SELECTED AS 'BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2013' BY NZ HERALD
SELECTED AS 'BEST BOOKS TO GIVE AND RECEIVE THIS CHRISTMAS' (2013) BY NZ HERALD
A new novel starring a woman, her mother-in-law and a dog. Alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching, Leunens’s characters are vividly drawn they become your family. Nancy was not expecting to marry both Michael and his mother, the extraordinary, excruciating, witty and ominipresent Edith. Nancy specifically told Edith they didn’t want a dog but she brings an old smelly bulldog for her granddaughter Chloe’s seventh birthday anyway; Nancy and Michael finally get away to Fiji and who should appear? Did Edith fake her heart attack to get her son to choose her over Nancy once again? Through joy and tragedy Edith remains a powerful presence in Nancy’s life and in the end it is Edith’s example, the way she embraces life to the very end, that gives Nancy the strength to be herself and love life again.
'A compelling read that will resonate with any mother or daughter-in-law who wouldn't necessarily be friends, if not for their common ground.' NZ Herald
'We meet three generations of women in the first few pages... these women are in-depth characters... the dialogue is superb... everybody should pick up A Can of Sunshine by Christine Leunens.' Bookenz, Plains FM
'Is the rivalry between the proverbial mother-in-law and daughter-in-law really necessary or is it just an urban legend? It is this family relationship that is at the heart of A Can of Sunshine by Christine Leunens, with all the contradictions, emotions and vicissitudes that two people connected only by affection for the son/husband may face in the course of a lifetime... Christine Leunens tells the story in a masterful way as she sheds light on this swinging relationship...
A Can of Sunshine is a novel about love, loneliness, and the joys, sorrows and conflicts that life places before us. But it is also and above all a novel about three generations of women, each of whom finds, in a different way, strength within herself to stand up and fight back, to recover and reinvent a life even when everything around them seems to indicate that there is no way out. A book about hope for the future.' Flanerí
'Dedicated to those who detest the predetermination of social roles, and who want to investigate the complicity of the soul of every woman.' Le Nuove Mamme
'The often charged mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is explored by American-born author Christine Leunens in A Can of Sunshine. Now living in the Manawatu, Christine's new novel looks at how the idiosyncratic mother-in-law proves to be both a blessing and an occasional curse for a solo mother. Nancy is an American living in New Zealand and when her world is turned upside down she needs the help of the interfering Edith. The mother-in-law in the novel, Edith, is actually quite a complicated character once one gets to know her; ultimately she's a lonely soul and she's struggling with getting old.' Arts on Sunday, National Radio
'The story has appeal and intelligence.' New Zealand Listener
'Christine Leunens spent four years working on a doctoral thesis, whose subject was mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relations, and it’s indeed this theme, rarely explored, that is at the heart of this novel. With great finesse, Christine Leunens dissects the moving relationship between Edith and Nancy with their awkwardness, their fall outs, their tender moments too, and delivers a sensitive novel that... is also of great intelligence and remarkable originality.' Book of the Weekend, Radio Classique
RSVP Publishing New Zealand
Editions Philippe Rey France
Meridiano Zero/Odoya Italy
Material: finished copies (258pp).
Nominated for the Prix Medicis 2007 and the Prix FNAC 2007
Little by little, Elsa leaked out of her enclosure, strayed out into every corner of the house. The table was two floors below her and on the opposite side of the room and even there she disturbed me, made her presence felt. In my bed at night, she switched places with me, she enjoying the softness of my bed, and I finding myself cramped up in her airless niche.
This extraordinary novel is seen through the eyes of Johannes. An avid member of the Hitler Youth in the 1940s, he discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl called Elsa behind a false wall in their large house in Vienna. His initial horror turns to interest, then love and obsession. After the disappearance of his parents, Johannes finds he is the only one aware of Elsa's existence in the house, the only one responsible for her survival. Both manipulating and manipulated, Johannes dreads the end of the war: with it will come the prospect of losing Elsa and their relationship, which ranges through passion and obsession, dependence and indifference, love and hate.
This gripping, masterful work examines truth and lies at both political and personal levels, laying bare the darkest corners of the human soul. An inimitable book that builds upon Leunens’ darkly comic and highly acclaimed first novel, PRIMORDIAL SOUP (Dedalus,1999; ‘a remarkable debut novel…’Sunday Times; ‘highly original’, Cosmopolitan; ‘a small masterpiece.’ Marie Claire.)
'Totally compelling.' Woman’s Weekly NZ
'The best part of this interesting novel is its ability to show parts of our history which others dismiss: why suffering can make some people more sensitive but others more cruel, and how a war, such an outrage to human dignity, blurs the line between the victorious and defeated.' Elle
'It is a beautiful novel, powerful, different, and ambitious. It explores a less rare from of relationship, it appears, than one believes: love so total that it locks up, isolates and colonises the partner until destruction; annihilates the outside world. This kind of passion naturally implies the lie, the dressing up of realities and the construction of a wall to protect itself. It’s without a doubt in the malaise one feels when reading Caging Skies that one recognises the surprising, surprising power of the novel. A profound malaise, which lasts well after the read, sign of a very rare power, that of a truly good book, which knows how to carry the reader into a story. Christine Leunens [. . .] always has the immense merit of surprising and captivating. Caging Skies is one of these books that cannot be forgotten.' Jean Soublin, Le Monde
'Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies begins in Austria at the time of its annexation to the German Reich. Narrator Johannes Betzler is [. . .] a boy who innocently embraces the Nazi dream. He becomes a member of the Hitler Youth but soon makes a devastating discovery: his parents are hiding Elsa, a young Jewish woman, behind a false wall in their house. That parents became afraid of their children is an electrifying element of the time. It’s rich ground for fiction. The Betzler family is a vital, believable group. For the reader, drawn into the subtle interactions of the Betzler house, Leunens’ clear, elegant prose and sometimes blackly comic tone, this would be satisfying enough. There is more to come, however. The madness of the war has entered Johannes.' Charlotte Grimshaw, New Zealand Listener
'A novel that breaks all the rules. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, the result is a disturbing and gripping novel that has haunted me ever since I finished reading it.' New Zealand Books
'A complex story of dark love.' R. Garzon, El País
'An analysis of the uncontrollable fecundity of a lie, which gives way to life and concrete experience. The lie doesn’t mystify or disown reality, but rather becomes the plasma of one’s desires and the adjusting to one’s necessities. The liar himself falls into a spiral of self deception until he consciously cages himself in a virtual universe, whereby the internal truth and false, fiction and authentic constitute one.' Ruggero Bianchi in La Stampa
Meridiano Zero Italy
Editions Philippe Rey France
Random House New Zealand
Film coming from Defender Films (director Taika Waititi)
Material: finished copies (404 pp). NEW ABRIDGED VERSION AVAILABLE (310pp).