A Surfeit of Sunsets by Dulcie Castree

Surfeit of Sunsets coverISBN 978-0-9941237-8-7
November 2016
Paperback with flaps, 220pp
RRP $35

The seaside town of Taiwhenua is besieged by sunsets. They arrive every evening and don’t leave until dark.

It’s the mid 1980s, and Shirley has just moved there from the city with a box of books and a broken heart. The last thing she needs is operatic sunsets, the unwelcome advances of the Pukunui Literary Society, and the newly widowed Poesy who writes bad poetry and has escaped the city for a bach bigger than most Taiwhenua dwellings.

What Shirley does need is May, sunny by nature, and just happy to be her friend. But does May need Shirley, or has the outsider upset the fine balance of life in this coastal town, setting in train something everyone will come to regret.

“The cottages on The Parade bear the full brunt of the sunsets. Shirley knew that when she rented the bach. It was the first thing the land agent mentioned. Even then she had felt uneasy. ‘Every night? Does one want such regularity in anything, let alone sunsets? Surely they should be a sometime thing.’ ‘Naturally,’ said the land agent, gazing westward like any stout-hearted young fellow. He was not however as young and fresh as his clothes, but still a man well tuned to life’s possibilities.”

About the author

Dulcie Castree author photo

Photo by Catherine Palethorpe

Dulcie Castree was born in Ōtāne. She wrote A Surfeit of Sunsets in 1985/86 in Wellington, where she lived for her last 40 years. Dulcie published short stories, but so far this is her first and only published novel. She died in 2016 before A Surfeit of Sunsets was published.

The Story Behind the Story
Written in 1985–86, A Surfeit of Sunsets was picked up by a publisher but publication fell through. Years later Dulcie Castree’s grandson Finnbar Johansson decided the novel had to be published before she died, so he digitised it and handbound a copy as a gift for Christmas 2015. In 2016 the Castree family released a limited print run of the book, with a cover designed by Finn and the book typeset and printed by Murdoch Stephens and Rebel Press. Dulcie died before the launch, but A Surfeit of Sunsets hit the bestsellers list and sold out, one copy ending up with publisher Mary McCallum of Mākaro Press who offered to reissue it, and so work began on a new edition. Dulcie’s whānau wishes to thank Finn for bringing A Surfeit of Sunsets into the light, Mākaro Press for creating the new edition, Jane Parkin for superb editing and Tracey Sylvester Harris for the cover image. Thank you, too, to those who supported the book by purchasing copies before publication. Dulcie would have been delighted.


In Living in the Maniototo, Janet Frame writes: ‘A sentence which, travelling, looks out of portholes as far as horizons and beyond is good.’ A Surfeit of Sunsets is that kind of good. It is a novel of large themes – sex, love, colonisation, friendship and home – caught in sharp, quick light. Prismatic sentences take an image, a phrase, a moment from one page and refract it through the twists and turns of a character to send it cascading into the final pages. Sentences delicately attuned to the small shifts of a moment carve out the casual cruelties of a character, and also shape tenderly the private hell she suffers. An earthy turn of phrase is wickedly funny, and also embodies depths of human kindness, frailty and love.

“Its characters can seem frail, as if hastily transplanted from some forgotten place, and at the mercy of whatever might pass for a prevailing wind. But there’s also a fine sense for the poetry of the place, the search for the voices belonging to it, and the voices found and lost.

— Gillian Ranstead, Landfall Review Online