Book your holiday: New Zealand

New Zealand is famous for its stunning landscapes, and for its great literature. Here are five books to transport you to the country.

Travel to New Zealand with these five books.
Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

Sitting in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is made up of two main islands (the North Island and the South Island) and around 600 smaller ones. Its landscape is famous across the world, and was famously immortalised in The Lord of the Rings films directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson, and his follow up The Hobbit series.

But JRR Tolkien's novels are not New Zealand's only bookish connection. The country has strong literary traditions, often linked with its Indigenous Maori population. Even if a trip to the country is currently not on your agenda, these five books will give you a glimpse of its rich history and culture. 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (2013)

Eleanor Catton's second novel, set in New Zealand's South Island in 1866, is a big book, clocking in at over 800 pages. But it doesn't feel big, with its captivating story of prospector Walter Moody, who travels to the West Coast settlement of Hokitika to try to make his fortune on nearby goldfields. But instead, Walter is drawn into a complex mystery that is covering up a series of unsolved crimes.

The Luminaries won the Booker Prize in 2013, and in doing so made Catton the youngest winner in the prize's history, at just 28. It's a record she still holds today.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme (1983)

The central character of The Bone People is Kerewin Homes, a part Maori, part European artist who is estranged from her art and in exile from her family. Living in a tower on the sea, her solitude is broken one day by a speechless boy named Simon. As Kerewin gets to know the boy, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck.

The Bone People won the Booker Prize in 1985, making Keri Hulme the first New Zealander to do so (Catton is the second).

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