Auē by Becky Manawatu

ISBN 978-0-9951110-2-8
August 2019
Trade paperback, 328pp, $35
eBook (ePub) $15

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.

Here is a novel that is both raw and sublime, a compelling new voice in New Zealand fiction. Haere mai, Becky Manawatu.

Winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction 2020 and the MitoQ Best First Book of Fiction 2020 

“There is something so assured and flawless in the delivery of the writing voice that is almost like acid on the skin.” Tara June Winch, co-judge of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction 2020 (read the rest of the awards judgement here)

“The best book of 2019 – and it really is immense, a deep and powerful work, maybe even the most successfully achieved portrayal of underclass New Zealand life since Once Were Warriors“—Steve Braunias, Newsroom (read the full article here)

“If I was on the shop floor right now this is the book I’d be putting into everybody’s hands … It’s a knockout. I want everyone to read it.”—Kiran Dass, 95bFM (listen to the whole review here )

“This is the kind of social realist New Zealand fiction I’m thrilled to see being published in New Zealand. I finished reading it at 2.30am with my heart thumping in my chest as I accelerated through the last 100 pages towards the end. I’ll never forget that feeling. And so powerful is this book that I spent the next few days with a kind of book hangover.

This is a real punch-in-the-guts kind of novel but while it deals with themes of domestic violence, gang culture, grief and fractured families and, is at times, a heartbreaking read; it is also a beautifully pitched and nuanced hopeful story about the power of love, friendship and family … I think everybody should read Auē. It’s a book that people will still be talking about in decades to come. —Kiran Dass, NZ Herald (read more here)

“In the meantime, while we await the announcement, might I direct you to Auē, the first novel by Westport journalist Becky Manawatu. It hasn’t had a lot of attention yet, certainly no prizes, but holy shit, it should … It reminds me of The Bone People and of Once Were Warriors. The writing has a wild, intuitive sort of magic.” —Catherine Woulfe, The Spinoff (read the full essay here)

“Manawatu has an ability to write grisly, horrifying details yet also keep one eye on our hearts. She builds tangible characters that have beauty and wonder, bright dreams and enduring strength, alongside others that you wish she could unwrite. There are many elements of this book that give a nod to Keri Hulme’s The Bone People. The young boy at the centre, the violence, the isolated South Island backdrop, the secret ‘Bones Bay’ all recall Hulme, but the most important similarity is the way both authors write with such earthy grace and pull you into a world that is as repelling as it is intriguing.”Arihia Latham, Landfall (read full review here)

“Auē is not just the story of two boys, it is the story of a family, people who are born into it and those who become part of it. We travel through past and present, lives come together and are held together by strands of pain, cruelty, hardship, brutality, music and love. Throughout is the image of birds, some broken and battered, some who manage to fly. Some who sing. The writer knows exactly what she’s doing and takes us with her. I could not stop reading.” —Renée

Goodreads reviews

An interview Becky about her writing here
Read Becky’s essay about the violence and gang culture she drew on to write Auē here

Becky Manawatu (Ngāi Tahu) was born in Nelson, raised in Waimangaroa and has returned there to live with her family, working as a reporter for The News in Westport. Becky’s short story ‘Abalone’ was long-listed for the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, her essay ‘Mothers Day’ was selected for the Landfall anthology Strong Words. Auē is her first novel.