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Ghost story with a difference

The small village of Seacliff provides an atmospheric setting for Haunt, an accomplished first novel by Dunedin writer Bronwyn Bannister. On the coast north of Dunedin, Seacliff is best known for its old psychiatric hospital, which looms large in the novel. The hospital has been gone for decades, but the area retains a certain mystique.

The inspiration for Haunt came partly from the author’s family connections with Seacliff. Bannister’s family lived there, and her parents and grandfather worked at the hospital. Although she herself was born in Dunedin, the place featured in family stories.

Haunt raises questions about sanity: what is it? Who defines it? It begins in 1928 with a horrifying incident – the discovery of a neglected child shut away in a farm shed. What follows is a blend of gothic ghost story with elements of psychological thriller, as the author explores the reactions of the people involved. She cleverly contrasts the domestic with the surreal, showing hints of darkness welling up from beneath the thin veneer of what is proper.

Themes of memory, repression and isolation are threaded through this subtle, thought-provoking novel. At the heart of the book is a friendship between two women, Irene and Margaret, which ties them together for nearly forty years. As their lives unfold memories twist and shift, and the reader is left with a new set of questions.

The title Haunt can be read in several ways. It refers to the ‘ghost’ mentioned by two of the characters to explain things they cannot or dare not describe otherwise. It also refers to being haunted by a terrible secret. And the setting could be described as a haunt.

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Haunt is published by the University of Otago Press and will be launched on 11 August.

About the Author
Bronwyn Bannister was born in Dunedin, where she lives with her two children. She has written plays, poetry and short stories and her work has been broadcast on National Radio. Haunt is her first novel.
Bronwyn began writing plays through her involvement with local theatre group Moonbeam Theatre. She has participated in street theatre performances, poetry readings, and was a member of women’s comedy group Hersterix. She has also written stories for three of the Dunedin Midwinter Celebrations, a festival incor-porating story-telling, theatre and fireworks. She has co-edited an issue of SNAFU literary magazine and writes occasional theatre reviews for the Otago Daily Times.

AUTHOR Bronwyn Bannister
FORMAT paperback, 160 pages
ISBN 1 877133 84 1
PUBLISHED August 2000
PRICE $24.95

For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact
Philippa Jamieson, University of Otago Press, tel. (03) 479 9094, fax (03) 479 8385, email: philippa.jamieson@stonebow.otago.ac.nz

OR contact the author directly:
Bronwyn Bannister, tel (03) 473 0141.

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