NZ Listener Best Books of 2023
Women and girls walk a perilously thin line between ruin and redemption in these stories as they try—with varying degrees of success—to outmanouver the violence that threatens to define their lives.
There’s the physical violence of men against their bodies—and sometimes the violence they exact in revenge. While doubts about a romantic partner, an abandonment by a sister, the fallout of a parent’s pornography addiction, the betrayal of a friend, even the desire to touch a stranger’s fur-like body are subtler aggressions that pack their own kinds of punches.
Moving between contemporary New Zealand and London, and a dreamlike landscape that isn’t quite real, this debut collection shimmers with a brutal kind of hope, exploring power and its contortions, powerlessness and its depravities, and the ends to which we will go to claim back agency.
‘Ruin is a machine for the exposure and exploration of power. It turns the intricacy and activity of relationship over in the cogs of its deft craft. It’s an incredible confirmation of what short fiction can do and be: beautiful, confronting, validating.’ —Pip Adam, author of Audition and Nothing to See
'Impressive, insightful, sometimes startling but beautifully written debut collection of stories.' —NZ Listener
'A debut collection of stories from a writer who isn’t afraid to draw a reader into discomfort. Ruin uses different points of view, different settings across Aotearoa, and overseas, to explore violence – physical, psychological, and unthinking – between people. It’s not an easy set of stories to read but it brings forward the ongoing need to protect vulnerable people (particularly women and children) from unsafe power structures, and to reflect on how necessary it is to love, and love actively.' —Claire Mabey, The Spinoff
'Bold and captivating' —Jane Lowe, Kete Books
'It is not a feel-good book, but a good book for exploring uncomfortable things. In going into difficult subjects, the stories suggest windows, ways out, alternative possibilities.' —Airini Beautrais, Landfall Review Online
‘There is a smart delicacy to these taut and unnerving stories. Hislop’s characters are caught in riptides of desire, betrayal, loss, often treading dark water before they realise any place of safety is a long way off.’ —Anthony Lapwood, author of Home Theatre
Emma Hislop (Kāi Tahu) is a Taranaki-based writer. Her work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies in New Zealand and overseas, including Action Spectacle, Sport, Huia, Newsroom and Takahē. She has a Masters of Creative Writing from the IIML and in 2021 received the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writers Bursary.
Cover art: Maiangi Waitai ‘When pushed pull’ 2015
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