally unusual humans.
9. Sydney Bridge Upside Down by David Ballantyne, 1968
Harry Baird lives with his mother, father and younger brother Cal in Calliope Bay, at the edge of the world. Summer has come, and those who can have left the bay for the allure of the far away city. Among them is Harry’s mother, who has left behind a case of homemade ginger beer and a vague promise of return. Harry and Cal are too busy enjoying their holidays, playing in the caves and the old abandoned slaughterhouse, to be too concerned with her absence. When their older cousin – the beautiful, sophisticated Caroline-comes from the city to stay with the Bairds, Harry is besotted. With their friend Dibs Kelly, the boys and Caroline spend the long summer days exploring the bay and playing games.
10. Pounamu Pounamu by Witi Ihimaera, 1972
When Pounamu Pounamu was published in 1972, it was a landmark occasion for New Zealand literature in many ways. It was the first work of fiction published by a Maori writer, it was the first collection of short stories that looked at contemporary Maori life and it launched the career of one of New Zealand’s best-known authors. Witi Ihimaera explores in Pounamu Pounamu what it is like to be a New Zealander – but from a Maori perspective.
11. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, 1977
Note: this is only partly set in New Zealand, most of the story takes place in Australia.
The Thorn Birds is a robust, romantic saga of a singular family, the Clearys. It begins in the early part of this century, when Paddy Cleary moves his wife, Fiona, and their seven children to Drogheda, the vast Australian sheep station owned by his autocratic and childless older sister; and it ends more than half a century later, when the only survivor of the third generation, the brilliant actress Justine O’Neill, sets a course of life and love halfway around the world from her roots.
12. Plumb by Maurice Gee, 1978
Long regarded as one of the finest novels ever written by a New Zealander, Maurice Gee’s Plumb introduces us to the intolerant, irascible clergyman George Plumb, one of the most memorable characters in New Zealand literature and – half saint, half monster, superhuman in his spiritual strength and destructive in his utter self-absorption. What personal price is this man prepared to pay in the pursuit of his conscience, no matter what the consequences are for those he loves?
13. To the Is-land (Autobiography #1) by Janet Frame, 1982
In this first volume of her autobiography, New Zealand novelist Janet Frame tells of her childhood as the daughter of an impoverished railway worker and a mother who aspired to publish poetry. Despite material privations and family conflicts, the world of the imagination was accorded a supreme place in the Frame household, and it was at this time that Janet Frame acquired her lifelong love for Romantic poetry and her tactile sense of the power of words.
14. An Angel at My Table (Autobiography #2) by Janet Frame, 1984
Please note: The three autobiographies in this series are also published in a single edition, which is also titled An Angel At My Table.
This is the second volume in Janet Frame’s autobiography, in which she tells of how she left the close-knit family home in Oamaru for teacher training college in Dunedin. Her college years were a time of intense loneliness that culminated in an attempted suicide and commital to a mental institution. Labelled as a schizophrenic, Janet spent eight harrowing years in psychiatric hospitals until the publication of her prize-winning collection of stories won her a discharge.
15. The Bone People by Keri Hulme, 1984
In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor – a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge.
16. Season Of The Jew by Maurice Shadbolt, 1986
A powerful and moving novel of the early days of colonial New Zealand. A shrewd mission-educated Maori, Coates/Kooti, perceived as a thorn in the colonial flesh, escapes imprisonment and returns to Poverty Bay with a small band of followers. Kooti becomes the ruthless leader of a considerable native army, his Bible studies leading him to see himself and his people as latter-day Israelites. The story of what follows is told through the eyes of Captain Fairweather, a British army officer turned artist, an eminently humane man whose attempts to mend relations between natives and settlers meet with signal failure; while his wryly professional view of the beleaguered colony changes after a brutal attack on the half-Maori women he loves and her family. All main characters in this strange but true novel are historical and the tragic climax occurred in 1869 with the execution of a harmless and uncomprehending young Maori – an example.
17. Potiki by Patricia Grace, 1986
In a small coastal community threatened by developers who would ravage their lands it is a time of fear and confusion – and growing anger. The prophet child Tokowaru-i-te-Marama shares his people’s struggles against bulldozers and fast money talk. When dramatic events menace the marae, his grief and rage threaten to burst beyond the confines of his twisted body. His all-seeing eye looks forward to a strange and terrible new dawn.
18. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, 1987 (YA)
Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary ‘whale rider.’ In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild – and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, Kahu will do anything to save them – even the impossible.
19. Oracles and Miracles by Stevan Eldred-Grigg, 1988
Oracles and Miracles is Stevan Eldred-Griggs best-selling debut novel about Ginnie and Fag, twin sisters growing up in Christchurch in the thirties and forties, a city of ‘peeling paint, flaking iron, cracked linoleum, dusty yards, lean-tos, and asphalts, dunnies and textile mills’. This colourful story focuses on the relationship between the girls as they grow into women and their attempt to escape their impoverished background.
20. Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff, 1990
Once Were Warriors is Alan Duff’s harrowing vision of his country’s indigenous people two hundred years after the English conquest. In prose that is both raw and compelling, it tells the story of Beth Heke, a Maori woman struggling to keep her family from falling apart, despite the squalor and violence of the housing projects in which they live. Conveying both the rich textures of Maori tradition and the wounds left by its absence, Once Were Warriors is a masterpiece of unblinking realism, irresistible energy, and great sorrow.
21. Bulibasha: King Of The Gypsies by Witi Ihimaera, 1994
On the East Coast of New Zealand two patriarchs fight to be proclaimed king. Tamihana is the leader of the great Mahana family of shearers and sportsmen. Rupeni Poata is his arch-enemy. They will fight to win the title of Bulibasha and be proclaimed the King of the Gypsies, Caught in the middle of this struggle for power is the grandson of Tamihana and his wife Ramona, the teenage Simeon.
22. A Dangerous Vine by Barbara Ewing, 1999
Margaret Rose Bennett, like her elder sister, Elizabeth, was named after the two English princesses. But Elizabeth is dead, and Margaret Rose still living, searching and reaching out for life and its meaning. And against the frankly odd, strained and curiously English household she inhabits in a New Zealand city, it is hard to make out the truth. So Margaret abandons what her parents think is right: learning English history, the French language, listening to comedy shows on the World Service and returning home on the 9.30 tram and maps out a course of her own. She studies Maori at University, makes friends with the wayward Emily (daughter of the soon to be Prime Minister of New Zealand) and shy, independent Prudence. As a trio they study hard for their degrees, work by day at the local Government offices and by night sing, drink and laugh with the local Maori people – and fall in love.
23. Queen of Beauty by Paula Morris, 2002
Virginia Ngatea Seton leaves New Orleans, where she works as a researcher for a historical novelist, and returns home to Auckland for the wedding of her younger sister. Drawn back into the world of her Pakeha-Maori family, Virginia rediscovers many family stories and legends. She learns how the city of her youth has inextricably changed, as surely as the country of her grandparents is gone forever. At turns haunting, moving and comic, Queen of Beauty spans three generations. Shifting between modern-day New Orleans and Auckland, as well as New Zealand of the 1920s and 1960s, it explores the fragility of truth, the elusiveness of the past and the burden it places on the living.
24. The Colour by Rose Tremain, 2003
Newlyweds Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate from England to New Zealand, along with Joseph’s mother Lilian, in search of new beginnings and prosperity, but the harsh land near Christchurch where they settle threatens to destroy them almost before they begin. When Joseph finds gold in a creek bed, he hides the discovery from both his wife and mother and becomes obsessed with the riches awaiting him deep in the earth. Abandoning his farm and family, he sets off alone for the new goldfields over the Southern Alps, a moral wilderness where many others, under the seductive dreams of the “colour,” rush to their destinies and doom.
25. The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick, 2003
The bleak coal-mining settlement of Denniston, isolated high on a plateau above New Zealand’s West Coast, is a place that makes or breaks those who live there. At the time of this novel – the 1880s – the only way to reach the makeshift collection of huts, tents and saloons is to climb aboard an empty coal-wagon to be hauled 2000 feet up the terrifyingly steep Incline – the cable-haulage system that brings the coal down to the railway line. All sorts arrive here to work the mines and bring out the coal: ex-goldminers down on their luck; others running from the law, or from a woman, or worse. They work alongside recruited English miners, solid and skilled, who scorn these disorganised misfits and want them off the Hill.
26. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones, 2006
Note: this novel is not set in New Zealand, but is by a local author.
In a novel that is at once intense, beautiful, and fablelike, Lloyd Jones weaves a transcendent story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the power of narrative to transform our lives. On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, where the teachers have fled with most everyone else, only one white man chooses to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn, who sweeps out the ruined schoolhouse and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens’s classic Great Expectations.
27. In the Land of the Long White Cloud by Sarah Lark, 2007
Helen Davenport, governess for a wealthy London household, longs for a family of her own – but nearing her late twenties and with no dowry, her prospects are dim. Responding to an advertisement seeking young women to marry New Zealand’s honorable bachelors, she corresponds with a gentleman farmer. When her church offers to pay her travels under an unusual arrangement, she jumps at the opportunity.
28. Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave, 2008
A chilling case of unsolved murders and mistaken identities unravels when a lake in a Christchurch cemetery releases its grip on the murky past in this exciting crime thriller. Cemetery Lake begins in a cold and rainy graveyard, where Private Detective Theodore Tate is overseeing an exhumation – a routine job for the weathered former cop. But when doubts are raised about the identity of the body found in the coffin, the case takes a sinister turn. Tate knows he should walk away and let his former colleagues on the police force deal with it, but his strong sense of justice intervenes.
29. The 10PM Question by Kate De Goldi, 2008 (YA)
Frankie Parsons is twelve going on old man: an apparently sensible, talented boy with a drumbeat of worrying questions steadily gaining volume in his head. Are the smoke alarm batteries flat? Does the cat, and therefore the rest of the family, have worms? Is the kidney-shaped spot on his chest actually a galloping cancer Only Ma takes seriously his catalogue of persistent anxieties; only Ma listens patiently to his 10 PM queries.
30. Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson, 2009
In nineteenth century New Zealand, there are few choices for a farm girl like Amy. Her life seems mapped out for her by the time she is twelve. Amy dreams of an exciting life in the world beyond her narrow boundaries. But it is the two people who come to the farm from outside the valley who change her life forever, and Amy learns the high cost of making the wrong choice.
31. As the Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong, 2009
It is the early 1900s and brothers Yung and Shun, immigrants from China, eke out a living as greengrocers in Wellington. The pair must support their families back home, but know they must adapt if they are to survive and prosper in their adopted home. Meanwhile, Katherine McKechnie struggles to raise her rebellious son and her daughter following the death of her husband, Donald. A strident right-wing newspaperman, Donald terrorized his family, though was idolized by his son. One day, Katherine comes to Yung’s shop and is touched by the Chinaman’s unexpected generosity.
32. Rangatira by Paula Morris, 2011
Auckland, June 1886. Ngati Wai chief Paratene Te Manu spends long sessions, over three long days, having his portrait painted by the Bohemian painter Gottfried Lindauer. Hearing of Lindauer’s planned trip to England reminds him of his own journey there, twenty years earlier, with a party of northern rangatira. As he sits for Lindauer, Paratene retreats deeper and deeper into the past, from the triumphs in London and their meetings with royalty to the disintegration of the visit into poverty, mistrust, and humiliation. Based on a true story.
33. The Forrests by Emily Perkins, 2012
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.
34. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, 2013
It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner.
35. South Sea Vagabonds by Johnny Wray, 2014
Johnny Wray’s gripping and often hilarious account of his adventures around the South Pacific has inspired readers and changed lives since its first publication. Fired from his day job during the Great Depression, Johnny begged, borrowed and stole the materials to build his famous yacht Ngataki. With some mates for company and a sextant to steer by, he set sail for the palm-fringed atolls and islands of his dreams – to discover they really did exist. But South Sea Vagabonds is much more than just a ripping yarn; it is a heartfelt hymn to the possibility of living a free life and truly being the master of one’s own destiny.
36. Wildboy by Brando Yelavich, 2015
Fast going off the rails and hanging out with the wrong crowd, Brando Yelavich, a plucky 20-year-old from Auckland’s North Shore, decided he needed to change his life. He needed a mission. He was going to walk around New Zealand. Brando reached Cape Reinga on 23 August 2014 after a gruelling journey of over 8000 kilometres, traversed almost completely on foot over 600 days – the first time it had ever been done.
37. The Party Line by Sue Orr, 2015
An enthralling novel of individual bravery versus silent, collective complicity, set in a vividly drawn farming community in 1970s New Zealand. The Baxters do not know their place. On the first of June every year, sharemilkers load their trucks with their families, pets and possessions and crawl along the highways towards new farms, new lives. They’re inching towards that ultimate dream – buying their own land. Fenward’s always been lucky with its sharemilkers: grateful, grafting folk who understand what’s expected of them. Until now, when grief-stricken Ian Baxter and his precocious daughter, Gabrielle, arrive.
38. Snow on the Lindis: My Life at Morven Hills Station by Madge Snow, 2015
Snow on the Lindis is Madge Snow’s story of living at Morven Hills Station on the Lindis Pass. Morven Hills is one of New Zealand’s most well-known high-country stations – once an enormous 400,000 acres. The great stone woolshed is one of New Zealand’s instantly recognisable farm buildings and is one of the largest shearing sheds in the country at a whopping 34 stands.
39. Trust No One by Paul Cleave, 2015
Most of the world knows Jerry Grey by his crime-writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter – a name that’s been keeping readers at the edge of their seats for more than a decade. But now that he’s been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s career is coming to an abrupt end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia continues to break down the wall between his real life and the lives of his characters, Jerry confesses his most terrible secret: the stories are real. He committed the crimes himself. His friends, family, and caretakers insist that it’s all in his head, just a side effect of the devastating disease – but is it?
40. Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young, 2016
Youth and frailty, ambition and anxiety, the limitations of the body and the challenges of personal transformation: these are the undercurrents that animate acclaimed poet Ashleigh Young’s first collection of essays. In Can You Tolerate This? – the title comes from the question chiropractors ask to test a patient’s pain threshold – Young ushers us into her early years in the faraway yet familiar landscape of New Zealand: fantasizing about Paul McCartney, cheering on her older brother’s fledging music career, and yearning for a larger and more creative life.
41. The New Animals by Pip Adam, 2017
Carla, Sharon and Duey have worked in fashion for longer than they care to remember, for them, there’s nothing new under the sun. They’re Generation X: tired, cynical and sick of being used. Tommy, Cal and Kurt are Millenials, they’ve come from nowhere, but with their monied families behind them they’re ready to remake fashion. They represent the new sincere, the anti-irony. Both generations are searching for a way out, an alternative to their messed-up reality.
42. Baby by Annaleese Jochems, 2017
Cynthia is twenty-one, bored and desperately waiting for something big to happen. Her striking fitness instructor, Anahera, is ready to throw in the towel on her job and marriage. With stolen money and a dog in tow they run away and buy ‘Baby’, an old boat docked in the Bay of Islands, where Cynthia dreams they will live in a state of love. But strange events on an empty island turn their life together in a different direction.
43. This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman, 2018
An utterly compelling recreation of the events that led to one of the last executions in New Zealand. Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand.
44. Wild Journeys by Bruce Ansley, 2018
Discover a world of wild, mysterious and audacious journeys. One of New Zealand’s best writers retraces a diverse array of wild and fascinating journeys, including the mythical path to Erewhon; George Wilder’s prison escape route through the volcanic plateau; the Maori prophet and faith-healer Rua Hepetipa’s track in the Ureweras; searching for the grey ghost in Fiordland; finding New Zealand’s most remote gold-mining settlement; and surviving the graveyard trip on the Bluebridge ferry.
45. We Can Make A Life by Chessie Henry, 2018
Hours after the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, Kaikōura-based doctor Chris Henry crawled through the burning CTV building to rescue those who were trapped. Six years later, his daughter Chessie interviews him in an attempt to understand the trauma that led her father to burnout, in the process unravelling stories and memories from her own remarkable family history.
46. A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh, 2019
On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates. That is until one fateful summer – and several vanished bodies – shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.
47. A Mistake by Carl Shuker, 2019
Elizabeth Taylor is a gifted surgeon – the only female consultant at her hospital. But while operating on a young woman with life-threatening blood poisoning, something goes horribly wrong. In the midst of a new scheme to publicly report surgeons’ performance, her colleagues begin to close ranks, and Elizabeth’s life is thrown into disarray. Tough and abrasive, Elizabeth has survived and succeeded in this most demanding, palpably sexist field. But can she survive a single mistake? A Mistake is a page-turning procedural thriller about powerful women working in challenging spheres.
48. Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall, 2019
This entertaining and insightful novel both skewers and celebrates small-town New Zealand. Pat `Pearly’ Gates has achieved a lot in his life and evinces considerable satisfaction in his achievements. He has a reputation as a former Otago rugby player and believes he would have been an All Black but for sporting injuries. He runs a successful real-estate agency in a provincial South Island town, of which he is the second-term mayor. Popular, happily married, well established, he cuts an impressive figure, especially in his own eyes. But will his pride and complacency come before a fall?
49. Auē by Becky Manawatu, 2019
Taukiri was born into sorrow. Auē can be heard in the sound of the sea he loves and hates, and in the music he draws out of the guitar that was his father’s. It spills out of the gang violence that killed his father and sent his mother into hiding, and the shame he feels about abandoning his eight-year-old brother to a violent home. But Ārama is braver than he looks, and he has a friend and his friend has a dog, and the three of them together might just be strong enough to turn back the tide of sorrow. As long as there’s aroha to give and stories to tell and a good supply of plasters.
What do you think of these books set in New Zealand?
Have you explored New Zealand before? Any travel tips you can share? Know any great reads that I’ve missed? What are your favourite books set in New Zealand? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Looking for more reading ideas?
If you’re looking for more books set in the region, you might like our list of Books Set In Australia.
Special Offers from Tale Away
These are just a few things I love using for reading and travel, which have special deals that I want to pass on to you! 🙌
- Try Amazon Prime free for 30 days and get access to the Prime Reading library and free shipping on thousands of books. This was responsible for a significant increase in my home library!
- Receive free AirBNB travel credit when you sign up for a new account. I love staying at AirBNB’s for an authentic and local experience when traveling.
- Try Amazon Audible free for 30 days and get a free audiobook which you can play on loads of devices. Ideal for listening while gazing out the window. Best of all, you can cancel at any time and you can keep your books forever!