A Surfeit of Sunsets by Dulcie Castree – 2016

surfeit of sunsetsWhat an absolute treat!  Dulcie Castree wrote this novel in 1986 but its publication fell through.  Her grandson digitised the manuscript in 2015 to make some print copies for family members, and then organised a limited published run, which took off like a rocket.  In 2016 it was picked up by Mākaro Press.  The novel is a beautifully poetic depiction of a Kapiti Coast town, its inhabitants and its short-term visitors.  It is a town of sadness and regret, of happy routine, of people fleeing nearby Wellington, and of poetry.  May, a child in her 40s; Shirley, a newcomer fleeing personal loss; and Poesy, a widow who came “seeking solitude but giving out her phone number” are just some of the characters who become involved in this snapshot of time, taking in the height of a summer and a blustery winter.  Anyone from Wellington and environs will recognise the locations, the snobbery, the depiction of New Zealanders as isolated individuals trying to connect, and the sunsets.  Much of the prose is bordering on interior monologue, the long lists of free associations that events, emotions or comments trigger: “Felicity would have accepted that as she did the death of Hessoos on a foreign beach fighting for a better world. Lest we forget. Lest we forget. Repetition makes it easier, bearable. They grow not old. It’s old that is ordinary; the going down of a sun after too long a day. Sentimental but I don’t care. Untimely death needs trappings. It should be ennobled by sacrifice for a brother, a country. Greater love hath no man, pro patria mori. It helps, it helps. There’s more wreaths for one thing, and monument and TV specials.”  The shape of the novel is lovely, the forbearing of tragedy nicely handled, and the characters are such that you are always second guessing just what type of people they are – all except May of course, who is as transparent as the idealised lives for which all the characters yearn.

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